To IBP and Filipino legal eagles: How about about a class suit against China? | Inquirer Opinion
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To IBP and Filipino legal eagles: How about about a class suit against China?

/ 05:01 AM July 08, 2021

While admitting that there is no law prohibiting President Duterte from running for vice president, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Domingo Cayosa seemed to make the argument that a challenge can be lodged with the Supreme Court in case Mr. Duterte makes good that threat. He warned that “the process (can) be tedious and drawn out” (“No legal obstacle to Duterte VP run, but will his 16 million voters back him again?ʍlawyer,” 7/5/21), suggesting it may not be resolved during Mr. Duterte’s extended presidency through succession.

Our own takeaway is that the challenge will not be long and drawn-out, but will be quickly disposed of for being pointless. Take the case of former president Gloria M. Arroyo who ran for Congress after her term expired. Has any lawyer ever doubted her right to do so? The Constitution plainly bars any president from seeking election again to the same office, but not to any other office regardless of his or her ulterior motive. It all simply boils down to how the electorate will view such “lust for power.”

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Cayosa should find better use of his influence and time by rousing his colleagues in the currently moribund IBP, whose only proof of life is felt in its vigorous effort to collect the annual dues from its members. He could rally them to do something more patriotic: to seek redress in a court of law on behalf of about 1.5 million Filipinos sick and the heirs of about 25,000 dead due to China’s COVID-19. More evidence is already coming to light, pointing to the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as having ginned up the virus in its Wuhan lab to make it more lethal and highly transmissible to humans—a biological weapon, many are convinced, for all intents and purposes.

The task is no doubt herculean and unprecedented. There might arise the need for a special tribunal composed of the best legal minds in the country to preside over a class suit that could be deemed sui generis, as it seeks indemnification amounting to an astronomical sum. Suing a foreign political party or organization running a foreign government whose satellite companies are doing business and holding enormous assets in this country is fraught with extreme difficulties. Only the cachet that the members of the Supreme Court hold can lend credibility to such proceedings.

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And while, as a rule, our Supreme Court has been declaring itself not “a trier of facts,” the truth of the matter is it can disregard that rule any time it needs to. Indeed, if it can take time out to act as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to receive evidence of electoral fraud (as in Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos vs. Vice President Leni Robredo), surely it can deviate from its regular role and become a “people’s tribunal” of sorts for a matter of so much more transcendental importance and higher public interest than any case in its docket.

Isn’t it time this course of action is put on the table for serious consideration? Given their talent to think of the often unthinkable, has any group of lawyers hereabouts ever thought of finding ways to hold the CCP accountable for what could well be the “crime of the century”? Or, are we all resigned to just suffering in silence and rolling over as this pandemic continues to ravage our people and country with no end in sight?

Elite Filipino lawyers and statesmen once found the great patriotism and guts to go after China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), despite knowing that any judgment in the Philippines’ favor was going to be unenforceable. The message was what really mattered: The Philippines was not going to be pushed around by a bully. And yet, the ripple effect of that judgment has seen powerful countries challenging China’s ambition to exercise dominion over all the islets, the waters, and resources within its “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea, a claim the PCA has ruled to be bogus.

We won’t be alone. More enterprising lawyers around the globe have commenced COVID-19-related class actions against the CCP and its surrogates in their respective jurisdictions since last year. In around 40 countries (including the United States, Great Britain, Canada), litigations are ongoing for punitive damages aggregating hundreds of trillions of dollars against the CCP, with an eye on its businesses and cash-rich assets in their territories. What will it take for our own IBP to wake up and start lawyering for the Filipino people? Or is anybody even home?

Stephen L. Monsanto,[email protected]

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TAGS: China, Class suit, IBP, Letter to the Editor
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