POSTSCRIPT / May 13, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Just lost a battle? Keep faith, fight on!

TO THOSE who feel dejected with the Supreme Court’s shaky decision (8-6, arguably could be 3-6) removing Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, we pass on some thoughts culled from an Ignatian Reflection about being steadfast and keeping faith.

Titled “Go on speaking, and do not be silent,” the reflection by campus ministry associate Jake Derry of the St. Mary Student Parish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says in part:

“At some point, we all need that reassurance, that encouragement that St. Paul receives from the Lord in his vision. ‘Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.’

“…We come up against persecution in various forms, we have self-doubt, we see or experience injustices, and everything else that life might throw at us. How do we come back from this doubt, persecution, etc.? Why not how Paul did?

“Seek reassurance and encouragement from Jesus. Maybe it’s not through our dreams but through the peace felt at Holy Communion or Reconciliation, maybe through the Spirit speaking to us through a friend or colleague, or maybe through our taking time to dwell in and express gratitude.”

May these thoughts help sustain the fervor of those who believe that the Supreme Court erred when it gave due course to the controversial quo warranto bid that ousted the Chief Justice with immediate finality last Friday.

Sereno herself talks about the “fight” being not over yet, that in the end truth and justice will prevail. To pursue this end, her followers are talking of extra-legal action, of fighting on in the tribunal, and in the streets if necessary.

Her detractors, on the other hand, maintain that she should not have been appointed to the helm of the tribunal in the first place, having failed allegedly to submit requirements for candidates for the position.

Having grown tired and almost deaf listening to conflicting legal views and versions of the facts, this observer is tempted to say with finality: “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let’s move on.”

But with many loose legal ends left hanging over basic issues, many of those who believe the politicized tribunal has erred grievously will find it hard accepting the verdict.

How can they accept the 8-6 vote, for instance, considering that many of the justices who had voted against Sereno had (before the filing of the QW petition) accused their peer outside the court of a number of misdeeds impugning her competence and integrity?

Then these accusers went back to the chamber to sit as judge on the same charges they made outside! Acting as both accuser and judge does not look proper for SC magistrates. They should have inhibited themselves – which could have reduced the anti-Sereno votes to a minority of two or three.

 Carpio: Impeachment the only mode

THE MATTER of quo warranto action suddenly being discovered, at an interesting political moment, as another mode of removing an SC justice who has been there for more than a year, may also be raised with fresh insights when Sereno’s camp moves for reconsideration.

It is noteworthy that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the six who dissented, agreed with Sereno that she could be removed from office only by impeachment, saying any other process would mean rewriting the Constitution.

He said: “The provision mandating removal only by impeachment is the Constitution’s strongest guarantee of security of tenure. The guarantee effectively blocks the use of other legal ways of ousting an officer.

“To allow any other method is to rewrite the Constitution. To permit this quo warranto petition to remove an incumbent member of this Court is to violate the Constitution.”

What the Supreme Court should have done, Carpio said, was to treat Sereno’s case as an administrative one and leave it to Congress to decide her fate through the impeachment process.

He said: “The House impeaches, and the Senate convicts. This is the only method allowed under the Constitution to remove a member of this Court.”

He said the removal of impeachable officers from their posts was an “exclusive mandate” of the Congress that no court could assume.

The tribunal said in its majority decision, however, that a quo warranto plea was a valid remedy to ensure that “only qualified individuals” hold public office.

This observer is on the verge of losing faith in the so-called democratic processes and the rule of law. We are distressed seeing political winds buffeting the tribunal, threatening its capacity to chart an independent course.

In discussions with media colleagues on the likely political end-game, we catch ourselves saying too often that after the skirmishes on the short term, “kung anong gusto ni Duterte, yun din ang mangyayari.” (What Duterte wants is what will happen.)

Having seen how this forceful populist (one of the world’s “strongmen,” according to Time magazine) pressures individuals and institutions – including co-equal branches of government – we think he is on his way to installing a brutal autocracy if no superior force intervenes.

With the suicidal decision of the Supreme Court ousting its own Chief outside the constitutional route of impeachment, that supposedly independent branch in the tripartite setup has fallen, curiously after Duterte declared war on Sereno and announced he would have her ousted.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 13, 2018)

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