Te denies what law practitioners and professors know for a fact
Lawyer Theodore Te, chief public information officer of the Supreme Court, reacted to the letter of one Marc Leviste regarding the “chaotic state of… jurisprudence” (Opinion, 11/25/14). Te challenged Leviste to give “specifics” about the cases where the different divisions of the Supreme Court rendered “conflicting decisions,” instead of just “drooling”!
Law practitioners and law professors know that for a fact but, for obvious reasons, are not too crazy about coming out in the open and risking the ire of the “gods of Padre Faura”!
Te also assured the public that the Supreme Court has been “very careful in the promulgation of its decisions and every decision to be promulgated is read to ensure that it does not conflict with other decisions.” And if there is any conflict at all, the matter is “referred to the Court en banc for appropriate action, if needed.” That’s easier said than done.
There have been numerous instances where litigants would request referral to the Court en banc because they believed the decisions rendered by the divisions were not in sync with time-honored doctrines or principles of law laid down by earlier decisions on the same subject matter. The Constitution says: “No doctrine or principle of law laid down by the court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed except by the court sitting en banc” (Article VIII, Section 4). The Court en banc’s intervention is clearly a matter of duty to ensure consistency.
But the procedure set for that purpose by the Supreme Court itself is such that it is almost impossible to get a full-court hearing. Any such attempt can only be coursed through the same division that rendered the questionable decision. In other words, the division must first agree to the referral, which is tantamount to admitting it may have erred.
What division, which has the same bragging rights to call itself “supreme” as the Court en banc itself, would readily admit that? Unless the matter involves intense public interest and threatens unrest, that is not going to happen in the usual course of things. Thus, right off the bat, the request can be unceremoniously buried by the same division. And the Court en banc may never get to know what the fuss is all about. Under that setup, the filtering process Te seemed to be talking about could really go haywire.
So, just thinking aloud, would it not be a better idea to let the Court en banc itself exercise the right of first refusal?
—ARNULFO R. MAGISTRADO,
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