With starkly contrasting results
Traditional poll surveys (Pulse Asia, Octa) and digital Google Trends, with starkly contrasting results, have narrowed down the presidential race to former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo in a grand reprise of their 2016 vice presidential rivalry.
Today, we, the people, will select who between them has the will and the gravitas to deliver us from the evils of extreme poverty, hunger, disease, corruption, and hopelessness; to provide better governance and opportunities for progress; to improve peace and order; to safeguard liberty and nurture prosperity under the rule of law.
In my humble opinion, we should vote according to our best light regardless of poll surveys, online trends, social media posts, troll attacks, and contrary opinions. We can live with a bad president but not with a wounded conscience.
* * *
SENIOR JUSTICE ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE will retire on May 14, ending her over 25-year ascent in the judicial ladder via her appointments as Metropolitan Trial Court Judge of Makati in 1996 by Fidel V. Ramos; as Regional Trial Court Judge also of Makati in 2000 by Joseph Estrada; as Court of Appeals Justice in 2004 by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and as Supreme Court Justice in 2011 by Benigno Aquino III.
She could have been named chief justice by Rodrigo Duterte in 2021 given that she was already the most senior justice at the time. But the Supreme Court could not be deterred. Recognizing her outstanding judicial stint, especially as acting chief justice, the Court, through a unanimous resolution, fittingly granted her the retirement benefits of a CJ, an honor she shares with only one other senior justice, Antonio T. Carpio.
YET, SHE HAS NOT GIVEN ANY PRESIDENT ANY UNDUE FAVOR as could be shown by a brief review of her record. During P-Noy’s term, she penned the landmark Belgica v. Ochoa (Nov. 19, 2013) declaring unconstitutional the legislators’ pork barrel, by a vote of 14-0-1, and outlawing in detailed language “all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws … which authorize/d legislators—whether individually or collectively organized into committees—to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight; [and] all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel laws … which confer/red personal, lump-sum allocations to legislators from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine…”
True, during Mr. Duterte’s tenure, she favored the interment of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the constitutionality of Mr. Duterte’s martial law declaration (and its extensions) in Mindanao, and the validity of the Anti-Terror Act. However, she voted against the ouster of CJ Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno and the arrest and detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.
Though she voted to acquit Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder, she nonetheless disagreed with the majority’s decision that a charge of plunder must identify and prove the “main plunderer.” She voted to acquit only because “the evidence of the prosecution failed to prove Arroyo’s commission of the crime, and her precise degree of participation…”
On a personal note, may I disclose that she thrice headed the board of judges of the Dissertation Writing Contest of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (in partnership with the Ayala Group), and is an active member of the Philippine Chapter of the Asean Law Association, which I humbly chair.
TO SUM UP, MAY I QUOTE MY BLURB for a coffee table book that the Supreme Court is publishing in her honor: “Senior Associate Justice Telly is the quintessential career jurist starting as a prudent trial judge, climbing the judicial ladder through sheer merit, and reaching the highest court of the land through deserving promotions from four presidents belonging to different political persuasions. In the Supreme Court, she blossomed and radiated the majesty, scholarship, elegance, and uprightness of her storied judicial journey comparable in all respects, in pari materia, with the first three lady-justices of the Court, Cecilia Munoz-Palma, Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, and Carolina Grino-Aquino. At the same time, in her unique and inimitable way, she projected the brilliance, humility, novelty, and vigor of non-career jurists. In short, she is the personification of Athena, Artemis, and Themis of Greek mythology magically transformed into Filipino reality.”