A Supreme Court gone rogue
My practice is that I do not provide the titles to my columns; that is the job of my editor. But for today, I decided to submit my column with that title. By the way, it was a close fight between “rogue” and “craven.” One would have wanted to use both, because between those two words they would fit practically all—or more than two-thirds—of the Supreme Court members. But I also wanted my title to be used, so the need to choose. But you decide for yourself, Reader.
Here are the respective definitions:
ROGUE—1. A dishonest or unprincipled person. 2. a person or thing that behaves in an aberrant, faulty, or unpredictable way. 3. an inferior or defective specimen among many satisfactory ones, esp. a seedling or plant deviating from the standard variety.
CRAVEN—Contemptibly lacking in courage; cowardly. My definition: sipsip.
And, of course, the latest indication of the Supreme Court’s going rogue, or being craven, or both, is yesterday’s not-unexpected decision on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The decision is not yet available to the public, but one thing I am sure of: It will contain reasoning that will show world-class mental gymnastics. Why? Well, how else can one defend an indefensible position? Justice Teresita de Castro—who, I am told, had vowed to get Sereno out of the Supreme Court before her (De Castro’s) retirement—must be in seventh heaven.
Moreover, the fact that six of the eight justices who constituted the majority decision (including Justice De Castro) had brazenly refused to recuse themselves from the proceedings, in spite of their prejudice against Sereno, as witnessed by all who watched the televised proceedings in the House of Representatives, is to me another indication of their going rogue.
I guess their desire to get rid of Sereno, who may have run circles around them when it came to legal expertise, or even just logic, got the better of their principles. And, of course, it helped that President Duterte had declared himself to be the enemy of Sereno.
Notice, Reader: unprincipled, behaving in an aberrant, faulty way. Rogue. Notice also, Reader: If those six had recused themselves as they should have, Calida’s quo warranto petition would be in the trash can now, where it belongs.
You want other examples of this Supreme Court gone rogue, or craven? I thought I had seen the last of a craven or rogue Supreme Court when the Marcos dictatorship fell. Back then, the Court was really tuta, and it not only showed this figuratively through its decisions, but also literally—e.g., the then Chief Justice walking around with an umbrella over then first lady Imelda Marcos, to protect her complexion. For a long time after that, many Filipinos did not use an umbrella, rain or shine.
Scarcely 30 years later, here we are again. I have already written about the decision to give Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial, and the decision to allow the case against Sen. Leila de Lima to proceed despite the fact that the testimony was from convicted drug felons who had nothing to lose and everything to gain by pleasing the powers. This was all for President Duterte, that’s for sure. Those are all examples of rogue or craven.
And what about the decision of the Supreme Court, in its role as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, with regard to the vote recount of then vice-presidential candidates Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo? It has decided that only ballots with at least 50 percent shading could be recounted. But that is in direct contravention of the Commission on Elections’ rule during the 2016 elections, that the machines would count ballots that were at least 25 percent shaded. It is on the basis of that 25 percent rule that all our present officials are in place. That decision, aside from being grossly discriminatory, is probably going to give Bongbong Marcos, a Duterte favorite, the advantage.
This is not to condemn all the members of the Supreme Court. We have the exceptions now, just as we had Cecilia Muñoz Palma, Amor Melencio Herrera, and Calixto Zaldivar then. But it is getting worse. IBP, it may be time to play the Pakistani card. We cannot be craven as well.
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