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Frat buddies, fawning friends for SC

12:01 AM February 13, 2017

This refers to Oscar P. Lagman Jr.’s commentary titled “A damaged institution” (Opinion, 2/7/17). He said he was “confounded” by former chief justice Artemio Panganiban’s Jan. 19 column (“SC stood tall in crucial cases,” Opinion, 1/29/17) in light of the high court’s “bizarre” rulings on cases that had a big-time impact on the nation’s basic sense of what is right and wrong.

Lagman was alluding to the “crucial cases” involving the shameless “hero’s burial” of the late kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos, the improvident grant of bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile who is presently charged with pocketing P170 million-plus of the people’s money, the shameful acquittal of former president Gloria Arroyo who was charged with misappropriating P300 million-plus of the people’s money, etc. In those patently “biased” rulings, the Supreme Court did not stand tall at all; it came out limping: a truly “damaged institution.”

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Lagman also said that he was not at all optimistic about the Supreme Court that would be composed of Mr. Duterte’s appointees; that he expected them to be like Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, and Senate justice committee chair Richard Gordon and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rey Umali—compliant with the President’s dictates and wishes.

In practical terms, however, we cannot subscribe to the view that the likes of Aguirre, Panelo, et al., who are nearing 70 years of age, will be considered for membership in the high court.

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We think letter-writer Rey Escobar was more dead on (“Ultramajority Duterte SC looms,” Opinion, 1/28/17). Mr. Duterte would most likely do a Noynoy Aquino who appointed a friendly lawyer, Maria Lourdes Sereno, then in her early 50s as chief justice, supposedly to wield control of the Supreme Court until she turns 70. Gloria Arroyo did a similar thing before Aquino by ramming down the nation’s throat a “midnight appointment” of a dyed-in-the-wool loyalist as chief justice.

Unfortunately that blew up in her face; nonetheless, she got her other appointees to constitute a slim majority in the high court—and look how they returned the favor. As for Aquino, he could only appoint a forgettable minority, and now as citizen Noynoy, he faces the grim prospect of being held accountable for his alleged misrule. Now comes Mr. Duterte who will have 12 rabbits coming out of his hat and eating out of the palm of his hand.

There will be no shortage of lawyers—frat buddies, schoolmates and fawning friends—in their 40s or 50s lining up for appointment to the Supreme Court and willing to act as Mr. Duterte’s rear guard as soon as and long after he leaves the presidency. That will ensure he is covered until he dies either due to illness or old age.

But more than protecting himself, the President must also be worrying about the future of his errand boys who will still be around long

after he’s gone. Keeping the Supreme Court under such a tight leash seems to be the only way for him to go. Let’s face it: This country may be doomed to remain a basket case in many, many more ways than one.

Dear Lord, when will Thy mercy on this “only Christian nation in Asia” (aside from East Timor) ever be felt?

JEREMIAS H. TOBIAS, [email protected]

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TAGS: Artemio Panganiban, Duterte's appointments, Ferdinand Marcos, fraternity brothers, Gloria Arroyo, Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, Jeremias H. Tobias, Jose Calida, Juan Ponce Enrile, Oscar P. Lagman Jr., Rey Umali, Richard Gordon, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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