Public opinion, ‘utang na loob’-A A +A
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
SHOULD we allow public opinion and emotion to rule over judicial matters? Should we allow our courts to make decisions based on what is popular? If a ruling is not favorable to us or won’t suit our opinion or stand, we criticize the court. We assail its decision and condemn the entire institution. If the court is swayed by public opinion, I am afraid that our justice system will be diminished.
Consider the case of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
When the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that allowed Arroyo to leave the country to seek medical help abroad, some quarters criticized the ruling, calling the SC “Arroyo's Court.”
This is because the eight magistrates who voted for the issuance of the TRO were Arroyo appointees, including Chief Justice Renato Corona. Their voting for the TRO was viewed as payment for “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude). But we cannot question the wisdom of the magistrates as the other Arroyo appointees voted against the TRO.
There is a pending petition by Arroyo before the SC questioning the creation of the Department of Justice (DOJ)-Comelec panel that investigated the electoral sabotage case filed against her over the weekend. The filing of the case was the reason she was not able to leave the country despite the TRO. A warrant of arrest was issued against her. The lower court placed her under “hospital arrest.”
But those who are hungry for Arroyo's blood warned that once the SC rules in favor of the former president’s petition and declares the creation of the DOJ-Comelec panel unconstitutional, the High Tribunal should be ready for the public outcry and condemnation. That ruling will quash the information and the warrant of arrest. GMA will be freed.
Are they antagonizing the SC? Should we allow this under our civilized society? We are a government of laws, not of men. Yes, the SC is not perfect. The people sitting there are human beings. But as law-abiding citizens, we should respect and accept its decision. The SC is the last bastion of our democracy. If it fails to function or if we don't respect it, there might be chaos.
The functions of the three branches of government are clearly defined in our Constitution. The legislative enacts laws and approves the budget. The executive implements the laws and the judiciary interprets the said laws.
In the ongoing Arroyo brouhaha, the image of the SC has been tainted because majority of its magistrates are Arroyo appointees. Public perception is that they favored Arroyo because of “utang na loob.”
But if you remember, there were policies that were struck down by the SC and declared illegal. Most of these happened during the incumbency of Arroyo. Examples are the national ID system of Fidel V. Ramos, Executive Order 464 of Arroyo and President Noynoy Aquino's Truth Commission. Did we complain? No.
Talking of “utang na loob,” why don't we ask retired SC chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. if it is a factor in deciding a case? When former president Joseph Estrada was ousted, there was a pending issue before the SC on its legality. The SC ruled that, based on the diary of then executive secretary Edgardo Angara, Erap was considered resigned after he voluntarily abandoned Malacañang during Edsa 2.
Davide was one of those who voted that Erap was deemed resigned. And mind you, Erap appointed Davide to the position. Did Davide consider “utang na loob” when he voted against Erap, paving the way for Arroyo's assumption of the presidency? I think Davide's decision was based on what was legal, constitutional and moral.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 23, 2011.