Supreme Kura-Court

Voting 8-5, the Supreme Court flashed the green light, by way of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), on the plan of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, to leave the country purportedly to seek treatment abroad for her bone ailment.

The eight magistrates who voted to issue the TRO

1. Renato Corona
2. Presbitero Velasco Jr.
3. Arturo Brion
4. Diosdado Peralta
5. Lucas Bersamin
6. Roberto Abad
7. Martin Villarama Jr.
8. Jose Perez

All 8 were appointed by Arroyo during her nine-year presidency.

Accused of being Arroyo’s “midnight appointee,” Corona once served as Arroyo’s chief of staff and spokesperson.

The five dissenters:

1. Ma. Lourdes Sereno
2. Bienvenido Reyes
3. Estela Perlas-Bernabe
4. Justice Antonio Carpio
5. Jose Mendoza

Only the first three were appointees of President Aquino.

The remaining two were on official leave during that time:

1. Teresita Leonardo -De Castro

2. Mariano Del Castillo

“Patay ang mga kasabwat nya sa house of representathieves, at supreme kuracourt,hehehe!!”

“hahayaan ba natin na ang magpatakbo ng ating batas ay ang kataas-taasang hukuman ni gloria?

Pilipino! Mag-isip ka!”

“Ang problema hindi pwede tanggalin ang mga justice na obvious naman may pinapanigan.. tsk.”

“Walang piring sa mata ang nakararami sa SC justices?”

“parang ganun nga.. at yung weighting scale nila.. anu nga ba tawag dun… may lamang pera sa kabilang side…hehehe”

“kung matibay ang ibidensya sa Electoral sabotage case laban sa kanya dapat lahat ng iniupo nyang nasa SC ay illigal at dapat buwagin dahil hindi legit ang pagka presidente ni Arroyo …paraan ito kaya siguro haharangin ng SC para di sila madamay ….”

“kung si marcos may marcos loyalist

si erap may erap loyalist

si gloria gustong umalist”

In their separate petitions for certiorari and prohibition, the Arroyos were “able to show that they are entitled to the relief prayed for”.

Jose Midas Marquez, the Court Administrator and spokesperson, insisted that the TRO issued by the high court was immediately executory and of indefinite duration. Several people warned Marquez to stop giving wrong interpretations of the court’s decision, however Marquez reiterated that he was personally briefed on the matter and that his interpretions are accurate.

The continuance of the Arroyos inclusion in the watch-list order might work as an injustice to them, therefore the TRO acted as a mere provisional remedy but did not say if one was guilty or if one should be acquitted. It is consistent with the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  Take note that the Arroyos were not yet accused  when the watch list was issued.

The high court cited the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence in granting the petition for a TRO on the Arroyos inclusion in the immigration bureau’s watch list.

Three conditions were set by the high court which the Arroyos were obliged to satisfy:

1. Payment of a P2-million cash bond,

2. The appointment of a legal representative for both Arroyo and her husband,

3. and their personal appearance or call at the Philippine Embassy or consular office in the country they were to visit.

By issuing the injunctive order, the high court “indefinitely” voided the implementation of DOJ Circular No. 41 which authorized De Lima to put anyone on the immigration bureau’s watch list and issue a hold-departure order.

While the lifting of the travel ban on the Arroyos was immediately executory, the Office of the Solicitor General could still appeal for a reversal of the order.

In the event that the Justice department filed a case against the Arroyos in the lower courts, the government must inform the tribunal that such a formal complaint had been filed.

The TRO would not cover a hold-departure order which the lower court might issue.

“you have to prove first in the court that they are guilty.. hindi yung trial by publicity.. look at hubert webb.. dahil pinairal din ang emosyon dahil gusto natin makulong sya agad, 15 years ang nawala sa kanya.. 

“ang nakakatakot lang sa ginawa ng administrasyon eh they took a short cut even though nasasagasaan ang right ng tao para lang makuha ang gusto nila.. 

gusto mo ba i-dedetain ka ng several weeks or months dahil lang may nagsabi na nagnakaw ka? dapat you have to prove it sa korte by filing a case and that’s the time na pwede ka i-detain.. hindi yung sabi-sabi lang.. yon lang naman ayaw ko sa ginawa nila.. nakakatakot kasi dahil pati highest court of the land eh kaya nilang suwayin.. para na rin kasi dinisrespect ng palasyo ang konstitusyon”

“This is the problem with us Pinoys… We easily sympathize to the situation, instead of looking on the mistakes that they’ve done.

Pa-iralin ang Batas at all cost, no matter who you are and what you are… 

Ang tao pag-gumawa ng kamalian, ang kanyang karapatan ay naba-bawasan hanggang sya ay matoluyan! Itanim natin ito sa ating mga Utak!”

As always, there would be two sides of a coin.

There will be pro, there will be anti.

There will be people who would rely on the Supreme Court to decide on legal matters and pertinent evidences the lower courts may have overlooked, and there will be people who would pray their cases does not to go that far if there is fear that the justices are biased to certain parties.

So, how has the Arroyo Court performed?

Malacañang rapped Corona for using budget cuts, already restored by Congress, to “sidestep” the Court’s recall of a “final” ruling that reinstated 1,400 members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap). The Court derailed the implementation of that decision.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) lawyer Estelito Mendoza wrote the Supreme Court that the Second Division erred in deciding for flight attendants and stewards; it was the Special Third Division that was the proper body to handle the case.

“How can a mere letter suffice as a pleading in a Supreme Court case?” Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago snapped. The Court’s own rules thumb down any second motion for reconsideration filed without prior permission.

Justices, nonetheless, scrambled to reconsider a “final decision” on the basis of a letter. “You are not allowed to talk to a Supreme Court justice. …What credibility would be left… (if the Court) declares in one breath that this is final… then entertains an ordinary letter?”

Only if judgment was “legally erroneous,” “patently unjust” and “worked irreparable damage,” is a reversal permitted, Santiago added. “Labintatlong taon iyang (Fasap case) nakabinbin,” she pointed out. (Contrast that with this week’s US Federal Court’s sentencing of former hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam to 11 years in jail, plus a $10-million fine, for insider trading. It took less than two years to bring the case from trial to prison.)

Assume the Fasap decision was issued by the wrong division, that’s a technicality, Santiago said. Will that overturn 13 years of litigation? The Court’s record “is spotty,” Santiago noted. The Court should “take remedial steps” on its rules.

“I am angry because… I fear that the citizenry might turn its back on the bulwark of our civil liberties. If the Court loses its credibility, it will be impossible to regain it in a number of years.”

Unfortunately, the flight attendants and stewards case is not isolated. The Supreme Court cartwheeled four times in just three years, on the matter of 16 towns elbowing to become cities, Sen. Franklin Drilon noted.

Here, too, the zigzags were over a “final decision,” repeatedly exhumed from the judgment entry book. “Does the Supreme Court play judicial yoyo?”

All the towns flubbed Republic Act 9009’s criteria for population, land area and P100 million income. So, they opted for palusot in 2007. All 16 laws passed by the 14th Congress were unconstitutional, ruled the Court. “No further pleadings shall be entertained,” the Court decreed in April 2009.

But in December 2009, justices entertained, as in the Fasap case, a prohibited reconsideration. The 16 were cities after all, it ruled—only to order the 16, in August 2010, to haul down city signboards. End of story?

No. In February 2011, the Court flipped again. The towns were cities after all, it ruled—after counsel Estelito Mendoza, the same Estelito Mendoza representing PAL in the Fasap case, wrote a “For-Your-Eyes-Only letter” to justices. Sub-rosa letter writing to Supreme Court justices has not substituted for litigation. Not yet, anyway.

But deep unease persists—for good reason. “When unfounded reversals happen, the Court’s credibility is put at risk,” journalist Marites Vitug writes in her book: “Shadow of Doubt—Probing the Supreme Court.” “Justices flip-flop because they do not study the case… completely rely on the ponente (or are lobbied)…. This is the shorthand explanation for this phenomenon.”

This Court upheld the gerrymandering of Camarines Sur. The first district ended up with a population of 176,383—far short of the constitutional minimum yardstick of a quarter of a million inhabitants. But that was enough to accommodate then President Arroyo’s son as congressman: Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo. “Mama” signed House Bill 4264 into RA 9716 on Oct. 12, 2009.

This “created a playground in Bicol for young Dato Arroyo,” noted constitutional scholar Joaquin Bernas, SJ. “This is a direction which makes the independence of the Supreme Court suspect.”

The Court agreed to Eduardo Cojuangco pocketing 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares, by dipping into coco levies wrung by martial law bayonets. “The biggest joke to hit the century,” dissented then Supreme Court justice, now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

“We are not final because we are infallible,” wrote US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. “But (we are) infallible only because we are final.”  Will the Corona Court also remember who said: “Physician, heal thyself”?

The congressmen say the three branches of government should wave the olive branch at one another, the recent acrimony between the Executive and the Judiciary in particular having just turned exceptionally sour. “I think it’s time for all branches to take a step back and de-escalate the conflict,” says Juan Edgardo Angara. “Inter-branch squabbling is not good for the country.”

Why? Why shouldn’t it be good for the country? The point of the three branches of government is to unite with the people, not with each other. The point of the three branches of government is to reconcile with the people, not with each other. If all of them are doing their damndest best to serve the people, then by all means they should unite and reconcile with each other, the better to serve them. If one of them is doing its damndest best to screw the people, then the other two should come down on it, and specifically try to remove the people claiming to represent it, the better to spare the people from further torment.

That is what checks and balances mean.

What is the business of lawyers? It is to “practice law in the grand manner,” says Oliver Wendell Holmes. It is to show a breadth of vision, a depth of understanding, a fullness of wisdom so as to make of law a living thing, a thing that goes beyond the text pasted on the yellowing pages of a book tucked in an obscure corner of the library to one that shines forth in all its glory in everyday life, making the law, imperfect as it is, aspire toward justice. If that is so for ordinary lawyers, then that is surely so for justices. If that is so for ordinary courts, then that is surely so for the Supreme Court.

In the past, if you were poor, you could always gamble, notwithstanding that in this country the rich got away with murder, that in your case you could get lucky and the rich might lose. You could always hope that even if the courts of first instance and of appeals had been deaf to your entreaty, the Supreme Court would not. Maybe in your case, the Supreme Court might want to be pogi and decide on the basis of merit and not on the enticement of lucre, and rule in your favor. There was always that chance at least.

The Supreme Court has removed that chance completely. It has done so not by showing that the Supreme Court would always, or near-always, vote in favor of the rich, but by something worse. It has done so by showing that the Court would never vote at all. Or it has done so by showing that the Court could vote this way or that way, but that wouldn’t really matter a hoot because that would never be final, the Court could always reopen a case it has ruled upon with finality. What it has done three times, it can do forever.

Why in God’s—or the devil’s—name would anyone ever want to go to court again? Why would anyone go to such lengths, such cost, and such anguish to try to get justice for a case that will go on and on like the song in “Titanic” or the end of the world itself, whichever makes you cringe more? The Supreme Court hasn’t just killed the meaning of Supreme, it has killed the essence of Court.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines (Kataas-taasang Hukuman ng Pilipinas or Korte Suprema) is the Philippines’ highest judicial court, as well as the court of last resort. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has “administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof”.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Edison Naqvi
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 07:13:40

    Of course, what a fantastic website and instructive posts, I will bookmark your website.Have an awsome day!


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