• Lions’ pride, eagles’ convocation and baboons’ congress

    Rene Saguisag


    IS PrezDigong a Francophile?

    For a new form of government, he is said to look now at the French model, with a strong President. But, he is so now very strong; whatever-Lolo-wants-Lolo-gets. Who isn’t afraid of him? Good I have experience in playing Pretend. And who are his advisers? I’d like to know the latter, as I, qua a lawyer, have questions on the future of the Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary.

    French? The SC’s future is what should concern the current SC justices. Voulez-vouscoucher avec moicessoir? (“would you like to sleep with me tonight?”) Maybe the only French—a pick-up line –some in the Palace and its allies may really care for. Do we begin with the cour de cassation? (A term I used in my bar exams when I had run out of answers which terms seems to have positively impressed the examiner who apparently liked my earlier answers. I got a grade higher than what I had thought I deserved.)

    SC gets little respect
    I may have a little more familiarity with the US federal system. There even President Nixon could not defy a lowly district judge, John Sirica. Here, the SC seems to get little respect. The SolGen seemingly does not see fit to comply with an SC order. The RTCs may be even more belittled and disrespected. Judges natcherly want to keep their positions and get promoted. In the nature of the beast.

    What about the interplay between the local and federal judicial systems? Jurisdictional turf quarrels would mean more expense and delay (and nicer homes and cars for some lawyers on time-billing). Will local judges also be elected? Will there be regional divisions or circuits? Questions, questions, such as when a case crosses state lines in the US. (John Grisham’s Client, a thriller, pointedly highlights the jurisdictional tensions.)

    Our SC justices may be well advised to halt or suspend their Sereno-delenda-est! campaign to reflect on their institutional future, whether they would burn together, or separately, as the Prez seems to be playing with fire. Our unelected SC is more powerful than the US’ (which can only tell the elected Prez and Congress that they had acted unconstitutionally but not in grave abuse of discretion, which can blow an American lawyer’s mind).

    Playing with fire with Congress, Digong is, I fear. As an Atenean friend just emailed me: “A group of lions is called a pride of [Red?] Lions, or a herd of cattle, school of fish, a band of wolves, etc. Baboons are considered the worst of the ape family because they are fierce, wild, unruly, ferocious and will attack their own family members. You know what a group of baboons are called? A congress of baboons!” For Loyola, a convocation of Blue Eagles.

    If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

    But really, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? We may only slide down to being No. 4 happiest country. From No. 3, where we supposedly are now. The 1987 Charter is not perfect. Of course. No human output ever is. But, we should be leery of a supposed cure-all worse than the disease.

    To have two chambers—assuming we’d remain bicameral—in one place is desirable, conducing to amity. But Cha-cha is not needed here. A site candidate is the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. I was chair of the 1986 cabinet committee and the 1987-1992 Senate ad hoc committee on it. On cost, we found the nuke plant beyond economic repair. And there is the hidden social cost. I doubt that our puede-na mentality can deal properly with any accident or nuke waste. Yes, maybe the House and Senate may want to hold sessions there(?) Or in the Muntinlupa penitentiary. One term in office, another in jail. Tipid. Mark Twain wrote that there is no distinct American criminal class except Congress.

    Seriously, separation has its costs. Were senators and congressmen meeting routinely and regularly, the current tension and word war would be much less. Yup, less sabong. And in my email quoted above, I saw that to a pride of red lions, etc., we may also add a convocation of blue eagles and a congress of black baboons, which the latter may grouse unfairly disparages them.

    Meantime, I take alarm at the seeming creeping militarization of the civil service and of cronyism running rampant all over the place.

    The leadership may be playing with fire. I worry for those who may also go, or have gone, down in flames, like TattiLicuanan, Leila de Lima, Maria Ressa, Judy Taguiwalo, Paulynn Jean Rossel-Ubial, Gina Lopez, et al., victims of malignant oppression or benign neglect. Ombudsman Chit Carpio may be safe as she will step down in a few months, which did not save Tatti, who nobly left to salvage a battered office in a damaged culture.

    The surprising supernumerary, the new Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, bloats our bureaucracy further. We have the police and the NBI. How much and how many national and regional personnel will PACC need to do gumshoe work? Only Congress can create a seemingly permanent, not an ad hoc, office, in my view. Not Malacañang. We should streamline and save, not quadruplicate needlessly just to marginalize Chit who will step down soon.

    In the Palace’s cross-hairs
    Of the women in the Palace’s cross-hairs, I know Tatti best, Most Outstanding Student in 1962, No. 1. (I was in the 1963 batch, with Atenean Archbishop Tony Ledesma, topped by Edna Zapanta of Holy Mamaw (Holy Ghost then, nowHoly Spirit.) Tatti’s intelligence and integrity are world-class. Blessed with designer genes she is (father, Gen. Francisco Licuanan, Jr., mother, writer Virginia Benitez-Licuanan, brother, Kako3rd of Ayala, retired).

    In the case of CJ MeilouSereno, may the House, reluctant to give up radio-TV coverage, compel a doctor to violate the sacred physician-patient privilege? In January 1987, I turned down quickly a signed Supreme Court appointment and didn’t run for reelection as senator in 1992 despite the arguably high risk of winning. Prez Cory had earlier been joshing that I consider running for a higher post. I’d change the subject. And I turned down a signed Supreme Court appointment in late January 1987. Some doctor may consider me a psycho, wacko or a cuckoo too. Talagangsira, aren’t I? Head not properly and tightly screwed on, which I have known for a long time.

    This administration, with little respect for human life, does not seem to believe that humaneness, compassion and dignity matter. It has the incomprehensible urge to embarrass. Tatti: “I resigned.” Digong: “No, I dismissed her. I am the only one entitled to be a frequent flyer. To Davao, to be with my Partner—maybe the only one he fears, along with China, of course—and my kulasisis, and to sight-see all those faraway places with strange-sounding names.”

    Savagery, civilization, decay, in its incipiency we may be in. We may soon have a zero-cameral government, headed by a super-executive, super-legislature, super-court and a one-man continuing constitutional convention. Like Macoy’s, a system that dared not speak its name.


    The message is clear. If you have billions in alleged tax arrears, massage Digong’s ego, as Sen. Manny Pacquiao consistently and cleverly does, and avoid the name-and-shame fate of Mighty Corp. (its president, Alex Wongchuking, he reportedly ordered arrested, normally done by courts) or Lucio Tan. That is the mistake of Leila, Tatti, Maria Ressa, et al. If they had openly and consistently brown-nosed and praised the Prez, they would not be where they are now.

    On Rappler, in this age of the Internet, all the more am I for more speech, not less. Its unpardonable mistake was to speak in dispraise, not in reprise of what we hear from PDP-Laban’s tireless chuwari-wari choir, under the baton of the Speaker who famously asked who among us have no kulasisis?

    How is the administration doing? Rizal wrote: “En el reino de losciegos, el tuertoesrey.” In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king.

    The administration should appreciate those of us in the cacophonous Loyal Opposition who fervently want it to succeed in giving the poorest of the poor among our 107 million rabbits a better life. An object of Digong’s tirades is the Pope, who is now in Latin America for many purposes, like meeting with the human rights victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Also, to visit a prison for women, who the Prez kicks around here.


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