Aces with the Sereno court

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WASHINGTON, DC: The Supreme Court is said to be the last court of resort for all parties on questions of law. With 15 members, 4 appointed by BSA3 and 11 appointed prior to BSA3, the Supreme Court will be the major arena of any action against the outgoing administration and issues related to 2016.

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Interestingly, the winner of the 2016 elections will be appointing 11 new members to the Supreme Court, a chance to further redefine the Court and potentially re-establish the policies, plans, programs and activities laid down by the incumbent Chief Justice. Consequently, candidates for the 2016 elections would need to seriously establish their platform on delivery of justice; reforming the pillars of the judicial system; pursuing the independence of the Judiciary from budget to making more public the Judicial and Bar Council; transparency of processes and procedures, such as the SALN, the Judicial Development Fund; building modern and connected halls of justice and others.

As the circus nears town and political maneuvers and counter maneuvers become the order of the day, it behooves the Court to act fast on issues submitted to it for resolution. Principal of which are the three pending cases in relation to PCOS and Comelec. Any delay from the Court could lead to compromising the preparations for 2016. Good that the Comelec has not considered a “no election” scenario. Despite Comelec having 36 months before any election cycle, the institution has never managed processes and procedures way ahead of time. That the Comelec people find themselves always ill prepared or lacking material time to run elections efficiently, effectively and economically is something truly puzzling when things should be muscle memory by now. When everyone is hurrying up and hardwares and softwares have not been serviced and reviewed, voters wonder whether the count will be accurate, reflective of their will.

Then there is the constitutionality of EDCA which would mean conducting a national conversation on foreign policy, national security, the modernization of the AFP, ASEAN integration, among others, during the campaign. When the Senate has issued a resolution on the need to have EDCA ratified by the body, even the elections of the 12 senators could potentially have foreign relations flavor. If a sizable constituency is established carrying the challenge of electing new faces and injecting new blood in the Senate, we could have a new Senate that defends the mandate given them by Juan de la Cruz.

There are six re-electionists (Drilon, Recto, Sotto, Osmena, Marcos and Guingona,) and four “balik-Senado” (Pangilinan, Lacson, Gordon and Zubiri), making it a very tight race for the Senate this 2016, leaving only two seats up for grab. Some groups, cognizant of the deterioration of the Senate as an institution, are calling for new faces, new blood and new values. Would the anti-incumbent theme be a reality come 2016?

Then there are the Junjun Binay cases on the TRO (and the Aguinaldo doctrine) and suspension. Ultimately, the libel case filed by the Vice President could go up the Supreme Court, if it is allowed to prosper. Critical issues on the legal move by the VP are on parliamentary immunity and impeachable officers and their immunity while in office. The lay of the land will surely change.

Of course if Sen Grace Poe decides to test the gods of fate, the gods of Padre Faura will be the final arbiters to which the residency requirement will be reviewed, debated and hopefully a ruling could be made before Eday unlike that of FPJ in 2004.

Then the pork and DAP issues could again be revived in the light of the revelations made by former Senator Panfilo Lacson. That he has identified the lump sums and the sequential codes in the GAA are potentially unnerving, to say the least. Couple this with the problematic situation among officials of the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Bureau of Treasury (BoT) on the issuance of guarantees to 38 public-private partnership (PPP) projects amounting to more than P920 billion. “The humongous amount is said to be the biggest chunk in the P1.3 trillion alleged government’s hidden debt exposed by the Commission on Audit (CoA).” The non-disclosure of the guarantees was said to be a violation to Section 7, Article III and Section 28, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

If the Bangsamoro basic bill is enacted by Congress before it goes on a leave for the elections, the measure will also go through the gauntlet and be raised before the Supreme Court on constitutionality challenges. That would delay the plebiscite and could result in a status quo ante situation with ARMM.

When the bases are loaded, they, who have the aces, could alter the lay of the land. As former US Chief Justice John Marshall said, “the constitution is either a superior paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it. It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. This is the very essence of judicial duty.” The Sereno Court, just like Marshall’s, can build up the third branch and the power of judicial review, post Aquino.

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