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Occupy the Supreme Court

/ 11:58 PM December 05, 2011

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lawyers, also called justices of the Supreme Court, say that national security may not supersede individual rights. By preventing Arroyo from leaving the country, the government has betrayed that principle.

It’s yet another reminder that the devil himself can quote Scripture to suit his purposes. Indeed, it’s another reminder of the time Congress discovered the loftiest principles to defend the lowliest deed, which was to strike down any effort to impeach Arroyo for stealing the 2004 elections.

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Arroyo’s justices would have done better to discover that principle when the Morong 43 were arrested without warrant and thrown in jail without charges. National security was invoked to justify it, but I did not hear any of Arroyo’s justices fulminate against it.

Indeed, Arroyo’s justices would have done better to discover that principle when the political activists were being “salvaged” right and left by Jovito Palparan. Again, national security was invoked to justify it, but I did not hear Arroyo’s justices rise as one to damn it. All I heard them do was laugh when Raul Gonzalez called Philip Alston “the muchacho of the UN.”

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But is this merely a case of the right words being uttered by the wrong mouths?

Not at all.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima  has argued the point well. Detaining Arroyo has nothing to do with the presumption of innocence. Of course, Arroyo may be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That may only mean that she may remain relatively free until proven guilty. That does not mean she may not be detained on suspicion of wanting to escape. Arroyo has been charged with electoral fraud and presents a very real danger of never returning once she leaves. The vagueness of her itinerary suggests so. She deserves the presumption of innocence, but she more richly deserves the presumption of flight.

Just as well, P-Noy has argued the point well. And in the politest of terms, which Arroyo’s justices do not deserve. They would be easier to take seriously if they did not keep flitting about. “When the Court itself, in granting exceptionally speedy relief to Mrs. Arroyo, set conditions for her to be able to leave, only to say, afterwards, those conditions didn’t have to be met before Mrs. Arroyo left, who can avoid asking, why then did the court impose conditions it had no intention of seeing fulfilled?”

But more than all this, why should you allow Arroyo to leave even if the Court had been categorical with its TRO? It’s not just that the incumbent President is answerable only to a free people and not to a bought Court. It’s also that the law may not supersede historical experience. The law may not take precedence over reason. The law may not replace common sense. Historical experience, reason and common sense have shown us that next to Marcos, Arroyo has been the most despotic and criminal—yes, criminal: stealing the vote, quite apart from the other things she did, is criminal—figure ever to presume to lead the country. Would you have allowed Marcos to leave the country, if he had not managed to flee at the most perilous hour, on the ground of presumption of innocence? Are you going to dispel 14 years of martial law because of that?

Historical experience, reason and common sense have shown us that Arroyo meets all the conditions for not allowing anyone to leave the country. You expand your imagination just a little—which justices are supposed to do, more than others they are there “to practice law in the grand manner,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it—and you’ll see that Arroyo is a threat to national security, national interest, and even public health. In the broadest sense, though she was a completely literal threat, and a much consummated one, to the health of the political activists. A monumental injustice is just as much a threat to the public health as a virulent disease. Even more so: What kills the soul is so.

Allowing Arroyo to escape justice is so.

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The only irony there is that Arroyo was a threat to the body and soul of this country all the while that she refused to leave Malacañang and remains a threat to the body and soul of this country now that she insists on leaving it.

There’s a bigger war here, one that goes beyond the immediate battle between the Aquino administration  and the Supreme Court. That is the war between law as stipulated by a few people and reality as experienced by an entire people. In other countries, the law springs from the collective experience of a people, their history, their struggles, their ordeals and triumphs. In this country, the law decrees the collective experience of an entire people, the shape of it, the contours of it, the reality of it. In other countries nothing is legal that is not validated by historical experience, reason and common sense. In this country, nothing is real, or has transpired, that is not validated by law. In other countries, trying to make reality conform to the law is called bidding the waves hold still. In this country, trying to bend reality to the whims of the law is called the Supreme Court.

That is what Renato Corona’s Court is doing. That is what Renato Corona’s Court has done. It means to banish the weeping and gnashing of teeth of a people who burned in the fires of a living hell with the wave of a law. It means to reverse the same ruling the people decreed on Arroyo as the one they did on Joseph Estrada much earlier: Guilty as sin. Little wonder it’s the same Court the Marcoses are pinning their hopes on to turn Ferdinand from heel to hero, from tyrant to titan.

This is not just a battle between the administration and the Supreme Court, this is a war to save our memory, this is a war to save our history, this is a war to save our soul. Reclaim reality. Reclaim the law.

Occupy the Supreme Court.

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TAGS: Aquino, featured columns, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, justice, opinion, right to travel, Supreme Court
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