CAGAYAN DE ORO

Abellanosa: Cheap Justice

Fringes and frontiers

“GIVE the new Chief Justice a chance.” This line for me is a reminder that our country is getting hopeless. While Harry Roque said that CJ De Castro is the “best choice,” DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra seems to say something else.

The CJ’s appointment, according to Guevarra, is a “fitting finale to her illustrious career” in the judiciary. At the risk of oversimplification, let’s call it consuelo de bobo.

What can De Castro do within two months or even less? One ridiculous way of consoling ourselves is by hoping that she can do great wonders through divine providence. Some would say that it is not fair to call her a presidential lapdog. Can she be like former CJ Hilario Davide who did his job even if it was against the president (Estrada) who appointed him?

Unfortunately, the new CJ’s track record is, politically, not immaculate. We are not talking about her degrees and years of service but where she stood in many political issues. She was in favor of Gloria Arroyo’s acquittal from plunder. She also concurred in the decision that allowed former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The latest controversial SC decision that she concurred to – was the ouster of former CJ Sereno.

There are those who argue that we should not belittle the Supreme Court’s independence. Theoretically, this is true. In the world of politics, however, law is nothing but an extension of power. Law in fact is power.

Harold Lasswell defines politics as “who gets what, when, how.” The same definition aptly describes De Castro’s career path. It is thus difficult not to believe that she cannot be a political instrument in many possible anomalous decisions of the Executive in the future.

I don’t want to speculate this early that the new CJ is a herald of the coming of the political anti-Christ BBM. This may not happen. But better to be safe than sorry. All of us slept soundly and thought that the late dictator would not get a lot in the LNMB. Unfortunately we woke up forced to venerate a fake hero. Hopefully we will not, one morning, be depressed witnessing the oath taking of BBM as the successor of Tatay Digong.

Amidst all these let us take time to reflect and remind ourselves of a few important things about law and justice. Lawyers are like priests in some ways. They have a privileged power to interpret texts and consequently make people’s lives either happy or miserable. Their hermeneutic power is basically a means of social control. This is a power they do not share to those who don’t belong to their own kind.

However, a lawyer should not forget that he is a minister of the law. Laws have power only because they are connected to a higher meaning that rests outside, i.e. above the socio-political structure. Here we are talking about the common good and the good life for which such a power should be used. The common good and the good life can be summed up in one word: Justice. It was St. Augustine (whose feast we celebrated yesterday) who said that without justice the state is nothing but an organized robbery, a band of thieves.

The law itself is not justice. A good lawyer knows that there is an essential difference between legalism and justice. If the law is not used for the good of all people it cheapens justice or even obstructs it. The law may end up as an instrument of domination, practically oppressive and useless. Cheap justice in fact is an oxymoron. Justice is expensive. It must be achieved even if it costs lives or a desired position.


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