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Free the Chief Justice Written by Herman Tiu Laurel Monday

Monday, July 9, 2012

Free the Chief Justice

Since the gates opened on the jockeying for the position of Philippine Supreme Court (SC) chief justice (CJ), the horses that have entered the race have reached ridiculous numbers.

That was the prevailing sentiment we got over lunch with some media men and politicos, where one top editor of a major daily even exclaimed, “How many are now in the race?  Sixty?  The noise in the jostling for the CJ post is now like a market place!”

It happened just a day after lawyers Bono Adaza and Alan Paguia, along with Jojo Borja and myself, filed a petition before the SC — at the height of last week’s rains — for it to issue a “Certiorari and Prohibition with a Prayer for a TRO, Writ of Preliminary versus President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC)” to stop the continuing malpractice of the presidential appointment of the chief magistrate, which debases and subjugates the highest judicial official of the land and the supposedly independent body he or she leads.

Sadly, there were no press or media people who covered the filing last Tuesday, partly due to the heavy rains and widespread flooding. The chief of reporters of Destiny Cable’s Global News Network (GNN), for instance, texted that his people were constrained from covering the event as they were assigned to various flood relief centers. And while the same must have been true for the other media outfits, we decided to bring the campaign to the media kapihans in order to better inform the public on the issues involved.

At the Friday Rembrandt media forum, both Adaza and Paguia presented the case while I distributed a press statement announcing the launching of the Movement for Chief Justice Independence (MCJI), a campaign to generate public awareness and support for freeing the Chief Justice from presidential influence and control through the current malpractice of presidential appointment.

While the petition was jumpstarted when a number of volunteers pitched in for the cost of its filing, the media support was even more impressive.

In all the forums we pitched this proposal to, we never failed to elicit the support of all those in attendance. On the legal question, Adaza and Paguia presented indisputable evidence by first citing the provisions of the Constitution and then asking any doubters to point to any statement assigning to the JBC the power to nominate and to the President the power to appoint the CJ.

As Paguia repeatedly stresses, since it is a question of fact, all the legal doubters need to do is point to any constitutional proviso that grants such powers — when, in fact, there is absolutely none.

Thus, Adaza writes, “The reason why other Presidents got away with violating the Constitution is due to the fact that no citizen had questioned their authority. Now, there are citizens who are concerned with the rape of the Constitution by public officials and the drift of the rule of law in this country, that there is need to stop this unconstitutional practice in the national interest.”

To this writer’s surprise, some newspapers carried the item last Friday suggesting that our petition was dismissed, with some even saying “one down, two to go,” referring to the three petitions questioning the current conduct of the nominations by the JBC. If that were true, it would only indicate uncharacteristic haste and, therefore, betray a fear of something in our petition — for how could it be dismissed in three days when the SC justices hardly have enough time to study the many petitions pending before them for close to six months?

Thankfully, a careful reading indicates that only the petition of a certain Famela Dulay, whose arguments do not coincide with ours, has been dismissed, which means that our fight goes on.

Ever since we aired our appeal for support, many more have come to our aid. In addition to all those we acknowledged in a previous column, our heartfelt thanks also go out to Mr. Poem Gratela, as well as a doctor and a rural banker who requested not to be named. We also thank this donor from Bicol who thoughtfully sent us delicacies from his native province. Rest assured that your being part of this movement fuels us to continue pursuing this case.  And as we await official action, we will never be deterred by any attempt at misinformation or disinformation.

The logic of ending the malpractice of the President appointing the CJ must prevail if we are to uphold the independence of the Judiciary and the principles of “separation of powers” and “checks-and-balance.”  Only then can we begin to enhance the dream of an authentic democracy for our nation.

Even so, there are other advocacies that we must take the cudgels for, such as the water issue.

Last Saturday, we heard the presentation of Gloria Dalida and Rodolfo Javellana Jr. of Water for All Refund Movement (Warm) on their petition vs Manny Pangilinan, the Consunji Group, and a long list of respondents on the scam in our privatized water services, which is as huge a scam as that in the power sector. Hopefully, we’ll have them on our GNN show in the coming days to link them up with all our fellow electricity advocates.

So as we jostle in the legal arena, there must be similar action in other fronts to make for a holistic and authentic democratic order. Our nation must unite against the exploitation and oppression of the local and global oligarchs, who conspire to squeeze the people into abject poverty and helpless prostration.  We must not wait any longer.

(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., this week with senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com)

(Reprinted with permission from Ka Mentong)


SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/commentary/item/1287-free-the-chief-justice

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