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Sisyphus’ Lament

SC desecrated by baseless Torre case

WILLIAM JASARINO denounced the Torre de Manila condo building overlooking Rizal Park at the Supreme Court hearing last July 21. He also repeatedly admitted that his case has no legal basis, stated that government cultural agencies had declined to act against the Torre, and agreed that the high court has no jurisdiction. A justice hinted that all this is wildly unethical.

Against all odds, Jasarino scored one triumph. Ma. Concepcion Noche fell awkwardly silent for several minutes when Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked which specific phrase in the Reproductive Health Law she objected to. Rep. Neri Colmenares repeatedly stated that he was unfamiliar with the Internet while arguing against the Cybercrime Law. Solicitor General Florin Hilbay denounced the arguments of Rachel Pastores against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement as not even fit to be a bad law school recitation. By social media consensus, Jasarino now looms above them as the worst petitioner in the high court’s august history.

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No other lawyer has been publicly reprimanded by Justice Marvic Leonen for not paginating his petition. Leonen also said it was contemptuous for Jasarino to ask the court stenographer to repeat his previous statement instead of answering Leonen, and hinted that Jasarino was unethical in bringing a baseless lawsuit. Jasarino kept interrupting Leonen and slightly raised his voice at him throughout the hearing. Justice Diosdado Peralta twitted the lack of research. “You did not read the resolution? Napapagod na ako e.” “You need to be prepared with the names and the documents.”

Jasarino must first prove that his clients, the Knights of Rizal, have a right to sue, as they do not own Rizal Park. Justice Francis Jardeleza, who mastered this drill as solicitor general, first asked how the Torre legally injures them. Jasarino vaguely quoted the law creating the Knights as mandating them to honor Jose Rizal. In being evasive, Jasarino ended up going through this charter line by line and proving that nothing in it justified the suit.

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Jardeleza generously guided Jasarino toward “public right.” However, Jasarino contradicted him, not knowing the freshman-level doctrine that a citizen is not required to prove injury when asserting a public right.

Jasarino asked the high court to accept the petitioner because of “transcendental importance.” Jardeleza asked why the case is so urgent when the Knights waited until 19 of 49 Torre stories were built before suing. Jasarino had the temerity to tell one of our most respected judges: “Why not?”

Second, Jasarino has to prove that the high court has jurisdiction over his baseless petition for injunction. Leonen pointed out that the high court cannot accept this type of petition and doing so would invalidate the failing grades he gave as a professor. Peralta noted the obvious problem that the specific injunction, the “writ of pamana,” sought does not even exist in court rules.

Third, Jasarino has to actually cite a law violated by the Torre. He tried the Constitution but immediately admitted it says nothing about preserving sight lines or skylines. Leonen countered that the Constitution explicitly protects property rights, including those of 700 non-billionaire condo owners.

Jasarino cited laws but none proved relevant. For example, there is a law against physically destroying monuments, which does not apply here. The National Historical Commission stated it had no legal basis to stop the Torre and no less than the Solicitor General states that the National Commission for Culture and the Arts has no power to issue a cease-and-desist order here.

Jasarino cited NHC guidelines but immediately admitted these are nonbinding. He cited the Venice Charter’s international preservation standards but readily admitted the Philippines never signed this. Jardeleza generously asked if the Charter embodies international custom—a possible legal basis—but Jasarino’s answer showed he did not know what this basic term means. Finally, Peralta and Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe went through Manila city officials’ acts in painful detail, and Jasarino agreed no city ordinance restrains the Torre despite public debate initiated by “tourism trailblazer” Carlos Celdran.

Jasarino clutched at a final legal straw, calling the Torre a nuisance. Carpio typically asks only one question, but one that demolishes the whole case. He noted that a nuisance must be factually proven but the high court has no jurisdiction to hear witnesses and receive evidence, which is done in lower courts. Thus, it cannot entertain this tiny shred of legal basis.

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The greatest embarrassment is how the media failed to report how the Knights turned a court into a cheap platform for a publicity stunt. The Inquirer’s Tarra Quismundo wrote a superb report, but others that did not state how Jasarino repeatedly admitted his case had no legal basis whatsoever were blatantly inaccurate and inadvertently biased.

Jasarino clearly went beyond gross incompetence to malicious disrespect. After the hearing, the Knights released a delusional statement praising themselves for having the “audacity to test our laws” while reiterating in writing the case’s blatant lack of basis. The hearing’s recording, available on the high court’s website, must be studied in legal ethics and journalism classes alike, and neither law nor media should unwittingly reward such contempt.

The Supreme Court is as much a part of our national heritage as Rizal Park. However, there is far clearer legal basis for all who have sworn the lawyer’s oath to condemn Jasarino and his unconscionable desecration of its hallowed chambers.

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React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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