• The Supreme Court must again save our Republic


    First of two parts

    As we begin a new year, prepare to welcome a Pope of mercy, and contemplate the nation’s future in the run-up to next year’s polls, one question may be timely: What’s the root of our ills as a nation?

    My vote goes to the unbridled, unaccountable exercise of power. Since colonial encomenderos were granted every whim over all they surveyed, until our era of pork barrel and political elites, those who rule sans restraint and responsibility have bled, beaten and burdened our people.

    For the nation to progress faster, rulers must be rightly and justly circumscribed in their exercise of power. Otherwise, we have peasant slavery, colonial subjugation, martial law, awesome wealth amid appalling want, corruption and crony capitalism and the relentless, ruthless battle for power unbridled.

    Moreover, if the elites govern and act in defiance of law and order, the ruled also try to get ahead and away with cutting corners, defying do’s and don’ts, and otherwise being unruly. So we get traffic jams, bureaucratic sleaze and the same irresponsible, exploitative ways replicated all the way down the food chain.

    Rule-breaking rulers ­— Enemy No. 1
    This lawbreaking pastime must stop. Rulers must be made to heed rules. Including this government which has time and again bent statutes to its purposes. Elites yielding to no law shackled our people in ages past; they would do so again unless limits are set on them. Starting now.

    Indeed, of the grave excesses committed by and under President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the undermining of law and republican democracy is the bane feeding other scourges.

    Thus, pork barrel trebled to over P20 billion a year even in this new budget (yes, there’s still pork). Crime more than doubled since 2010, as corrected police data attest. Smuggling leapt fivefold to $19 billion a year, going by global trade figures. Even in prison, where law’s long arm is supposed to finally collar criminals, privileged rule-breaking rules.

    And it all starts with rulers and their kith, kin and cronies breaking laws and getting away with it.

    We must fight and finish this vile legacy of colonialism and elitism. And the first blows must be struck by the Judiciary, the branch of government duty-bound to decide if statutes are broken and power is abused. And the first institution struck by the Palace-Congress assault on our legal system and republican democracy.

    One respected former Chief Justice was teary-eyed lamenting this erosion of law and institutions. Yet this enormity escapes most Filipinos, being largely intangible, unquantifiable, and abstract for madla and media to comprehend or care.

    Only when the Supreme Court strikes them down do people begin to see the egregious assaults on our republic. So the magistrates must expeditiously act whenever elite excesses are elevated to them.

    Don’t postpone or pass cases to other bodies, as some justices reportedly are contemplating with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), allowing increased US force deployment and use of military bases in the Philippines.

    To repeat: the Supreme Court must expeditiously do its duty to interpret statutes and set limits on state actions, not only to defend the rule of law and democracy, but to rein in abusive, law-breaking rulers, whose abuses have been the main root of national suffering and ills for centuries.

    So please, Your Honors, do your duty, protect our statutes and our Republic, and restrain those who fancy themselves above the law.

    First, assert the Judiciary’s authority
    For starters, the Judiciary must show who’s boss in matters judicial. If judgments are to be respected and followed, magistrates must sanction officials failing to act on their rulings, or worse, blatantly breaking them.

    Thus, the High Court should take to task the Securities and Exchange Commission for SEC’s memorandum contradicting the justices’ explicit instruction to count only voting common shares in enforcing constitutional limits on foreign ownership. The violation is plain from the memo’s language, so the court should enforce its ruling now, not wait for a petition against the illegal issuance.

    Did it wait for a case to be filed before calling Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to account for her open defiance of the November 2011 decision voiding her travel ban on the former First Couple? In clear contraventions of its decision, the tribunal must penalize erring officials as soon as violations emerge. Otherwise, it encourages lawbreakers.

    This indispensable action to enforce judicial rulings may also be needed if and when the newly enacted 2015 budget is hauled before the bench for allegedly incorporating disguised pork barrel.

    To be sure, such a case would not be as straightforward as the SEC memo, and would take much longer to resolve. But the court must be willing to issue a temporary restraining order on disbursing suspect outlays.

    Not only will this indefinite TRO avoid the problem of having to allow illegal but initiated programs and projects to continue. It is also warranted by the grave offense of Palace and Congress willfully and deceptively defying the Constitution if contested appropriations do indeed contravene the separation of powers.

    So is there pork in the 2015 budget? We’ll let the lawyers answer that one. But even now, the court must show it is serious about any affront by top leaders against judicial authority and the law — by freezing suspect outlays.

    In sum, centuries of the powerful flouting law and institutions have undermined our society. In this administration the executive and the legislative have also run roughshod over laws and institutions. Let the last pillar of democracy unequivocally stand up against this age-old scourge.

    The final part covers three other cases in which major components of our republican constitutional democracy face huge risk: EDCA, the Bangsamoro Agreements and Basic Law and election automation.

    A belated Joyous New Year to all! See you Thursday.

    (The last part runs on Thursday.)


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    1. Yes. The Supreme Court seems to be our only hope against the BS Mafia that controls the Executive and Legislative branches of government. I don’t how its members can be stopped from once more being in control after 2016. The 2015 budget is designed as their campaign funds, and there is no guarantee against another hocus-pcos in the 2016 elections. Never mind that the only credible opposition leader is being subjected to a relentless demolition job..

    2. The more that the Supreme Court will act independently as the 2016 election nears since SC Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and her minion are not bound to comply with what a lame duck president has in mind. Just like Ombudsman which will intensify its review and filing of of graft cases against sitting govt. officials and make sure it will find its light of days at the SandiganBayan. irregardless of who will be haled to justice, the Ombudsman will not be choosy this time as what they have made a sample of PNP Chief A. Purisima perceived to be a bosom friend of PNoy but did not escape Ombudsman Conchita Morales Carpio’s cicrle of priority case to be investigated.

    3. Amnata Pundit on

      The list is long of cases where the SC decided in favor of the powers that be instead of the people, among the more recent of which are their refusal to shield the SC from the assault launched by BS against it in the Corona impeachment case, partly because they lost their nerve and partly due to infighting for the chief justice position. How about their seeming hesitance to touch all the cases filed against smartmatic ? And of course that famous constructive resignation decision against Erap. Will they now find their balls, or will they opt to be safe, as they always have? Lets all pray very hard to all the saints .

    4. Vicente Penetrante on

      As you know: Because he is leader of the armed forces, only the President has the capacity to enforce rules. The President expects the court rulings to favor his will, because he appoints the Justices. The Justices can only expect the President to enforce their rulings, because they have no arms to enforce them on their own.

      Sorry, if I still have the martial-law-lag!

    5. Claro Apolinar on

      Thank you, Ric, for expressing the prayers I have been saying. Let’s be behind the Supreme Court justices in their efforts to correct the wrongs and injustices the Aquino government has been doing against our people, pur laws and the Republic.

    6. Gloria M. Kuizon on

      Yes, dear God. PLease give the Supreme Court justices the strength and courage to defend our Republic and save it from the Great Destroyers.

    7. sonny dela cruz on

      What is the root evil of the problems in the Philippines. First, even with the present system of government which is the Unicameral. The government is being run through emotions that is why there is always a breakdown in governance and not run by law. There is not enough safeguards to protect the independence of each branches of the government. The appointed heads of the departments are all friends and buddies with or without qualifications and they abuse and no one is punished. How can we achieve a good system of government? This is my take. A Federal system is the answers to all questions because of the independence of the branches of the government,each departments and agencies. Provide more safeguards to protect the indepedence of each institutions in line with the culture of the Filipino people. Follow the United States way of how they can maintain the independence of the military away from politics. Military is also one of the problem in the Philippine, Second, poverty. The government should start investing with the Filipino people. Feed the hungry and start molding the children through better education and citizenship, then we can have peace and better Philippines.