First of two parts
Because of its transcendent importance to our democratic politics and constitutional system, I will close 2015 and open 2016 with a two-part series on the disqualification cases of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares, and the demands that she has made of the Supreme Court as it prepares to tackle the issue of her disqualification, from either sitting in the Senate or running for president in the May 2016 election.
Poe has made two specific demands of the high court, namely:
1. First, she has demanded that three justice-members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, who ruled that she is not a natural-born citizen, should recuse themselves (she prefers to use the word “inhibit”) from the hearing of her cases in the high court.
2. Second, through a half-page advertisement placed in one newspaper, she urged the justices of the Supreme Court to disobey the Constitution and disregard its eligibility requiremenrt for citizens seeking the presidency.
It’s recusal. Not inhibition
For sheer immodesty and effrontery, these demands are without precedence in the annals of the high court.
For the information of Senator Poe, her lawyers and her spokesman, the correct term to use for what they are seeking is not “inhibition” but “recusal.” A medicine can inhibit a bodily function or organ. Supreme Court justices and judges recuse themselves in the hearing of a case. The fatal flaw in Ms Poe’s latest tactic to save her candidacy is not only terminological; it is mental and intellectual.
Absurdly and insanely, in their desperate effort to avert Ms. Poe’s disqualification by the SC, Ms Poe and her lawyers are now demanding the disqualification of three justice members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, whose learned and incisive opinions built a veritable foundation for the nullification of her candidacy. The justices are: Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita de Castro, and Arturo Brion.
Even more absurd and mindless is her second demand that urges the justices of the Supreme Court to disobey the Constitution when they render their verdict on her case. The demand was made by an organization called the ALL4GP Movement in a half-page newspaper advertisement. It shied from going into legal arguments, which should be raised before the Supreme Court, and not in an advertisement.
Rearguard action to protect her behind
What they are doing is rearguard action to protect her behind, and aggrandize as much campaign funds as they can.
Ms. Poe is now engaged, willy-nilly, in destroying our democratic politics in order to secure her right to run for president. She is like a political pinball that is trying to do as much damage to the 2016 election as it can.
In her delusional state, she probably imagines that her action is an honorable contribution to our democracy or a sterling assertion of a civil right.
In fact, there is nothing honorable about what she is doing. There is, as I discussed in an earlier column, no constitutionally protected right to run for public office; neither is there a duty.
Ms Poe‘s persistence in imposing herself on the 2016 election, has become all about pocketing the financial contributions and sustaining the flow of contributions to her campaign.
It is not about fighting for the rights of foundlings, as she once pompously declared.
It’s not about winning the presidency anymore, because everyone in her campaign – including the candidate — now knows the window of victory has irretrievably passed.
She is more properly regarded now as an outlier in Philippine democracy.
Sitting as a judge in the court of public opinion, I urge the outright dismissal of Ms. Poe’s demands on the grounds of common sense and economy.
To constitute the high court, we take painstaking care to find the best and brightest minds within our legal community, both bar and bench – and we appropriate a big sum of public money to pay for the justices’ salaries, allowances and perks and privileges, in order to get the best from them.
In these disqualification cases facing Ms. Poe, why should we take away three legal luminaries, who have already spent time studying the facts and intricacies of her case? Why deprive ourselves of their judgment and counsel?
Why on earth should anyone suggest that the members of the Supreme Court, whose sworn duty is to uphold the Constitution, disobey the charter, in order to gratify the wishes of a foundling?
To gratify her wish would be legislation by abdication of duty, because the moment the SC says that Ms. Poe is a natural-born citizen by virtue of her being a foundling, it would in effect be passing a law, and even amending the Constitution. A clear violation of separation of powers.
Recusal and the Supreme Court
That said, there is a serious argument to address in the proposed recusal of certain justices. There are issues to consider pro and contra.
With the help of a legal researcher and political scientists, I have secured a topnotch research paper entitled “Recusal and the Supreme Court.” It discusses the practice and standards of recusal in the US. It is relevant to our experience, because our jurisprudence closely tracks US jurisprudence also. (I will discuss the paper at length in part 2 of this series.)
To conclude, I think it is the height of insolence and insanity that in a primordial battle over consitutional principles, it is our honorable justices of the Supreme Court, our primary guardians of the Constitution, who are being asked to voluntarily disqualify themselves, rather than Senator Poe, the political pin ball who created this conundrum by daring to file her candidacy for president, while lacking the eligibilities prescribed by the Constitution.
Ms. Poe’s lawyers’ chief service to her cause is to keep on finding straws to keep her candidacy afloat. Judicial recusal and judicial disobedience are their last straws.
Watch how they will all be blown away by the Supreme Court, along with Senator Poe.