Is there a ‘settled doctrine’ in PH?
It is often said that we are a litigious people. Whenever provoked, no matter how frivolously, we love to say, “I’ll see you in court!”
This penchant is nowhere else more evident than in the plethora of cases being filed with the Supreme Court. The legal issues involved in many of these cases are, generally speaking, nothing new.
Jurisprudence is replete with past doctrinal rulings to supposedly guide the parties and their lawyers as to the probable outcome of the cases. That should be enough deterrent to frivolousness and a warning to lawyers to refrain from trifling with the courts with legal questions that have long been settled. That should, ideally, reduce the congestion of court dockets.
The problem is, the Supreme Court has also been deciding cases contrary to its own previous rulings without much rhyme or reason! Take, for instance, one case where its judgment was already declared “final and executory.”
By dint of jurisprudence, such judgment should no longer be disturbed (even saying to the extent, no matter how erroneous it might be). But by sheer prestidigitation, a “skillful lawyer” succeeded in “persuading” the Supreme Court into setting aside that finality, thereby junking “well-entrenched jurisprudence”!
Worse, it is not uncommon for one division of the Supreme Court (there are three such divisions, composed of five justices each) to make a ruling diametrically opposed to another ruling made by another division on practically the same issues!
As a paralegal in a law firm for quite some time now, I know this from my many years of research. In law classes, these clashing rulings are being discussed with unflattering chuckles! In other words, there is no “clearing house,” as it were, where these rulings are checked for any inconsistency or anomaly.
It seems every division of the Supreme Court is free to make any disposition it pleases! What is it “supreme” for?
Thus, as long as that wide window of opportunity is kept open for anomalies, there can never be any “settled doctrine” which the parties and their lawyers can rely upon with any logical assurance of rationality, much less stability. A whimsical ruling for every case is no sane man’s idea of “jurisprudence”! Is it any wonder frivolous cases are flooding the courts?
—JANNO M. MONTECRISTO, [email protected]
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