Wednesday July 18, 2018

Malilong: ‘Holy Trinity’ in the Supreme Court?

LOSING candidates in last Monday’s barangay elections and their sponsors/backers should stop crying that they are victims of “massive vote-buying” because it is hypocritical. Not only do they know that vote-buying has become an integral part of our elections, their hands are not clean either. They also bought the voters but were simply outbid.

In one city barangay, for example, the incumbent gave P70 to each voter, according to a friend. His opponent, however, doled out P300. The incumbent lost. My friend is not sure if the voters who went for the bigger amount returned the P70.

The lesson here is that if you do not have the wherewithal, don’t run. Don’t throw away money that you could otherwise use for other, even if not loftier, pursuits. But should you persist, always remember that your only chance lies in “tsamba.” That way, losing would be easier to swallow.


Three Supreme Courts?

That is what Philippine Star reported yesterday. The consultative committee that President Duterte created to assist Congress in drafting a new constitution is proposing a distorted version of the Holy Trinity in the judiciary: the Supreme Court, the not so Supreme Court and the least Supreme Court.

Okay, I made that (the names) up. But if you look at their respective composition and jurisdiction, you will see how the proposed Supreme Court (SC), Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), are not equal in supremacy.

Under the proposal, the SC will keep its current composition of a Chief Justice and 14 associate justices. Its only work is to review civil and criminal cases from the lower courts, most probably referring to the Court of Appeals. The Star report did not mention who will appoint the SC justices but presumably it is still going to be the president.

The SCCs job, on the other hand, is limited to cases that involve an interpretation of the constitution. It will also resolve all cases of impeachment. It will have a presiding justice who will be appointed by the SC and six associate justices, who will be appointed in equal number (two each) by the SC, the president and Congress.

The SAC will have neither a chief nor a presiding justice but a chairman, who will be assisted by a vice chairman and five administrative justices appointed by the Supreme Court and two more members appointed by the Senate and by the House. As its name connotes, it will have jurisdiction over administrative cases that do not involve a constitutional issue.

What is immediately noticeable in the proposal is the removal from the president the exclusive task to appoint members of the judiciary. If the purpose is to render the process of appointment absolutely non-political, this is defeated by the fact that Congress can appoint two each in both the SCC and the SAC.

I discussed this proposal with Troy, my lawyer son, and his immediate reaction was, why don’t they create more lower courts instead? Valid question.