THIS truth must be stated repeatedly and understood by all – lest the nation break apart in confusion and indignation over the recent Supreme Court decision to reverse a decision by the Commission on Elections and allow Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares to run for president in the May 9 elections.
In the confusion, some contend that the final word has been spoken, and all must fortwith submit.
They forget an essential rule of our constitutional republic – and that is the supremacy of the Constitution over all organs and instrumentalities of government.
Constitutional supremacy precedes any claim by the Supreme Court to supremacy over any issue submitted to it for adjudication.
The Court may command respect as the final arbiter in judicial process. But the
Constitution is supreme, paramount, and superior to any decision of the High Court.
The reason for this is crystal clear. The sworn duty of the Supreme Court is to uphold and defend the Constitution. Like other instrumentalities of government, the High Court is a creation of the Constitution; it cannot surpass or exceed the Constitution in authority in our national life.
The concept of the supremacy of the Constitution has long been settled in the history of democracies and constitutional governments. So it is also in our national history, where reverence for the Constitution is sacrosanct, and constitutional supremacy has been affirmed in several decisions of our Supreme Court.
To quote one paper published in the Modern Law Review: “The concept of the supremacy of the constitution confers the highest authority in a legal system on the Constitution.
Stating this principle does not mean just giving a rank order of legal norms. It concerns the institutional structure of the organs of State.”
The Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, which is explicitly provided by the Constitution, is our chief legal instrument in the system of checks and balances. It confers no authority on the Court to disregard, amend, or interpret the charter at will.
Any deviation from this fundamental truth of constitutional supremacy will constitute a derangement of the functions of government and its institutions.
Without the authority and majesty of the Constitution, the SC and its 15 jusitces will have neither teeth nor power to bind. When a majority of justices fail to uphold the Constitution in their decision on a vital question of national life, they invite opposition, or worse, impeachment.
To many this is what happened in the Court’s verdict on Senator Poe’s case. Our justices set aside the clear provisions of the Constitution on the qualifications of candidates seeking the presidency.
We can only hope that the Court’s majority provides sufficient and convincing ground for its verdict. If it cannot, then the issue must be argued and deliberated anew.
We think the Court made things difficult for itself and for everyone by announcing a verdict without issuing a majority opinion in writing, and without saying whether and how it addressed or settled the citizenship and residency questions hounding Senator Poe. It left the door ajar for open opposition and defiance of its verdict.
This is why we in the Times believe that the High Court and the justices should take the time, when the majority opinion is still being written, to reexamine their vote and review their opinions. If there is need for them to vote again, they should.
The most important element in this suggested review is thoughtful consideration by the Court whether it has satisfied the clear demands of the Constitution on this issue of Ms. Poe’s eligibility to run for president.