IN A July 29, 2003 decision, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of General Santos City, “or any court for that matter,” had no authority to stop the Senate Blue Ribbon from calling witnesses to its hearing that inquired into Armed Forces retirement funds.
Before the SC ruled in Blue Ribbon Committee vs. Judge Majaducon (GR #136760), the premier Senate body was ordered by the RTC to cease and desist. And no senator publicly railed at the “offending” court, called the judge names or threatened to dissolve RTCs of the land. Then Ribbon head Aquilino Pimentel Jr., father of the incumbent Senate president, went to court instead.
Pimentel the elder knew the law and more--he wouldn’t do anything to erode the institution that interprets laws. He didn’t bully the RTC judge.
Scroll to 2017. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez last week blew his top over a Court of Appeals writ of habeas corpus for six Ilocos Norte Capitol officials detained by the House committee on good government and public accountability.
He heaped insults on the three C.A. judges, which to the Cebuano-Bisaya are as scathing as they can get: “gago” (idiot), “bugok” (rotten), and “bu-ang” (crazy). Alvarez threatened to have the judges disbarred and the C.A. dissolved.
The justices didn’t know the law, he said. Or they chose to disregard SC decisions affirming congressional duties and rights and the general principle of separation of powers. Or, for their own reasons, the C.A. justices just love to issue TROs.
Power to interpret
But the Constitution that Alvarez cites as source of the House’s authority also provides for the power of courts to interpret the law. If one court errs, a higher court corrects the error. The process may annoy Alvarez but the remedy is to appeal the adverse ruling. And perhaps use his influence for the justice system to adopt tighter rules on issuance of TROs by lower courts and stiffer sanctions on their lapses.
Apparently, Alvarez is no cut of the Pimentel the elder mold: legislators who respect the law and the institutions. Alvarez seems to like using brute power to scare if not cut down real or perceived offenders. Abolish RTCs? Probably what he has in mind is the standard fright device of legislators: starve an agency or office to death by reducing its fund source to zero.
Not long ago, Alvarez said he’d tear up any SC order for Congress to convene in joint session and review President Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao.
And all that trumpeted in harsh language. Pimentel the elder and his colleagues in the old Congress, some of whom still watch as the new leaders strut on the national stage, must cringe in dismay.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 19, 2017.
Latest issues of SunStar Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.