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COMMENTARY

Gods of Padre Faura in deep muck

05:05 AM March 20, 2018

In January last year retired chief justice Artemio Panganiban wrote in his Inquirer column that while he could not predict how each associate justice would vote, he was confident that “when needed, the justices (or most of them, anyway) will uphold the national interest, regardless of their perceived loyalty to the appointing authority, or their prior personal or political relations.”

I was confounded as to what gave the eminent jurist that confidence as the Supreme Court of contemporary times has handed down many controversial if not patently biased rulings. These decisions were obviously made by the justices to please the president who appointed them.

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There was their decision affirming President Gloria Arroyo’s appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice, in contravention of the Constitution that bans a president from making “midnight” appointments. There was their dismissal of the disqualification complaint against Arroyo’s son Mikey, who ran as party-list representative of tricycle drivers and security guards, on grounds that the case was outside the Court’s jurisdiction. Yet, they stopped the impeachment proceedings against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, when impeachment is well outside the jurisdiction of the Court.

They also upheld Congress’ breakup of the first district of Camarines Sur into two to allow Arroyo’s son Dato to run in a district separate from the bailiwick of Rolando Andaya who was planning to run, in violation of the Constitution that says representative districts shall be apportioned according to their respective populations. The split of the small district resulted in the creation of two smaller districts.

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There was their ruling in 2015 that the feeble health of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile presented a compelling reason for his being granted bail — a ruling contrary to law. I saw the ruling as the justices’ way of setting the precedent for the similar admission to bail of ex-President Arroyo, who was then under hospital arrest.

In July 2016, Arroyo was set free by the Court sans legal blather. Eleven justices, all appointees of hers to the Court, acquitted her of the charges for which she was arrested. Many wondered why she was not acquitted earlier by the same 11 justices. Well, Rodrigo Duterte was not yet president then. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Duterte said he would support the call for Arroyo’s release from hospital arrest. Just two weeks after he was sworn in as president, Arroyo walked free.

In that same campaign period, Mr. Duterte said he would allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Arroyo’s remaining eight appointees to the Court all voted in favor of the hero’s burial for reasons that included the false claims that Marcos was a bemedaled war veteran and that he had not been convicted of moral turpitude.

In July last year, the remaining seven appointees of Arroyo and the two appointees of President Duterte voted to uphold the latter’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao. The same nine justices voted in favor of the President’s extension of martial law in Mindanao to the end of 2018.

As for the justices’ decisions on the bases of their personal interest or feelings, their recent conduct is incontrovertible evidence of their subjective decisions. The appearance of four justices before the House committee on justice hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was nothing but a disgraceful display of puerile jealousy and grating ventilation of personal grievances.

Their giving cognizance to the quo warranto petition, which many legal eagles have said is not valid because the Constitution provides that a chief justice can only be removed by impeachment and that it was filed way past the filing period, is obviously the jealous and piqued justices’ attempt to hit back at their perceived “bully.”

It’s said that when the gods fall, they don’t fall a little; they crash into muck. That is what has happened to the gods of Padre Faura.

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Oscar P. Lagman Jr. has been a keen observer of Philippine politics since the 1950s.

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TAGS: Artemio Panganiban, Inquirer Commentary, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Oscar P. Lagman Jr., quo warranto decision, SC decisions, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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