More on Scotus and on my talented ‘apo’ | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

More on Scotus and on my talented ‘apo’

I am totally amazed at the emails, calls, and texts I received on my piece last Monday (“From awe to dismay at the Scotus”). Examples: “Disgusting, the Scotus is no longer the highest court we admire.” “I never expected that kind of conduct from the honorable justices. No different from politicians.” “I hope Amb. MaryKay Carlson reported this to her superiors to stop the self-destruct of the Scotus.” It even rated a full column from Manila Overseas Press Club prexy Tony Lopez (“The decline of Scotus,” Philippine Star, 6/18/24).

BUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE RESPONDED TO ARE: (1) “Why did you equate the removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with the two unidentified justices who deserved their punishment?” And (2) “Did you forget the dismaying decisions involving Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada?”

To be clear, I did not equate those three decisions. I cited them only because they exemplify how our Supreme Court disciplines its own members, while the Supreme Court of the United States (Scotus) has yet to do so.

I have written several times on what I consider to be, with due respect, the (1) plainly unconstitutional and (2) unduly harsh 8-6 decision ousting Sereno. It is plainly unconstitutional because, in my humble opinion, Supreme Court justices may be removed from office only via impeachment expressly canalized by our Constitution and only for the grounds provided therein, not via quo warranto.

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It is unduly harsh because it was expressly made to be immediately executory. Thus, on the very day it was issued, the embarrassed and belittled erstwhile chief justice had to leave the Supreme Court premises carrying all her personal belongings. Decisions convicting even the most hardened criminals are not “immediately executory.” They could still file motions for reconsideration that would stay immediate execution.

THOUGH I DISAGREED WITH THE DECISION, I must follow it and cite it as a valid judgment. So, too, whether I agree or not with any other decision or order, including those of Arroyo, Ponce Enrile, and Estrada, I must respect and obey them. That is the rule of law. As I always say, we can disagree without being disagreeable and we can differ without being difficult.

Our justices and judges are required to render full-time service and to shed their political, business, and professional connections. No side incomes. In my case, I dissolved my law firm when I ascended to the Court in 1995 to heed the Constitution’s call for “proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.” While dissolution was, and is still, not required (only resignation is), I thought it was best to close the firm to adhere to the Court’s ideal of being, like Caesar’s wife, beyond suspicion.

While the Gesmundo Court has not been tested by nation-shaking cases comparable to those of the Concepcion Court on the ratification of the 1973 Constitution, or of the Davide Court on stopping the House of Representatives from impeaching the chief justice, or of the Panganiban Court on rejecting the “people’s initiative” to change our presidential system to the parliamentary, I am still impressed by its solid effort to implement the “Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027.”

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AMAZING ALSO WERE THE COMMENTS on my June 3 and 10 columns regarding the master’s degree scholarships granted to my three talented grandkids by top US universities without their applying. Well, this proud Lolo just learned that a few days ago, a fourth “apo,” Katrina P. Hannett, was offered scholarships for a master’s in bioethics.

I always knew Katrina was gifted. Growing up, she flew through her work, getting easily bored and good-naturedly causing trouble. In kindergarten, she taught a fellow 5-year-old how to write in cursive script, a friend who didn’t write in print yet. In first grade, she was given challenging fourth-grade level work to prevent her from doing her classmates’ tasks for them. She did her homework lying upside down on a sofa, feet up on a wall, and hair cascading down the chair to the floor. Still, she got top grades and was elected student body president (like her Lolo).

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But what really shone through was her compassion and humility. Her sibling was scolded for pushing Katrina around, but she was the first to hug her crying offender. As an avid eighth-grade dancer, Katrina landed prima donna roles. However, she pulled back to avoid “dramas” among the high school dancers she beat. Now, as a young adult, she spends hours doing community service, even working as a medical volunteer at marathons, helping save the lives of runners afflicted with cardiac arrest.

No surprise that Katrina aspires to be a compassionate doctor. Prior to med school proper, she decided to pursue a master’s in bioethics, the study of ethical, social, and legal issues that arise in medicine. She is committed to providing care that’s both medically and ethically sound.

She’s been offered scholarships by top US universities including Johns Hopkins, NYU, and Penn. She hasn’t made her final choice, maybe still pondering real-world human issues? But no problem. She will crack her mega-class dilemma soon.

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, opinion

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