In praise and defense of the Court of Appeals



THE Court of Appeals as an institution can more than take care of itself, but let me add my teeny-weenie voice in support of it. Justice Stephen Cruz deserves special praise for reportedly not being intimidated by the current power situation, when interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council, the implication on his promotion aspiration notwithstanding. Bravo.

Piqued Speaker Bebot Alvarez, who heads the Echo Chamber, should not petulantly threaten the statutory Court of Appeals (CA) with abolition. The Chamber’s remedy is to go to the constitutional Supreme Court (SC), which the Echoes cannot abolish. This is the civilized institutional arrangement, to correct perceived errors of lower courts.

Perceived SC errors of course become the law of the land, for which there are statutory or constitutional remedies or responses following majoritarian principles (but, again, one man in the right is a majority in an uncertain, less than perfect, world).

Abolishing the CA may lead to chaos in the administration of justice. What body will take over its legion of pending cases and matters?

We have heard from the SC. What about the lawyers, law firms, law professors and lawyers’ associations, like the Integrated Bar of the Philippines?

If any lawyer deserves to be disbarred, so be it, but just file the case, without bragging or terrorizing. Disbarment proceedings are supposed to be confidential (Rules of Court, Rule 139-B, Sec. 18). Again, the scofflaw Speaker may not feel bound by the SC’s Rules of Court and proclaim the disbarment threat as a sentiment supposed to be shared by close to 200 Echoes, a number of whom are lawyers. Very damaging to the Rule of Law.

In Watergate, a lowly undistinguished district judge, John Sirica, ordered President Nixon to turn over certain tape recordings and papers. The power of the equivalent of a regional trial court judge to so order, challenged vigorously, was sustained by the federal Supreme Court, unanimously. The SC decision was rendered on July 24, 1974. The following August 8, Nixon resigned, knocked out by a former boxer. There was no threat to abolish district courts, I can remember.

Judicial independence or supremacy (on interpretation) has been observed in the US since 1803 (Marbury v. Madison). The powerful US SC can nullify an act of the President or Congress as unconstitutional. Ours is even more powerful, not only with the same power: unelected, it even has the breathtaking prerogative of being able to rule that an elected co-equal branch (the executive and legislative), has not only abused its discretion, but gravely at that, and nullify what the elected have done. Bizarre.

This distribution of power needs fine-tuning in a new Constitution. My understanding is that grave abuse of discretion (GAD) was meant to be limited to martial law situations, per Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, such as when the military would not heed a release order in a habeas corpus case without clearance from Marcos. Yet, GAD, for one, was used in a petrochemical location case (Garcia v. BOI, 1990), and the SC judged its own cause, satisfying natcherly its own expansionary appetite.

The US SC has ruled that an act of the President or Congress is unconstitutional. That either has acted in a GAD situation, never, to my knowledge, as a student of constitutional law, has it so ruled. Else, where in the US, the SC is said to be The Least Dangerous Branch, ours may arguably be The Most. Theoretically.

Today’s House may no longer have the likes of Mon Felipe, Jr., who has just passed away, at 97.

Individual lawmakers have been expressing their thoughts on martial law (ML). Individually, through press interviews or statements. But, why oh why can’t they meet, exchange views, and vote as a deliberative assembly? That’s what we pay them—as our leaders—for.

Are they out of town, out of the country, or out of this world? I fear what they fear is lack of quorum and they need private time (on which Mayor Erap sounds like an authority). US Prezs do take vacations. Still, even merely to change the name of a street requires a quorum, and recorded voting, as explanatory depositions for history. I think we deserve to know and record what each cong’s and senator’s stand on changing from normal life to a martial law existence. Abnormal. They have to find the time.

They also have to respect a resource person’s right not to speak. In the US, he may invoke the Fifth Amendment, and not testify against himself, unless immunity is arranged, to avoid an inquisitorial inquiry where one becomes the tool of his own condemnation.

The House used to have Manny Pacquiao, who now trains in General Santos, uncaring perhaps about martial law in Mindanao, which may have another son as Prez in 2022. (Cong. Mon Felipe was summa, in AB, at the Ateneo, and, without a law degree, was No. 3 in the bar in 1945.) Manny vied for No. 1, in absences, in the House, and was rewarded by the people with a rank of No. 7, in the Senate. Ultra-bizarre. He has to prepare now, for 2022, instead of just making money—for our people’s sake.

Last Tuesday, Digong had another day off. Desaparecido? Maybe resting in some Kama. If deposed, like Prez Bill Clinton, a naughty cross-examiner may ask “kama? who with?”, “what happened?” and, to borrow from Sen. Eddie Ilarde when he was hosting the very popular Parang Kahapon Lamang, “at nangyari ang dapat mangyari?”

Again, the cycle is Savagery, Civilization, and Decay.

Digong must change course in some respect, for his second year, to avoid Decay. But, before June runs its full course, we will have a holiday on Monday, Eid’l Ftr, which my Muslim contacts say has nothing to do with a boxer not fighting.

June 19 last was marked as a holiday only in Laguna, with rites led by my former stude, Mayor Jun Chipeco. I read nothing about similar ceremonies in the province named after Rizal. (We used to sing with effervescence in Makati Elem, “for Rizal was born on June 19…”; its melody has stayed with me.) Instead, its leadership invites the Senate to move there to continue the anomaly of the Bigger and Better Houses being separate, with its hidden costs.

May I revive my own proposal to put Congress in Muntinlupa under one roof, for better rapport and efficiency: empty or reserve enough space in Bilibid for those who will serve two terms, one in office and the other in jail.(And maybe for those cited for contempt?) The deserving and elderly inmates may be moved to the Antipolo-Tanay area, for a bigger cage in which to roam. Humane.

And end an anomalous separation of two lawmaking chambers, maybe the only one in this planet?

I personally wish the Prez good health, for our people’s sake. Not a partidista, but both the LP and PDP-Laban claimed me, once upon a time. I’ll settle for Yellow, the color of DesaparecidoDigong’s mother when we marched kapit-bisig in Davao, following Ninoy’s salvaging.

So there, I am YELLOW, aren’t I?


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  1. This is a simple case of Congress exercising it’s powers and the CA saying you can’t do that. Now it stands as the Congress and the CA both exercising their powers and being on opposite sides. The SC could enter and rule for the CA but then Congress can rewrite the laws. A compromise is needed to resolve this.

  2. lawyers = pakialameros
    the law profession is a useless profession in today’s 21st century …