• Bullying the judiciary for political vendetta

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    SENATOR Antonio Trillanes 4th’s move to hale two Court of Appeals (CA) justices before the Senate on bribery allegations is nothing but a shameless ploy to intimidate and punish members of the judiciary for issuing a ruling in favor of his avowed political arch nemesis, Vice-President Jojo Binay and his family.

    It’s a not-so-veiled threat to lower court judges and justices that if they render a decision favoring the Binays, they may find themselves facing a Senate inquiry where they will surely be humiliated, pilloried and crucified before a nationwide television audience.

    Of course, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that Trillanes is motivated by less than noble intentions. This is really about the political take down of the Binays. And to do that, the former coup plotter-turned-politician obviously has no qualms about using all the powers at his disposal. Even if it means destroying the judiciary – a co-equal branch of government – in the process.

    Unfortunately, Trillanes is acting under the mistaken impression that the Senate has the power to investigate anything and anyone.

    Asked by reporters if the Senate probe will encroach on the independence of the judiciary, Trillanes claimed the legislature has oversight powers over courts. “We have a system of checks and balances. [This is one of the roles of the legislature, particularly the] oversight functions. It is well within our mandate as a co-equal body,” he said.

    Trillanes seems to labor under the impression that any congressional inquiry dubbed “in aid of legislation” automatically vests inquisitorial powers upon the Senate or the House to compel the attendance and testimony of lower court judges and justices at any such inquiry.

    Perhaps this vice-presidential hopeful should ask his legal advisers to give him a briefing on some of the basic tenets of constitutional law such as the separation of powers, judicial independence, judicial power, etc. That way, he won’t look so foolish mouthing off non-existent legal principles.

    Maybe his legal advisers should also remind Trillanes that the Supreme Court – in a 1991 case involving the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee – had already ruled that the power of the congressional committees to probe and inquire is not unlimited.

    “Broad as it is, the power is not, however, without limitations. Since congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate, it cannot inquire into matters which are within the exclusive province of one of the other branches of the government. Lacking the judicial power given to the Judiciary, it cannot inquire into matters that are exclusively the concern of the Judiciary,” the SC said in its decision.

    One of the matters exclusively vested in the SC, under Article VIII, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, is the administrative supervision over all courts and court personnel, from the Presiding Justice of the CA down to the lowest municipal trial court clerk.

    As the SC explained it in a 1996 decision: “By virtue of this power, it is only the Supreme Court that can oversee the judge’s and court personnel’s compliance with all laws, and take the proper administrative action against them if they commit any violation thereof. No other branch of government may intrude into this power, without running afoul of the doctrine of separation of powers.”

    Trillanes cannot circumvent this constitutional edict by unsubstantiated allegations of bribery against CA justices. In fact, Trillanes admits he does not have strong evidence to prove his bribery claims.

    Neither can Trillanes intrude into the SC’s domain by labeling the investigation as one “in aid of legislation.”

    Truth is, the resolution of Trillanes did not even contain any suggestion of contemplated legislation. He merely called upon the Senate committee on justice and human rights to investigate the alleged “justice for sale” system in the CA after “reliable sources privy to the matter” claimed that certain CA justices accepted P25 million each to stop the suspension of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

    In other words, the real aim of the Senate inquiry being sought by Trillanes was to find out whether or not some CA justices were indeed bribed when they issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Binay’s suspension. It is clear therefore, that the inquiry being pushed by Trillanes is not really “in aid of legislation” since there is no intended legislation involved.

    The SC’s exclusive constitutional prerogatives, however, should not be construed as “whitewashing” corruption in the judiciary. Corruption, wherever it exists, must be denounced, exposed and investigated. But unproven corruption allegations, coming from a powerful senator like Trillanes, is plain slander and political harassment.

    That Trillanes feels free to make unsubstantiated accusations against CA justices does not shock many thinking Filipinos. Members of the judiciary – from the SC down to the lower courts – seem to have become “fair game” for politicians ever since the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

    Is this a portent of things to come for the judiciary?

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    12 Comments

    1. kahit si binay nga hindi nya maprove ang innocence nya sa senate at sabihin ipasa lang sa ombudsman tapos kung sa ombudsman naman pag di in favor court of appeals… exhausting all legal remedies through ill begotten wealth?

    2. A person who feels he is above his. former group mates is one with no sense of decency or respect … Triillanes shows his true color ….and character

    3. Johnny Ramos on

      I wonder what will happen to Trillanes if he cannot prove his allegations against the 2 justices of the Court of Appeals and well known lawyer Pancho Villaraza. Trillanes have malign their reputation and I bet he can not prove it. High profile cases in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court are always judge on the merit of the case. It is highly improbable that they will take bribes since the opponent of Mayor Binay is the Palace. Tingin ko nagpa uto si Trillanes kina Nonong Cruz and Simeon Marcelo. I think when the music stop on Trillanes he will find no seat for him. The clock is ticking on Pnoy and there is no way his anointed Mar Roxas will ever make to the Presidency.

    4. Senator Trilliones opps Trillanes is as arrogant
      as President Aquino – “BIRDS OF THE FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER”.

      Both are arrogant. Who put/campaign for him as Senator? The Left (NPA)?

    5. I don’t why Trillanes was elected to the upper chamber in the first place . He is a coup plotters that didn’t even respect the laws of the land. Now this is what we got a nonsense , ambitious and vindictive legislator. He should go back to where he belong. See how he put down the SAF for the sake of sip sip to the President. He got no backbone now try to destroy the judiciary.what next Mr. Coup plotters? Abangan.

      • Of his 5 years in the Navy, most of his time was being a procurement officer of the Naval Training and Education Command. Nothing else to merit his position in the Senate.

    6. The ouster of Corona set a bad precedent and emboldened the legislature to clash with the judiciary at every opportunity it deems politically necessary. Operating under the assumption that the courts are now very vulnerable, Trillanes decided to test his new-found strength and accused two CA justices of accepting bribes without producing any iota of evidence. He was probably thinking he was leading a coup again. As history shows, he is bound to fail again.

    7. Samuel Santos on

      The bottom line is that the electorate will know how to decide the next time Trillanes runs as a candidate in any election.

      REPLY: Yes, the voters will know. But will their will as written on the shaded oval in the ballot be counted by the Smartmatic-PCOS machine?

    8. Nancy Bulok Cake on

      Well, if the basic reason of Trillanes and the Filipino people is to eliminate corruption in the judiciary, then it is an excellent move. The Filipino people knows the obvious issuance of the TRO is always in the favor of the Binays because of money. It is a well known fact that judges in the Philippines are corrupt. Justice in the Philippines is only for the rich where they hire expensive lawyers and pay judges for a favorable decision. The poor who cannot obtain justice from the judges through legal means will have a last resort to join the NPAs. If the move of Trillanes fails, then the victims of these judges should resort to “riding in tandems” or the NPAs to eliminate corruption in the judiciary.

      • Pareho pala kayo ni Trilliones, SUBERBiYO AT REBELDE, Destabilizer at ewan kung bakit naging senador. Ikaw, di ko maisip ang mga pinagsasasabi mo. Isa ka siguro sa mga BOBOTANTE na naghalal sa kanya kaht alam mong wala siyang kwalipikasyon para maging anuman siya ngayon. Hindi rin ako maka-Binay at maka-Pnoy pero ung parte ng ipinasusuweldo sa kanya eh galing sa buwis ko at ng ibang taxpayers na maaaring kasali ka. SAYANG, ang pera namin sa isang senador na walang ginagawa kundi maghanap ng gulo o gumawa ng gulo imbes na magisip ng batas na ikabubuti ng Pilipinas. Para siyang China kung mag-inarte, BULLY na pati puwet eh me sungay….