Who turned the Supreme Court into a chamber of errors?


“Free institutions are not the property of any majority. They do not confer upon majorities unlimited powers. The rights of the majority are limited rights. They are limited not only by the constitutional guarantees but by the moral principle implied in those guarantees. The principle is that men may not use the facilities of liberty to impair them. No man may invoke a right in order to destroy it.”
Walter Lippmann

As surely as the life lessons of our 495-year history, the cautionary case of Grace Poe is reminding us Filipinos of the core principles and elemental truths that underpin our national existence.

Her case has recalled to us the imperishable truth that it is the Constitution that is supreme, not the Supreme Court.

The Court is not the property of a passing majority of justices who constitute it. No majority may use the facilities of freedom and power in order to impair the institution.

No cabal of businessmen and politicians is at liberty to buy the highest office of the land.

Last and not least, Grace Poe may not invoke the right to be elected to office in order to destroy our constitutional system.

Legal schooling and civic literacy
It is concededly presumptuous for a layman to make suggestions on how the Supreme Court might correct the errors in its decision on Poe vs. Comelec. But this is a presumption that is less overweening than the multiple presumptions that the High Court granted to Grace Poe in order to certify her eligibility to run for President of the republic.

Some lawyers would arrogate to themselves sole competence in explaining the Constitution, statutes, and how they regulate our lives and our public life.

Such a policy of exclusion forgets a basic principle in democratic society, that ordinary citizens should aspire to attain a good level of civic literacy, in order to understand how their government works and the rights and duties of citizenship.

Civic literacy, simply put, means the ability to understand the principles by which government and its courts operate. In studying the SC decision on Poe vs. Comelec, I have tried to the best of my ability – and my training in politics and journalism – to raise my civic literacy enough to understand the decision, the various concurring and dissenting opinions, the flawed and cogent arguments, and the resulting dilemma posed to the nation.

Members of the bar and bench should not forget that the great tracts of legal philosophy were written as much by laymen as by practitioners of law.

Still no Court majority
No one doubts now that Justice Antonio Carpio is correct when he contends that no Court majority declared that Grace Poe is a natural-born citizen with 10-year residency in the country, and therefore constitutionally eligible to seek election to the presidency. The announced 9-6 majority is only a figment of CJ Sereno’s imagination.

The Court did not settle the citizenship and residency issues that infect Poe’s candidacy. But it is a fact that nine justices signed the ponencia written by justice Jose Perez, although expressed rservations to some of its parts.

To the credit of justice Perez’s ponencia, he tried to faithfully reflect the evident opinions and thinking of the justices who signed it.

Every pet advocacy and argument of the concurring justices found a place in the opinion, along with their fallacious arguments and faulty premises.

Thus, CJ Sereno’s argument that adopted children have a right to natural-born citizenship finds its place there.

Justice Leonen’s outsized solicitude for the plight of all foundlings got a nook to settle in.

Justice Jardelaza’s thesis about equal protection under the law for foundlings found its way into the ponencia.

Without being a member of the Court, the solicitor general’s creative theory of statistical probabilities was given credence in the opinion.

The nine concurring justices sang in chorus that Poe is a natural-born citizen by reason of international law.

And then they ganged up on the Comelec in declaring that the poll body did not have jurisdiction, and was guilty of grave abuse of discretion.

Since all the flawed arguments were bunched up together in the ponencia, this had the effect of making all concurring justices responsible for the ponencia, for all its errors and fallacies.

The dissenting six justices did not have the same uniformity of judgment. But they were in broad agreement on the major errors of the majority opinion.

Each dissenting opinion made a specific point and argued accordingly. Justice Brion in his 144-page opinion did the Court and the public the inestimable service of providing a comprehensive review of the case, of the issues and the arguments, and then proceeded to destroy point by point what he perceived as the egregious claims of the majority opinion.

Eight errors of majority opinion
The original petitioners, in their urgent motion for reconsideration, described the majority opinion as “a 47-page perversion of the Constitution” which could result in the election of a nuisance candidate, the disenfranchisement of millions of voters, and taint the Court’s legacy.

The petitioners laid out eight arguments that form a persuasive basis for review of the Perez ponencia.

The arguments are:
1.The Court erred in declaring that Grace Poe is a qualified candidate.

2. The Court erred in declaring that the Comelec did not have jurisdiction.

3.The Court erred in declaring that Grace Poe is a natural-born citizen by statistical probability, by presumption, and as a measure of equal protection of l aw and social justice.

4. The Court erred in ruling that foundlings are natural-born citizens under the 1935 Constitution.

5. The Court erred in ruling that foundlings are natural-born citizens under international law.

6. The Court erred in declaring that the re-acquisition of citizenship under RA 9225 vested natural-born status on Grace Poe.

7. The Court erred in holding that Grace Poe complied with the 10- year residency requirement.

8. The Court erred in declaring that there was no intent to mislead by Grace Poe on her natural-born status and residency in her claim to citizenship.

If the reader is daunted by the prospect of slogging through 585 pages of legal opinions in the Poe vs. Comelec case, and can spare but little time to study it, I advise that he/she read the Brion dissenting opinion.

In this one opinion, what must have taken place within chambers in the deliberations on this case comes to life. It gives us a glimpse of the mysteries and politics of court decision-making.

Brion provides cogent support and response to the litany of errors cited by the original petitioners, complete with notes and citations.

This piece of legal argumentation reminds me of what a woman philosopher once said: “The only interesting answer is that which destroys the question.”

Brion‘s opinion in my view destroys the Perez ponencia.

I looked in vain for comparable conviction and erudition in the ponencia and concurring opinions.

To return then to the title of this piece, who turned the Supreme court into a chamber of errors?

I will not venture an answer. But the 15 justices of the Court surely know who did? They only have to ask themselves.


The dvision of the court into two groups, one concurring and one dissenting, had the effect of seemingly creating two sports teams competing to win.    

The axiom first articulated by John Adams at the dawn of American independence —that American government is “a government of laws and not of men”—meant that much of public conduct is regulated, by principels of law that by general agreement ought to be enforced. Adams and the other founding fathers rejected the view attributed to Louis XIV, “I am the state.”(l’etat c’est moi.)

Their view echoed Aristotole’s view that “law should govern.”

These rivers of thought have combined to shape modern thinking about the rule of law.


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  1. Jojo Ventura on

    Grace Poe is still is going to face another case if ever she wins the 2016 presidential elections – God forbids.

    It is expected that a petition will be filed under Sec. 7.of Batas Pambansa Bilang 884 – Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which states that “Any registered candidate for President or for Vice-President of the Philippines who received the second and third highest number of votes may contest the election of the President or the Vice-President, as the case may be, by filing a verified petition of contest with the Clerk of the Tribunal within thirty days after the proclamation of the result of the election of a purported winner”. This time her citizenship (natural born) and ten years residency issues will be fully discussed and resolved.

    The Supreme Court’s decision was only based on the COMELEC grave abuse of discretion.

  2. STOP ALREADY< your slip is showing .
    You talk about the corruption in the Poe decision………you are the corrupt
    newsman and the the older SC justices beginning with and ending with the foremost
    CARPIO,,,,,,,you remember who he was before FVR ? nothing…
    he FIRM was the most notorious at that time…..
    He wants his candidate to win with out elections………
    His 2 partners namely Simeon Marcelo and Avelino Cruz are the operatives of Mar…
    I suspect they will continue not limited to cheating in the election……maybe with Andy Bautista of PCGG fame ….
    You all make me PUKE

  3. For a balanced perspective, it behooves readers to peruse the concurring opinions of CJ Sereno and Justices Leonen and Jardeleza to understand why Sen. Poe is qualified. BTW, Justice Brion got his Master’s degree in LABOR LAW from an unknown Osgoode Law School in Canada. In contrast, Sereno, Leonen and Jardeleza got their Master of Laws degreesin CONSTITUTIONAL LAW from prestigious US law schools, namely University of Michigan, Columbia University and Harvard University, respectively. Who between Brion on one hand and Sereno, Leonen and Jardeleza on the other hand, is more reliable on CONSTITUTIONAL LAW issues involved in Sen. Poe’s case? The choice is clear.

  4. Your’re right. The SC is supposed to be the most responsible institution of government but as it turned out, it went astray. It’s frustrating! Whom shall we turn to now?

  5. According to a former President, there are still Justices masquerading as “Honorable Magistrates” but in REALITY are “Hoodlums in Robes” not to mention a SC chamber of errors. They decided Sen. Llamanzares’ case based on MISPLACED & TWISTED statistical probability, presumptions and emotions without addressing the core issues of her natural-born Filipino status & 10-year residency to the position of President.

  6. Rene Glenn Samonte on

    Supreme Court is not supreme anymore,integrity and wisdom has been lost when Aquino appointed Sereno who is not qualified as Chief Justice and other Justices who are a puppet of the President…

  7. Judicial legislation is true and acceptable only in a government with UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION like England so that Courts decision becomes common law. The Philippines is a Constitutional republic mainly govern by the Constitution as the fundamental law where all laws legislated by Congress and decisions by the Supreme Court must conform to and founded on the Constitution.
    Thus, the Sereno Court arrogated unto itself the legislative power in to total conflict and encroachment into Congressional power prohibited under the principle of separation of powers. The 9 justices who voted favorably upon Grace Poe’s DQ case ruled by COMELEC, for alleged grave abuse of discretion, affirming Poe as natural-born and meeting the 10-year residency requirement, equal protection of law, and based statistical improbability and conforming international law, are all incoherently confused of the legal constitutional issues involved that they only projected themselves as political justices, not legal justices.

  8. Try nyo rumespeto ng desisyon… yan ang gusto nyong gawin ni Sen. Grace diba? Panahon na para kayo naman ang gumawa… Si Sen. Grace Poe ay Pilipino at kwalipikado!

  9. carmen natividad on

    Those who can’t move on with the Supreme Court decision are the ones who are making this issue. And the people who believe this desperate acts are blaming the Supreme Court which in fact made the right decision. This issue is not about Grace Poe, this issue is for the right of every foundling. Move on people.

  10. Harold Imperial on

    The SC in its 47-page main decision said there is “more than sufficient evidence” that Poe is a natural-born Filipino. Tapos ang usapan. #POE2016

  11. Cely Alquinto on

    Well said Mr. Makabenta; the folly of one ambitious person certainly wreck havoc to us loving Filipinos who adhere to the fundamental law of our land, the Constitution!

  12. So what is the Comelec waiting for? The Sereno Court itself never set on how citizenship or residency has to be defined which Comelec needs to use as THE STANDARDS for “material representation”. Since there are no standards on what constitute citizenship or residency, the Comelec can not have abused its disceretion since there is nothing wherefrom to serve as criteria. Lack of criteria means no abuse of a criteria – the criteria being the definition of residency and citizenship according to the Sereno Court. Ergo, there never was an abuse of discretion. Ergo, the Comelec ruling on Grace disqualification stands. The Comelec may just have to find its balls to implement its ruling even if that ruling may be contrary to popular views. Since there was never a majority decision, ergo, the Comelec ruling stands. The Comelec can call in the military to implement its decision of disqulifying grace from running for president.
    If the Sereno Court does not listen or the Comelec does not implement its decision, we may just all bind ourselves together to accelerate the immediate appointment with Lucy Ferrer of Lulu, Florin, Marvic, Francis and Andy.

  13. I keep on calling the attention of PHILCONSA why until now this group of brilliant lawyers are not taking any action regarding the decision of this 9 SC JUSTICES especially the Chief Justice Sereno. PHILCONSA what is your stand for this decision? You suppose to lead being the organization with regards to Our Constitution why you did not make any move about this matter? You better so that the people may know these SC Justices are really not upholding and protecting Our Constitutions. You better move and make some necessary action. I also, calling the attention of ARMED OF THE PHILIPPINES make a move, we can’t rely on our lawmakers as you know been corrupted. TAKE MOVE AND ACTION PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES.

  14. Who turned the Supreme court into a chamber of errors? Sino pa kundi ang siyam na corporate attorneys ng San Miguel Corporation na pinangungunahan ni Sereno.

  15. my mother is filipino and my father was chinese.
    i had to vote and undergo several tedious procedure before i could claim that i’m naturalized filipino citizen. i looked filipina and no trace of chinese. so, if the supreme court’s ruling is to be followed, dapat din ba presumed filipino na din ako? kung napulot lang din ako?

  16. Elcid Pelayo on

    that is not a Supreme Court,that is a Supreme Confusion and this is dangerous of course because this institution is suppose to be the last refuge when everything else fails in this republic.

  17. Leodegardo Pruna on

    The “Rule of Law” must govern in the way people live their lives. Otherwise, confusion and chaos will overwhelm the good and allow the evil to take its place in sowing more evil. God save the Philippines.

  18. Laws are enacted as guiding principle of moral standard. Interpretation of law shall be based on universal moral sense acceptable to common man including the dumbest ignorant who can figure out that a known traitor with out known parent and blood relatives should not be allowed to become ruler of the entire nation.
    SC-7 had insulted the mind of common people by declaring foundling Flip-Flop Poe is suitable president by statistic probability and physical features…. Immorality !!!

  19. I call on all concerned PILIPINOS to give due recognition to writer Yen Makabenta for making the questioned decision of the Supreme Court on the matter of Grace Poe’s candidacy persuasivebly understandable to us laymen.

    I now challenge all in the legal profession worth his salt and all graduating law students to make a stand on the questioned issues raised by Mr. Makabenta on the SC decision.

    • yoying pimentel on

      I join you in challenging all in the legal profession and students of law to make a stand. My friends and I are waiting for an organised revolt against erring justices and their decisions!!!!