Hit by scandals and controversies, the Supreme Court (SC) did not shine as much this year, even though it had to rule on government disputes and political cases.
It had undoubtedly been a busy year for the High Court, which had to decide on several big-ticket cases.
In January this year, the tribunal affirmed a decision of the Sandiganbayan dismissing a behest loan complaint filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) in 2003 against former officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines and construction magnate Rodolfo Cuenca.
Later that month, the SC en banc slammed Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno for supposedly blocking the nomination and appointment of Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza.
In February, the High Court unseated Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito as it affirmed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) order removing him from his post for overspending during the May 2013 polls.
Some critics put political color into the court’s decision as they pointed out that Ejercito is not a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
It was also in 2015 that the SC declared with finality that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is illegal and unconstitutional, putting President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in bad light.
The ruling was unanimous. Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Francis Jardeleza inhibited themselves from the case.
Some modifications, however, were inserted in the court’s original ruling.
The tribunal said it is up to the proper courts to determine if Aquino and Abad can be held liable for allowing the juggling of funds from the executive to the legislative departments.
In March, the SC ruled with finality that the oil depot in Pandacan, Manila, should go. The historic decision was followed by another — the court’s affirmation of former President Joseph Estrada’s right to seek elective posts, in essence allowing him to stay as mayor of Manila.
A controversial framework agreement forged by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the proposed creation of a Bangsamoro entity was also questioned before the High Court. The SC is yet to rule on the case.
Sereno was accused of favoring DMCI, owner of the Torre de Manila condominium property tagged as the “national photobomber” of Dr. Jose Rizal shrine when it was learned that her husband used to be connected with the property developer.
Sereno floated the possibility of paying just compensation to DMCI if the Torre de Manila will be torn down.
The tribunal also gave Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile temporary freedom when it allowed him to post bail on humanitarian grounds. Enrile is facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.
On December 16, the tribunal unanimously sustained the legality and validity of the “No Bio, No Boto” policy of the Comelec, saying there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the poll body.
In issuing its decision, it threw out a warning of Kabataan party-list that about three million voters in next year’s polls will be disenfranchised.
The SC said the regulation aims to clean and update the list of voters.
But if there is one case that is being watched keenly, it is that involving Sen. Grace Poe, who was disqualified from running for President by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for not being a natural-born Filipino and for her failure to meet the residency requirement set by the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Poe is set to file on Monday a petition questioning the poll body’s decision.
The SC is yet to decide on a petition filed by Rizalito, David who had questioned a decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal junking a disqualification complaint against Poe.
The public is waiting with bated breath for the High Court’s action on both cases because whatever decisions it will hand down will have a huge impact on the May 2016 elections.