AS in a reversal of roles, the justices of the Supreme Court appear being reminded of judicial independence and courage by their juniors handling sensitive cases in such Regional Trial Courts as in Bulacan and Makati.
The Supreme Court has had to contend with concerns that some magistrates might succumb to pressure in politicized disputes on which President Duterte had publicly stated his prejudgment. It did not help that some justices had wanted his nod as Chief Justice.
Contentious cases brought before the high court included the hero’s burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani of the preserved corpse of former President Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii in 1989; and the removal last May 11 of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via a never-before-used quo warranto petition, after she was marked for ouster by Duterte.
Pending before the SC acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal is the protest of ex-senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo. Even while the case is sub judice, President Duterte has announced his preference for Marcos over Robredo as his successor.
In Bulacan on Monday, Judge Alexander Tamayo of the Malolos RTC Branch 15 sentenced retired Army major general Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan Jr., along with a colonel and a sergeant, to life in prison for kidnapping 12 years ago two University of the Philippines coeds.
The defendants were ordered to indemnify the family of the victims, who are still missing, with P100,000 in civil damages and P200,000 as moral damages. Palparan’s lawyers said they would appeal.
Upon his sentencing, an enraged Palparan shouted at the judge, “Duwag ka (You’re a coward)!” adding, “Tarantado! Gago! (Jerk! Stupid!).” The convicts were escorted out under heavy military-police guard pushing through a raucous crowd of sympathizers.
The judge ordered Palparan et al. locked up in a regular prison, not at a military camp as his lawyers wanted.
Judge Tamayo had to ward off pressure from opposing directions, and evade possibly life-threatening situations. Unlike SC justices, local judges usually live in the same community as the parties tangling before them, so they face more risks.
In contrast, members of the high court enjoying better remuneration and protection lead more sedate lives and are exposed to other, more pleasant, pressure or influencing.
In Makati, Judge Elmo Alameda of RTC Branch 150 has delayed issuing the arrest warrant that President Duterte wants against Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the ground that he had voided the amnesty granted to the former navy officer in 2011.
Based on Trillanes’ repeated failure to submit his original amnesty application and his sworn admission of guilt, Alameda could issue the warrant, if he had wanted to, but still gave the senator several days to produce the basic documents wanted.
At the end this Friday of the waiting period, will the judge be content accepting the authenticated copies of the documents as secondary evidence that Trillanes had indeed submitted valid amnesty papers?
The judge’s action, based on the facts and the law, will show what kind of stuff he is made of, and if he has judicial independence and moral courage under pressure.
Whatever direction the Trillanes case in the RTC takes, it will eventually reach the Supreme Court, where the Big Boys lie in wait to play a higher-stakes game.
• 4% of US immigrants are Pinoys
FILIPINO legal immigrants in the United States, estimated at 1,942,000 in 2016, account for 4 percent of all immigrants there, according to a report published this week by the Pew Research Center.
The Philippines, the second-largest origin-country of immigrants in 1990, was overtaken by India and China during the early 2000s. Since 2010, it has dropped to fourth, after Mexico, China and India.
More than 40 million of the US population of 325.7 million were born in another country. As source of 4 percent of immigrants, the Philippines ranks fourth as country of birth, after Mexico, 11.6 million (26 percent); China, 2.7 million (6 percent); India, 2.4 million (6 percent); and followed by El Salvador, 1.4 million (3 percent).
Pew reported that roughly half of immigrants live in three states: California (24 percent), Texas (11 percent) and New York (10 percent). California had the largest immigrant population in 2016, at 10.7 million. Texas and New York had more than 4.5 million each.
The West Coast, notably California, is the preferred residence of most Filipinos because of its nearness to the home country, the more bearable weather, and the presence of friends and relatives. There are Philippine consulates-general in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Research of other entities has shown that Filipino immigrants are better educated than average Americans and tend to have a household income higher than the national median. They speak English and adjust more easily to the American mainstream.
Pew reported that immigrants’ being better educated is due in part to rising levels of schooling in their home countries and the influx of high-skilled workers in recent years, especially from Asia.
It said that since 1965, when immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants has more than quadrupled, now accounting for 13.5 percent of the US population.
Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group by 2055, surpassing Hispanics. Pew estimates that in 2065, Asians will make up some 38 percent of all immigrants; Hispanics, 31 percent; whites, 20 percent; and blacks, 9 percent.
About one-in-four immigrants is unauthorized, with 76 percent of them being in the US legally. In 2015, 44 percent were naturalized citizens, 27 percent permanent residents and 5 percent temporary residents. Another 24 percent (11 million) were unauthorized.