Law’s delay; INC’s shock medical treatment

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Rene Saguisag

Rene Saguisag

For the unelected judiciary, the mantra should be Malcolm’s “to doubt is to sustain” the work of the elected. I was incredulous to read about the orals in the Priority Assistance Development Fund when more than one Justice supposedly quickly apodictically prejudged it as unconstitutional. Why bother with a hearing then?

I would have moved for the recusal or inhibition of such magistrate who should not throw his weight on one side right off. Probe, yes, but not prejudge. The judging should ideally come only after everyone shall have been heard and all the evidence, in.

Were I the counsel, I might have also asked for permission to leave if only because of the tenet that a judge must not only be fair, but must be seen like Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, above suspicion. Co-counsel may take over.

Walking out we did more than once during martial law, in military commissions and civilian courts (as Joker Arroyo, Fely Aquino and I once did in Quezon City, in Aberca v. Ver).


At the time, I did not want to argue before the Supreme Court (SC) of an illegal regime, which I did not recognize but in Olayer, in 1982, Ka Pepe Diokno called days before a habeas corpus hearing and said for me to take over as he could not be back in Manila in time.

The Chief Justice (CJ) was Iking Fernando, said to regard non-UP-Law alums as a lower form of animal life. But, surprise, surprise, we engaged in convivial constructive discussion of American case law, which, serendipitously, was at my fingertips on the particular issue at hand.

Suerte. In chess, they say the good player is always lucky.

He ended by very kindly saying how I argued was the way to go in the SC. Ehem.

Justice Felix Makasiar, my Consti Law teacher and fellow teacher in San Beda, along with Dingdong Teehankee, kindly fed me soft balls. (J. Makasiar head of San Beda’s Makasiar Commandos would call me, “‘Ne, you hit us again!” I’d say: “Sir, exactly the way you taught us,” Obstaa principiis. Resist the first encroachments.) Justice Tony Barredo late in the afternoon, opened with “Mr. Saguisag, you’ve done nothing but criticize us but your presentation is the finest I have heard in all my years here.” Blush. You doubt? Nandiyan po si Joker, nabubuhay. It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up, per Reggie Jackson.

My last SC oral argument was in the 2006 People’s Initiative case where ponente J. Tony Carpio heroically saved the nation. CJ then was Art Panganiban who in the end called Joker and me to field questions simultaneously! Earlier, I smilingly told Pareng Art, “that was why Your Honor I had wanted you impeached;” some younger ‘uns nearly fell off their seats. He tolerantly smiled back. Art and I go back a long way; he knows I can be insane.

My ancient fire is gone, following our 2007 family tragedy. Perhaps the occasional old spark but smoldering embers may not be good enough for the cut-and-thrust of courtroom litigation. Paos at laos na cannot prosecute?

Prosecution is important but “the law’s delay”—which Hamlet deplored, along with the “pangs of disprizd love,” etc.—is a concern.

Lenny Villa was killed in frat hazing on February 11, 1991. The case remains pending in the SC; my client Zos Mendoza, and a score of others, have been subjected to multiple jeopardy. They had been acquitted twice by the Court of Appeals and on February 1, 2012, by the SC, which now entertains a motion for reconsideration!

Certain flight personnel are now on the 16th year of their struggle versus PAL and thought they had won but the fight continues.

Just last Monday morning, I received a Supreme Court (SC) ruling directing the release of a woman from Correctional Institute for Women, Mandaluyong, jailed since 1998, sentenced to death; the SC ruled she was but an accomplice which means she should have been released in 2004 max. Sentence over-served; the law’s delay.

Last Monday afternoon, more delay. The courts cancelled work because of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) Milliard-People March equivalent of a medical mission. In the morning, an assistant lawyer of mine could not reach City Hall, Manila for an ageing case. (I, past tense, history, am no longer in active litigation, with my weakening mobility, eyesight, hearing, etc. could not go.)

I need a mic to teach and focus now on settlements.

I cannot now join initiatives like when Mabini once prosecuted a fiscal in Quezon City with member Vince Robles having entrapped him in the rest room.

However, prevention is better than prosecution. We can try to go back to when I was a young lawyer with tsismis in City Hall, Manila, negative only about one Court of First Instance judge. The rest, we admired, even worshipped.

Minimum wage was four pesos daily. It was enough. Fare to City Hall was 10 centavos. Our appearance fee: P2. Adequate. I taught in San Beda and I knew two colleagues, CFI Judges, would be discomfited if our salaries were delayed a day.

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