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Debasing the CJ post

Monday, June 25, 2012

Debasing the CJ post

Written by  Herman Tiu Laurel
Monday, 25 June 2012

From the noisy media circus atmospherics the past two weeks surrounding the scramble of Cabinet-member wannabes and outsiders for the Judiciary’s top post, to the buzz on whether or not these nominees’ Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) interviews should be televised, down to the paparazzi fervor with which these prospective candidates are being introduced to the public, all efforts in finding a replacement for ousted Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona ultimately bring up one question: Isn’t this a debasement, a trivialization, of what in the past was considered a rarefied post, along with the essential attributes of detachment and transcendence that the candidates — not just for the Supreme Court (SC) but for the Judiciary as a whole — are supposed to possess?

Thus, it was with a sense of disbelief that I witnessed the likes of the country’s chief tax collector showing off her wares in a cable news interview and of law deans and professors parading themselves to catch media attention, like in a burlesque show. It really is a sad spectacle; and sadder still when you think of how low it speaks of the ruling powers’ regard for the Judiciary.

One CJ qualification raised by Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in obvious support of 51-year-old Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Chief Kim Henares, was on the matter of age.  He told Palace reporters that since “age is not a factor,” a CJ candidate does not have to be old.  What did he mean by that?
First of all, being 40 is not necessarily “young” to the younger set. Despite that, 50 can now be the “new 40” and 60 the “new 50.” Moreover, someone who is 60 can even conceivably be 40 in many respects since it is now widely believed that the mind determines the age. Therefore, someone at age 51 who is crabby, myopic, tyrannical and oppressive can really be an 81-year-old Mubarak in mental state. Got that, Lacierda?

Well, perhaps to buttress his argument, Lacierda also cited the case of US Federal Supreme Court CJ John Roberts, who, upon assuming his post at age 50, serves as an example of a young person appointed to the zenith of the Judiciary. What he failed to note, however, was whether or not this young appointee indeed had a sterling record of public service to begin with.

Objections were already raised about Roberts’ pro-right, anti-abortion leanings that allegedly triggered some violence by extremist groups prior to his appointment. Then, in his five years at the helm, a number of major, yet unsettling, changes came about under his leadership, which led retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to lament, among other things, Roberts’ reversal of her major contribution to US jurisprudence of imposing spending limits on political campaigns.

So besides the 40-year-old age requirement for Philippine CJs, should there be any room for petty ageism? Moreover, given the importance of the CJ’s position, have we ever had any in-depth, ideological, or jurisprudential discussion on issues relating to the CJ’s appointment?

Sadly, it has always been the case of the Chief Executive and his spokesmen, the Legislature, and the media being at the forefront of providing leading, albeit shallow and mediocre, questions in whatever discussions, with politicians, media, relatives, friends of JBC members, or law fraternities holding sway on a personal or parochial basis.

Such a debased (or debasing) process of naming, vetting and appointing the next CJ clearly creates worse conditions for any nominee, as he will no longer be unaffected; will likely feel obliged to respond to private and public parties to which he may feel indebted; or will fear chastisement if he displeases one or the other source of support for his appointment.

We must therefore take a second look at the serendipitous findings of lawyers Alan Paguia and Homobono Adaza in reviewing Article VIII Section 9 on the Judiciary: That there is no constitutional basis for the nomination by the JBC and the President’s appointment of the CJ.

Given the fundamental principles upon which our nation’s democratic system is supposedly founded (namely, the separation-of-powers, checks-and-balances, the independence of the Judiciary) and taking heed of the caveat from an old adage that says “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” we must end the practice of appointing a CJ from outside the SC once and for all in order to enhance the high court’s independence and detachment and for it to focus purely on the interpretation and execution of the Constitution and all its laws.
It is for this reason that Paguia, Adaza, Jojo Borja, myself, and several others will be filing a petition before the SC this Thursday on the issue.

Our thanks thus go to citizens Ric Palompon of Manila, Editha of Batangas, Bonifacio from the South, Romeo Lopez, Olive of Bulacan, Mrs. Villanueva of Mandaluyong, Mrs. Borja of Iligan, and Glen of QC for sending in donations for the filing fee and photocopying. To the few donors who have not sent in their names, we wish to thank them as well.  Because of your generosity, I believe we will have enough by the date of filing. Mabuhay to all the conscientious and pro-active citizens who are continuing to support our cause!

(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m.; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives).

(May Pahintulot ng Pamamahagi)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/commentary?start=9

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