Why impeach when judicial reform is possible?
This refers to former chief justice Artemio V. Panganiban’s Jan. 26 column titled “Disagree, but not disobey.”
I am honored that a former head of the judiciary reacted to my privilege speech on the Supreme Court’s flip-flopping decisions. With all due respect, however, I am unable to understand how he could say that the Court’s ruling in the Reyes case had “legal and logical moorings,” conveniently disregarding the precedent the Court set in Jalosjos vs Comelec, which recognized the authority of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) to decide disputes relating to the election, returns and qualifications of House members. The decision also reiterated the well-established rule that the proclamation of a congressional candidate divests the Commission on Elections of jurisdiction over controversies regarding the election of a proclaimed candidate.
Panganiban also conveniently omitted that in Tañada vs Comelec (Oct. 22, 2013), the high court upheld anew the exclusive jurisdiction of the HRET to resolve the election controversy of Rep. Angelina Tan who had already been proclaimed on May 16, 2013, a member of the House.
Clearly, the flip-flopping rulings in the Jalosjos, Reyes and Tañada cases bear irreconcilable disparities. This bothers me no end as it
effectively reduces the constitutionally guaranteed power of the HRET. Indeed, I am deeply disturbed by the Court’s apparent intentional departure from well-established precedents. More so, because the Reyes case was decided with “undue haste” in a record time of 18 days, seemingly to favor a son of a sitting magistrate, in utter disrespect of the separate and independent powers of a coequal branch of government.
As a consequence thereof, we now experience the amusing spectacle of a lawyer issuing a demand letter dated Jan. 20, 2014, titled “FINAL NOTICE AND DEMAND TO VACATE OFFICE” and threatening a member of Congress with criminal and administrative cases. How much more can we disrespect Congress?
Truly, I cannot comprehend how former chief justice Panganiban sees nothing questionable about the Reyes decision. While I agree with him that we can only disagree with but never disobey Supreme Court decisions, that Congress is not helpless because it has the power to impeach justices, my question is: Why must we resort to the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, which the Constitution intends to be a last resort to remove incorrigible and erring impeachable officials?
Be it remembered that when the high court errs, this error becomes part of the law of the land. Therefore, justices must be the embodiment of justice and fairness and their reputations ought to be free from even the mere appearance of partiality and moral corruption. This is the essence of my advocacy for judicial reforms.
I hope my comments would be viewed constructively. What I fervently seek is to stir a healthy discussion and instigate concrete steps toward judicial reform for in the end, all must uphold the rule of law, including justices of the Supreme Court.
—REP. REYNALDO V. UMALI,
2nd District, Oriental Mindoro