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A court in need of a revolution

/ 04:20 AM October 31, 2019

I’m increasingly concerned about the Supreme Court relying on strict interpretations of the law, with no concern for the economic/business/social impact of those decisions.

I can understand that lower courts have little choice, given how the legal system has been established (although I have some questions on that). But it seems to me the Supreme Court, by its very nature, has the freedom to make discretionary decisions. That it can take into account the impact of its decisions on society, and the fact that decisions are often not unanimous, would seem to support that.

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If it can’t, then it should be restructured so it can.

I’d like to see law reformatted so that both lawyers, prosecution and defense, can work to find the truth. France uses the inquisitorial system where the search for the truth is superior to individual rights. Surely that’s a fairer way to apply the law.

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What triggered all this is the Court’s recent decision, incredibly 10-0, that forces the two water concessionaires to bring commerce and the ability to lead a halfway decent life in Manila to a complete halt. And on top of that, penalizes them for it.

According to the Court, the Clean Water Act requires Maynilad and Manila Water to install a citywide sewerage system within five years. But as I read it, they were only required to connect the existing sewage line found in all subdivisions (etc.) to the available sewerage system within five years, which is an entirely different thing. Whichever it is, the Supreme Court determined that they didn’t, and demanded they now do so—within an impossible five years. It also fined them, with no concern for the impact of that decision on the very people it’s supposed to protect.

It should, instead, have ordered both parties to reach a mutual agreement on how to meet the requirement without unduly bringing Manila streets into even more chaos than they are in now.

Now, we have the strange decision of the court voting 11-2 to allow Vice President Leni Robredo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 20 days to comment on the findings of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal on the recount of three precincts. Why? Math is math, what’s to comment on? The recount even gave Robredo a wider margin. The rules relating to a recount are very, very clear: Rule 65 states that where there are numerous precincts in question, the complainant can select up to three first. If they show there was indeed fraud, all would be recounted. If there wasn’t, then the case would be dismissed. Nothing could be clearer than that.

To now call for more precincts to be reviewed or election results canceled in entirety due to alleged terrorism would put the whole election result in question. Some senators with marginal wins may lose their seats, when they have nothing to do with the fight for the vice presidency. Also, you can’t go adding new actions after a process has been started.

Anyway, to determine if an election result should be annulled requires that at least 50 percent of the votes are fraudulent. So, to declare annulment means checking all the votes first. This pilot took almost three years. Another count—for another three years — would leave Marcos with a day or two of the vice presidency, if he does win. Hardly worth going after. As the Makati Business Club said, those years of uncertainty have added a risk premium to those who would invest in Philippine jobs and industries. Dismissing this protest now would also free the Vice President and the Supreme Court to better focus on their jobs.

The Supreme Court serves to keep society safe and disciplined. It was created to be the leader in ensuring that law provides the people with a secure environment. It is not, or should not, be an entity isolated from that society, by making decisions that harm that society.

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As an Inquirer editorial stated in grieving over the unconscionable 10-year delay in the trial of the Maguindanao massacre (“the biggest killing in Philippine peacetime history”), it’s “an indictment to high heavens of the country’s deeply flawed justice system.” I don’t think any dispassionate observer would disagree. Every fact, every statistic you look at indicates a justice system that isn’t delivering justice. It’s in need of a revolution. Let’s hope our new Chief Justice, Diosdado Peralta, delivers just that.

Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Clean Water Act, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, leni robredo, Like It Is, Manila Water, maynilad Water, Peter Wallace, Supreme Court, vice presidential electoral protest
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