Final SC ruling a thing past

/ 10:44 PM July 15, 2011

JUSTICE OLIVER Wendell Holmes once wrote that the law is “a prediction of what the court will do.” That is to say, one can rest assured that if the law is on his side, the court will decide in his favor as surely as the sun rises in the east. That is the norm that civilized society lives by and expects order in the scheme of things. The same is true with jurisprudence which forms part of the law of the land. Past decisions of the Supreme Court determine the outcome of succeeding cases under similar sets of circumstances. Or, do they now?

Filipino practicing lawyers are now bothered and bewildered. What are they to think of a Supreme Court that seems not to know anymore whence and whither it’s coming or going? Gone are the days when they used to take to heart every pronouncement of the Supreme Court as the final repository of legal wisdom. It used to take decades before the Supreme Court revisits and tinkers with well-settled doctrines in light of new realities. Now all it takes is just a month or two?


Alas, the Supreme Court’s frequent flip-flops nowadays have produced more flimflam in the dustbin of jurisprudence. Who would now care to cite jurisprudence that the Supreme Court itself has of late been so free to abandon and throw out the window anytime? How long can its “predictive” effect on pending cases last?  Until another ponente comes along and decides to fool around with settled doctrines?

Take for example the most basic of its doctrines—the so-called immutability of a final judgment (meaning, once a decision is final, that’s it, case closed). In at least two most notorious cases (the recent “16 cities” case and the latest Keppel case), the Supreme Court “lifted” the finality of its “final judgments” and segued to reverse them! Thus, when the Supreme Court now says it’s “final,” it really means “semi-final” pala, or so it seems?


The comedy is, the Supreme Court is supreme, not because it cannot err but because its decision is final. But the real tragedy is: Rule 1—the Supreme Court is always correct. Rule 2—if the Supreme Court reverses itself, apply Rule 1!


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TAGS: judiciary, Jurisprudence, letters to the editor, Supreme Court
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