Grace Poe case: much ado over nothing
THAT’S HOW the Supreme Court wasted so much time entertaining a surfeit of written and oral arguments, ad nauseam, for and against the qualification of Grace Poe to sit as president. Even in the teeth of the plain constitutional provision that only the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has the sole power to decide issues relating to the qualifications of the president and the vice president, the Supreme Court went ahead to get itself immersed in the hoopla which dragged on for months—to the serious prejudice and at the expense of thousands of other cases (now numbering close to 10,000) begging for resolution despite being pendent for so many years.
Former chair of the Commission on Elections, Sixto Brillantes Jr., himself an expert on election laws, said it all along: “The questions of qualification and residency against Poe should be settled only by the PET, not by the Supreme Court, and this could only happen after the election if the senator wins” (“Comelec has no say on Poe DQ,” Front Page, 12/3/15). In other words, the sovereign electorate should have the “right of first refusal” or acceptance, as the case may be.
Even if the PET is composed of the same justices of the Supreme Court, the latter cannot overstep the bounds of its own jurisdiction—or rather, should not, because, well, technically it can do whatever it wants in spite of the Constitution, with the justices fancying themselves to be the “supreme gods” of our “Mt. Olympus” along Padre Faura.
Had the Supreme Court followed the plain language of the Constitution and all the jurisprudence it itself has churned out on the issue, it should have junked all petitions impugning Poe’s qualification and residency outright. By the wisdom of its own past pronouncements, questions relating to the qualifications of candidates running for president and vice president should have awaited the outcome of the elections. It’s really just common sense: What if the candidate in question loses, what is there to decide on?
As it turned out, Poe lost. What happens now to all pending cases regarding her qualifications for the presidency over which the Supreme Court unwittingly got the whole nation in a frenzy for months on end? Moot and academic. Just like that.
In fairness, a forgettable minority in the Supreme Court expressed misgivings about the full-court hearing accorded to such premature challenges and urged outright dismissal of those cases to spare the nation from such prolonged exercise in futility. But by sheer hubris, the majority prevailed and virtually segued to constitute the Court into the PET long before its time —probably feeling that if they can ignore the Constitution itself, they certainly can discard any jurisprudence of their own making. What a colossally wasteful expenditure of time, energy and government resources.
There ought to be a lesson learned from that denouement. The people’s faith in the Supreme Court has been eroded. This prayer may be apropos: Lord, grant our magistrates the courage to admit they can err, the serenity to accept that they have erred, and the greater wisdom to avoid more errors.
The sovereign electorate has just told them to their faces: “It was our decision to make in the first place. You talked too much.”
—GEORGE DEL MAR, email@example.com
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