The Supreme Court and me


JERRY BARICAN had legal and financial problems as his years dwindled down, to a precious few. Aiding him in legal matters, pro bono, was Arno Sanidad, our FLAG-MABINI colleague, a UP lawyer. He had a good foundation in his grade and high school years in San Beda, which named him 2013 Human Rights awardee. Together we were in the martial law trenches/foxholes, along with Jojobama Binay, who also got his law degree in UP, but reviewed in San Beda in 1967, along with Jun Factoran. Jojo, Jun and I were among MABINI’s founders.

Joker and I would recall that at Mass, Jojobama would hold the line while waiting for Prez Cory to raise her head and look up to see him receive communion.​

Seriously, the other day, I waited for an elevator with others. To my dismay, no one looked at me. All were fixated on their mobile phones!

During martial law, I had not planned to argue orally before a Supreme Court (SC) of an illegitimate regime I had not accepted and recognized. But, two nights before an oral argument in it in early 1982, Ka Pepe Diokno called from Bicol and said he could not be back in time. Could I step up? We were in the FLAG office in Quezon City after Ka Pepe, who I had met in his Magallanes abode, had moved to QC. His Ermita law office had been burned down, suspiciously.

I’d really rather not say good morning to myself but my sad mobile phone episode the other day and Mareng Winnie made me do it. She had written: “What is interesting is the [Manila Standard] report’s statement that during the [90’s] oral arguments, there were some `relatively unusual friendly’ interpellations from the three-man division, particularly from Associate Justice Flerida Ruth Romero, an ally of Binay’s and of his counsel, former senator Rene Saguisag, during the Aquino presidency.”

Up to the time I could orally argue in 2006 before our family tragedy in 2007 ended my days as a litigator, I in fact never had encountered an unfriendly SC Justice in orals, which is as it should be.​

Indeed, Chief Justice (CJ) Iking Fernando, said to treat non-UP law alums as a lower form of animal life, and I, from San Beda, quickly clicked. Same page. He would cite an American case; I would cite a later case on the point. In the end, he said my style was the way to argue and that ​I did better than two super-luminaries (he mentioned them). Hours later, Justice Tony Barredo said, “Mr. Saguisag, you have done nothing but criticize us, but, your argument is the finest I have heard in all my years here.”

Nandiyan po sina Joker, nabubuhay, to confirm what happened in In Re Petition for Habeas Corpus of Joseph Olayer, G.R. No. L-59787. MABINI represented Arturo Tabara, Rogelio Aberca, Danilo de la Fuente, Noel Etabag, Edwin Lopez, Joseph Olayer and Sps.
Edwin and Rebecca Tulalian. FLAG represented Alan Jazminez et al.. With Ka Pepe and me was Emil Capulong of the Protestant Lawyers League.

Arrayed against us in the orals were hotshots SolGen Titong Mendoza, Vic Mendoza, Rey Puno, Bobby Abad and Zoilo Andin. Formidable. But, there was not a single unfriendly exchange between court and counsel or counsel and counsel. All observing lo cortes no quita lo valiente, courtesy does not detract from valor.

Who won? The famous firm of Moot & Academic, on May 3, 1985. Of the 23 detainees, it was noted, by the SC, 15 had been released, including Bullet Marasigan (who I met in San Francisco in late 1982, and was to perish in California in a freak accident). Four followed Guru Joker’s wise counsel, shared with F. Lee Bailey, who, after a vow of mega-lawyering, would conclude: “Meantime, never forget your plans to escape.” The rest faced charges. Moot.

I met SC Justices in orals. I avoided them elsewhere, save in the retirement of J. Joe Vitug in 2004, after he wrote me that his valedictory was based on an advocacy of mine. People v. Mateo, 433 SCRA 640, that automatic appeals in serious cases were not direct to the SC but through the Court of Appeals, for another bite at the apple. For the lowest of offenses, an accused may have four bites, why only two for the most serious? That advocacy Joe V had bought.

I recall that when I told CJ Art Panganiban, smiling, “that was why, Your Honor, I had wanted you impeached.” He gently smiled back, knowing my incurable irreverence from our student days. I do recall the persiflage between Joker and Titong in another habeas corpus case. Joker: “Moot na, ni-release na ni Judge X si Y.” Titong retorted: “Di tanggal siya,” and winked.(?) Once, we were ahead in orals late morning. What government had done wasn’t in accord with Letter of Instruction No. 1 (for argument’s sake), if my memory is true. Lunch break. We’re ahead, I thought. Then, session resumed; Titong waved LOI No. 1-A, mainit pa, legalizing what we had questioned.

Professional persiflage in war stories. In the War against Poverty, if Matuwid na Daan rates 30%, it is up to successors to make it 40, 50, whatever percent, in a nation where we multiply like rabbits as the Catholic Church counsels, “self-control ha,” not “birth control.”

For me enough for PNoy ​not to steal and to build a solid ground floor, following the Macoy-Imelda-GMA-Mike decades, ​for others to build on.

As the French would explain why they kiss a woman’s hand, “mon ami, you’ve got to start somewhere.”​

Lack of self-control led to a tragedy in Subic last Saturday night. A sailor presumably having a girl in every port discoed and met Je​nnifer Laude. As Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton’s hormones began to rage, they moved to a lodge and an hour later, Jeffrey pala, a transgender, met his end. I am reminded of Daniel Smith, who, the alleged rapist, Evalyn “Ging” Ursua prosecuted and Manang Letty Ramos-Shahani and I gave moral support to. Convicted by Makati RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon, he appealed, assisted by JJ Justiniano, now a pork prosecutor; he I first met in 1977 in a military commission. Like Jerry Barican, he trained under Ka Pepe. Three women Justices acquitted Smith. The woman complainant​, Nicole, retracted and got a visa to the U.S.. JJ now says we may seek custody of Joe.

I am also reminded of Oscar Pistorious, now awaiting sentencing in South Africa, for killing his girl friend, by a black woman judge, assisted by two lay jurors or assessors. I used this assessor procedure in 1995; I was retained one early morning thru Radio Veritas by Gina who always had a pair of scissors, working in a dressmaker’s shop. She was romanced by her boyfriend, in a Pasay motel, who told her his overseas contract worker wife was coming home. Game over. Then he napped, and awoke, yelling in pain, feeling very much diminished. His manhood became Exh. E in a bottle. Case dismissed when he tired of going to court with a towel around his head. Boyet Fernandez assisted me in this MABINI case, and I sort of help him in his quest for justice for Jonas Burgos, the desaparecido son of Joe and Edith.

In life, ​we appreciate what St. Loo pitcher Joaquin Andujar once said, that the one word in America that says it all is you-never-know. Same here.


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  1. I have always admired Rene Saguisag for his keen intellect and talent for friendly bantering (persiflage). I met him many years ago in Washington DC during a meeting with the members of Philippine Lawyers Ass. of Metro DC. A Filipino icon and a model for the Filipino people to emulate. Does he still do ballroom dancing?

  2. Bawal na bawal kay atty saguisag ang mangupit sa gobreyno. Tama!
    Pero yung gawain ni pnoy ay ok lang sa kanya na ibigay at ipa nakaw yung kaban ng bayan sa mga kurap
    Say nyo ….

  3. I doubt that the 2015 GAA definition of “savings” , which Pnoy can declare at any time of the year in an unprogram item or programmed but intentionally unused therein and used in another project other than intended for, can pass the Supreme Court (SC)
    scrutiny and standard definition of savings in line with the Constitution norm. Hence, the 2015GAA definition of “savings” can not be invoke by Aquino and Abad to use that unprogram budgetary item or cross-border items fundings or for other projects they chose like another “pork barrel type” of funding. It can not be offer as a defense in their criminal prosecution of the DAP funds in 2014 already used by Abad and Aquino and held illegal and unconstitutional by the SC. Thus, I believe that Aquino and Abad must now be prosecuted for 2015 GAA “pork barrel” usage as violative of the Constitution. The 2015 GAA must again be challenge in the SC as another DAP- type of presidential executive to skirt or go around the Constitution in funding projects illegally.

  4. Ruben V. Calip on

    I respect you very much, former senator Saguisag. But I pray that you now help educate the Filipino people into realizing that the son of Cory and Ninoy Aquino, and the Liberal Party crooks who are using him, are destroying our Republic.
    What do you think, sir Rene Saguisag, of the 2015 General Appropriations Act these crooks are pushing in Congress and has passed second reading without any scrutiny–it;s full of lumps sums and insane provisions that will cement the Congress’ loss of its popwer of the purse.
    It changes the definition of savings–something that the late Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti and Idi Amin of Uganda, monstrous icons of evil governance–did! Now Aquino does it with his 2015 GAA. He and Abad and the LB crooks will be able to declare any funds as “savings.” The proposed law makes the new definition retroactive so that the Supreme Court decision against Aquino’s and Abad’s DAP becomes moot and they will no longer be accountable for the misuse of already appropriated and allocated funds.
    Sir, maawa nama kayo sa Inang Bayan.

    • Mr. Calip we must be very very clear here. Let’s put the decision by the SC on the DAP in perspective vis the GAA 2015. To understand more your concern which according to you is, that the proposed GAA 2015 will moot SC decision against Aquino & Abad on DAP in that when such proposed law should pass will render Aquino and Abad unaccountable for the “misuse of already appropriated and allocated funds.”

      I believe your apprehension to be gravely misplaced. Misuse of any gov’t fund shall never go unpunished. The PDAF which operated virtually like the DAP had been did not take the investigators to base their investigations on any other SC decision but on the already existing laws on plunder, graft & corruption, etc. Neither had they waited for the SC to declare PDAF illegal.

    • Savings cannot be defined in the 2015 GAA to conflict with terms in the Constitution. This will be struck down by the SC. on two points first the redinition being inconflict with the Constitution and a law being made retroactive.

      It would be great if the misuse of any gov’t fund would be punished. Unfortunately things like that do not happen in the Philippines. We can watch what happens with the DAP.