Justices not for sale
MY best sources tell me that Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares’ unnamed principal funder has been told there is no way the majority of the 15 Supreme Court justices could be “bought” to declare her a natural-born citizen, who has been living in the country for not less than ten years before the May 9 election, and therefore eligible to run for President. This means that the Commission on Elections en banc ruling disqualifying her as a presidential candidate and canceling her certificate of candidacy will ultimately run. But instead of hurling himself against a speeding vehicle as some despondent billionaires did at the height of the Wall Street and transatlantic economic crisis, the funder, who may not long remain nameless, reportedly decided to intensify the operations on behalf of Mrs. Llamanzares.
So while vice-presidential candidate Francis Escudero mounted a two-fisted attack on Commissioner Rowena Guanzon over her reported conflict with Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista in handling a Comelec memo to the Supreme Court, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban contemptuously told the Justices, in an op-ed column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, how to dispose of Rizalito David’s petition for certiorari against the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s five-to-four ruling on his quo warranto petition against Mrs. Llamanzares.
Through his legal counsel Manuelito Luna, David, who has alleged grave abuse of discretion against the SET, is now asking the Supreme Court to take appropriate action against Panganiban for his highly improper and unethical effort to sway the ruling of the Court. Panganiban’s act “is as dangerous as the attempts of foreign governments to influence the executive decisions of the president of a Republic,” says David.
What SC can do
This was not the first time Panganiban had committed the same offense, David said. The Court, if it so pleases, could order the former Chief Justice to “show cause” why he should not be cited for contempt for his highly intrusive remarks.
The offensive piece
In his Jan. 10 column, Panganiban said:
“Concededly, the case of Sen. Grace Poe is unique. The texts of the governing laws neither include nor exclude foundlings in their lists of citizens. The facts of her residency are torn between her mistaken computation in her 2013 certificate of candidacy for the Senate and the truth that she actually transferred her domicile to the Philippines as early as 2005.
“Beyond the text, I believe her case presents a rare moment for judicial greatness for those who see beyond the text and ponder on these:
“1. Poe is a foundling who certainly deserves the overarching social justice principle of giving more law to those who have less in life.
“2. The framers of the 1935 Constitution explained that it was never their intention ‘to exclude foundlings from natural-born citizenship…and the only reason that there was no specific reference to foundlings…was that foundlings are few…[and]by international law…children of people born…of unknown parents are citizens…”
“3. The grand axiom of ‘Slus populi est supreme lex’ (the welfare of the people is the supreme law) may be invoked “extra-constitutionally” (beyond the constitutional text) to render social justice, famously wrote the eminent Justice Jose P. Laurel.
“4. Frivaldo vs Comelec teaches that ‘in case of doubt in the interpretation and legal provisions involving popular sovereignty, it is best to interpret such provisions in a manner that enables our electorate to elect freely their leaders.” Bengzon vs. HRET affirms that natural-born Filipinos who became aliens reacquire their original citizenship when repatriated. And Marcos vs. Comelec instructs that the truth, not the mistaken statements in a certificate of candidacy, prevails.
“5. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the covenants on civil and political rights, on the reduction of statelessness and on the rights of the child favor foundlings like Poe.
“6. The presumptions of good faith, nondiscrimination and regularity in the performance of duties undoubtedly benefit her.
“Judging from the gutsy ‘Comment’ filed by Solicitor General Florin Hilbay in the Supreme Court, I believe he, too, has seen the moment for judicial greatness. Given his sterling track record as a bar topnotcher and law professor and my personal knowledge of his writing ability and excellent reports as a court attorney 15 years ago, Hilbay—if he were a sitting jurist—can, in my humble view, rise to the moment and craft a grand historic decision.”
Indeed, as Panganiban says, the case of Mrs. Llamanzares is unprecedented and unique. Never before in the nation’s history has anyone succeeded in getting “elected” to the Senate (never mind, for now, the questionable manner of the “election”) by misrepresenting herself as a natural-born Filipino, (only to be exposed later as a foundling whose parents have remained unknown); who later became an American citizen without having ever been naturalized first as a Filipino; who renounced her American citizenship later and then fraudulently “reacquired” her Philippine citizenship, which she never possessed in the first place.
This is a serious case of injustice, but the victim here is not the foundling, as Mrs. Llamanzares, Panganiban and company would like us to believe, but the entire Filipino electorate, which has been made to believe and is being made to believe that she has a right to be “elected” to the Senate–and even to run for President.
Where on earth did Panganiban get this notion that “the texts of the governing laws neither include nor exclude foundlings in their list of citizens”?
The first relevant text—-Article IV, Section 1 of the 1935 Constitution which was in force and in effect when Mrs. Llamanzares was born and found in 1968—-clearly excludes foundlings from the five categories enumerated as citizens, namely:
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of the Constitution;
(2) Those born in the Philippine Islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption of the Constitution had been elected to public office in the Philippine Islands;
(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines;
(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines, and upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship;
(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
The undisputed rule is that what is not included in any enumeration is excluded. It is a tautology. So if the framers of the Constitution never intended to exclude foundlings from the enumeration of citizens, they should have included foundlings. But they did not. The action of the entire constitutional convention, as reflected in the Constitution itself, must be distinguished from any opinions expressed by one or two of its members. And we must read and understand the Constitution as it is, and not as some of us would like it to be.
It is quite a leap from reality for Panganiban to say that Mrs. Llamanzares , having “less in life” should have “more in law.” From the time she was adopted into the Fernando Poe family until now, she has lived a privileged life; she has gotten away with so many lies under oath, and she traveled at least 24 times to and from the US on her American passport, even after she had supposedly abandoned her US citizenship. She also acquired several real estate properties in the country, while she was still an American citizen, apparently in violation of law.
The “salus populi” doctrine is best served by making sure that the law applies equally to all, not by making Mrs. Llamanzares or anybody else an exception to it. The cases of Frivaldo and Marcos are not on all fours with that of Mrs. Llamanzares, and should not be thrown into the discussion by lawyers who have no right to presume the public will swallow everything cast in their direction.
What international law?
Likewise, “international law” does not precede nor supersede the Constitution, especially when it refers to treaties, covenants and conventions, to which the Philippines is not a contracting party and whose provisions are in conflict with the Constitution. When the Constitution says the Philippines “adopts the generally accepted principles of international law,” it puts itself in control of what international law to adopt, not the other way around. Those who quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should first know that it is not a treaty, but merely a Declaration, although a highly respected one.
Panganiban’s reference to Hilbay as “gutsy” for proposing that the Constitution be read on the basis of what is not written there, rather than on what is expressly written there, must be music to the Solicitor General’s ears. His dream is to follow his immediate predecessor Francis Jardeleza to the Supreme Court, and he has to believe that Panganiban’s saccharine paean to him is helpful. “I believe that he, too, has seen the moment for judicial greatness;” were he a sitting jurist, he could, “in my humble view, rise to the moment and craft a grand historic decision,” says Panganiban.
So much self-praise
Don’t let the first part of that sentence pass you by. He is praising Hilbay for his attempt to deconstruct and unplug the Constitution, but only after praising himself first. This is why he says, “he, too”—“he, too, after me,” that is. This is as good as PNoy saying the Pope is his “kindred spirit,” after insulting him at the Palace. Panganiban is an old practitioner of a very crude art of self-praise.
In one of his last public utterances after the ouster of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001, Panganiban began his address at the UST Central Seminary on Feb. 19, 2002 by enumerating those who had invited him to the forum, and then saying: “May I publicly thank them for congratulating me on my ‘active involvement and display of statesmanship during the critical events of the Republic’.”
Wow, what cheek! It made me retch. I discuss this at length in my little book “Power Without Authority,” Icon Press, Manila, 2003. Obviously, retirement from the bench has not put any more polish to his old practice.
Panganiban’s thesis, that the High Court must adopt what the Constitution excludes in order to honor what it includes, and in so doing reach new constitutional heights, found its first flowering in January 2001 when, according to his own public confession, he and then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., separately opened their respective Bibles to a particular page, and reading what was written there, decided that it was their direct “instruction” from Heaven, and so acted to swear in then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and oust Estrada as president.
Ousting the Constitution
Their act was clearly unconstitutional, but it succeeded in ousting a sitting president. Now, simply by reading the theory of Florin Hilbay, Panganiban, who has never been accused of superior brains or brilliance, wants to oust the Constitution, and the Supreme Court’s and the people’s way of understanding and holding it sacred– all in the service of a former American citizen who is still surrounded by her American family but would like to impose her political ambition and unquestionable lack of experience on all Filipinos, as the next machine-elected president of the Philippines.