• Not another ‘Siopao’ Constitution?



    YESTERDAY was Cory Aquino’s birth anniversary. She was a law school dropout, like Jover Laurio, the Inquirer’s Filipino of the year for 2017. Somebody should help Jover follow her star and pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer (an aspiration​ she shares with Mocha Uson; I like people who desire to grow.)

    ​Last Monday, I read about Jover’s plight, hopes​, and dreams in the New York Times International edition.

    Attagirls! I trust lawyering would help Jover and Mocha acquire a broader perspective and help provide the poor a better life. (I thought Mocha showed class in reportedly not accepting an honor that had come unbidden, presumably. Whatever, the ​tempest​ has a message to the powers-that-be, thanks to Mocha and the UST.)
    Lawyering propelled poor love-child Juan Ponce Enrile of Cagayan to prominence, pelf and power. His February 22, 1986 confession at Edsa that he had cheated for Marcos by 300,000 votes in Cagayan helped convince people that RAM’s failed coup was not a zarzuela. Comelec personnel dramatically walked out on February 9, 1986 because they did not want to be misused to cheat. On February 13, 1986, the Catholic Bishops, led by Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Bishop Francisco Claver, condemned the “unparalleled fraudulence” of the February 7, 1986 elections. On February 16, 1986, 2 million attended Cory’s Tagumpay ng Bayan rally at the Luneta.

    When Sen. Turing Tolentino said in a radio-TV talk show exchange that I had no proof Cory had won, I said politely that any sabungero would know that the cock that flees loses. Na-tyope. Macoy had flown away, in the sky away (like the Yellow Bird in the song).

    But, our People Power partnership with JPE and the trapped putschists manque, rescued by the Parliament of the Streets, very quickly soured when Prez Cory implemented her solemn campaign promise to free all political detainees. JPE told us (Uncle Jovy Salonga, FVR and me in Club Filipino right after Edsa ‘86), with some passion, that he could not explain to his boys, who had suffered casualties inflicted by the NPA, why we were releasing JoMa Sison & Co… Understandable, but, more critical, our credibility was on the line.

    Credibility super

    ​Lawyer JPE lent to the Corona impeachment trial. I think that Chief Justice (CJ) Rene Corona’s post-midnight elevation to CJ was unconstitutional, abetted by the Arroyo Supreme Court (SC), an egregious blunder that was corrected by Congress via impeachment. Anyone saying JPE did what he did to please Noynoy would find few believers. Or for pork for his constituents many months later, to me, comic page stuff.

    We need JPEs in the Senate today to help us find our way. Good that the Speaker is emerging as the best argument for keeping the Senate in the ongoing Charter change debate. Speaker Bebot, not another Siopao Constitution please (infra).

    The simplest may be the best. Let either chamber start with a provision modifying or lifting investment limits by aliens and the other chamber agrees, with or without a bicameral conference, and voila! an amendment, to be submitted to the people in a plebiscite simultaneous with the 2019 polls.

    A revision of the form of government may be more tricky. No need to rush. Bound for the Supreme Court is a test on whether voting by the two chambers would be done jointly or separately. I believe it would go for the latter as the best way to protect its own interests. Right now, it is a Circular Firing Squad but a threat to its own existence, or powers, may help to unite them. Obsta principiis, resist the first encroachment;​ any ​caring CJ should lead in rallying the judiciary.


    ​Jun ​Davide may have hyperbolized when he supposedly said our 1987 Constitution is “the best in the world.”  But, in some ways, it is superior to our American model. It is good, in my view, to set a deadline for naming a Justice to fill up a vacancy (90 days). There is no timeframe in the US Constitution, so what Justice Scalia left remained vacant for nearly a year.

    And a government shutdown because of a lack of budget approval, as at times happens in the US, like early this week, cannot happen here. Sec. 25(7) of Art. VI of our Constitution wisely provides: “If, by the end of any fiscal year, the Congress shall have failed to pass the general appropriations bill for the ensuing fiscal year, the general appropriations law for the preceding fiscal year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and effect until the general appropriations bill is passed by the Congress.”

    While the Kanos may learn a thing or two from us, this is not to say the excellent but rushed and elliptical 1986 opus cannot stand improvement.

    I have no problem with the unelected Supreme Court telling the elected Congress and President that what they have done is unconstitutional, per the 1803 Marbury ruling, which has passed the test of time. However, I do, when our SC tells the two they have acted in grave abuse of discretion, a ruling in 2003 it can still reverse without changing the basic law.

    It can just follow the intent of the framers to avoid martial law abuse, such as saying that Barangay assemblies ratified the 1973 Siopao constitution. The Barangay attendees were simply asked: “Sino ang gusto ng siopao at [cola]”? See the 1986 ConCom Record, July 10, 1986, p. 439. A raised hand was counted as a “yes” vote.​

    Delegate Pepe Nolledo speaking (I will always remember with gratitude his donating his bar review honorarium in San Beda to our Legal Aid Clinic I headed in 19​71-72).

    Marcos won the facetious Barangay Assembly voting. That kind of grave abuse the 1986 framers did not want repeated. Or the military not releasing a detainee despite a favorable court habeas corpus ruling, waiting for Marcos to lift an Arrest Search and Seizure Order (ASSO). Truly, cases of grave abuse of discretion. But not, say, in selling Manila Hotel, locating a petrochemical plant or choosing National Artists.

    My Political Law teacher, Concom Commissioner Roberto Concepcion, a former CJ​ himself, said the grave-abuse-of-discretion phrase “is actually a product of our experience during Martial Law. “Otherwise, the unelected magistrates in the SC cannot use it to make its members comprise “the most dangerous branch of government.”

    In the US, the Supreme Court is said to be the “least dangerous branch.” The contrary prevails here because of its self-serving misinterpretation of 2003, with utmost due respect.

    After more than three decades, it may be time for change but we have to be careful we don’t become a federal republic like Somalia or Venezuela. Basket cases. The irrepealable Murphy’s Law dominates our culture: if anything can go wrong, it will.

    The President is said to favor the French model. The SC should look at its implications, in my view. What will be its place in the new order? This is where the SC Justices should unite, to borrow an expression from a Columbia Law dean, and survive its crises, mend the ruptures of its discord, and continue to live and function as a unit, co-equal with the other branches.

    But in our scofflaw talkaholic ​society, the SC should find the time to remind one and all that disbarment is confidential, with only “the final order of the SC [to be published.”

    And we should grieve for the Mamasapano 62, ​not just 44, to include the innocent Muslim civilian victims. Muslim lives also matter​, don’t they? Sara was just five. And what about the Muslim farmer, slain, with eyes gouged out even? Have the families of the slain Muslim victims received any singkong duling from Imperial Manila?


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    Comments are closed.