When a SC judgment conflicts with the people's sense of justice
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-11-22
They may not know the letter of the law and its many technicalities but people have a sense of justice to tell them that a Court judgment is fair or unjust. The eight Supreme Court (SC) Justices who granted that highly controversial TRO (Temporary Restraining Order), which would have allowed Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and her husband Mike to travel, now find themselves in conflict with the sense of justice of many Filipinos.

Headed by SC Chief Justice Rene Corona, the same eight Justices are hobbled by a track record of voting in favor of GMA. The perceived rush to allow GMA and her husband to travel, the attempt of GMA and Mike last Wednesday to take a flight to Singapore just hours after the SC TRO was granted — led many Filipinos to suspect a collusion to allow GMA and Mike to escape from the cases hounding them.

All over social media, tri-media polls and discussions — public opinion against the ‘GMA 8’ of the SC has been overwhelming. Many were convinced that the dissenting votes and legal opinions of Justices Antonio Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno provided the right and just decision and that the ‘GMA 8’ should not have issued the TRO without hearing the government side first. They should also not have disregarded the report of GMA’s own doctors that her problem isn’t life threatening.

The decision of the ‘GMA 8’ last Friday to uphold their TRO and ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to prove why she should not be cited for contempt — merely heightened public opinion against them. When the Pasay City RTC (Regional Trial Court) issued the arrest warrant to GMA for electoral sabotage, many Filipinos rejoiced and considered it a triumph of justice.

If a Constitutional Crisis happens because of this row, it should not be blamed on an administration that’s only following its mandate to stop corruption and bring to the bar of justice those who were responsible for the climate of impunity that characterized the GMA regime. Rather, it should be blamed on those who promulgate decisions that shock a people’s sense of justice.

The concept of a Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the law thrives when the High Court is largely perceived as fair, wise, impartial and just in their decisions. They’re on dangerous ground when public opinion sees them as otherwise. Ninoy Aquino had the right words for it when he said that Filipinos would accept poverty but not injustice.

It was the people’s sense of justice that triggered the 1986 People Power Revolution. The first major injustice that jolted the nation’s consciousness was the Ninoy Aquino assassination of August 21, 1983. The ultimate injustice was the cheating operation of the 1986 Snap Presidential Election that was undertaken by the Marcos regime to rob popularly perceived winner, Cory C. Aquino, of victory.

It was again the people’s sense of justice that led to People Power II — triggered by the Senate allies of former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada who prevented the opening of the Jose Velarde envelope. They were largely perceived as shielding Erap from the fallout the envelope was expected to unleash. 
In 16th century England, under the reign of King Henry VIII, the monarchy had more powers than what our SC has. Henry VIII was not only the king — he was also the self-proclaimed Head of the Church of England following the breakaway from the Papacy over the Anne Boleyn issue. In 1534, Henry VIII demanded that all his subjects must make an oath of allegiance to the controversial Succession Act.

Sir Thomas More, High Chancellor of Henry VIII, was a devout Catholic and rather than get into an issue with his king, Sir Thomas More opted to resign his office. However, he was too eminent not to glow like a beacon in the darkened realm of Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More was a humble, loyal servant of the king but God’s first. For refusing to take the oath of allegiance, Sir Thomas More was convicted in a kangaroo court and beheaded.

Most of the English people and other Europeans saw Sir Thomas More as a martyr and not a criminal. Today, Sir Thomas More is a canonized saint of the Catholic Church while King Henry VIII is largely perceived in history as a tyrant and an insatiable fornicator. At the Ateneo University, where some of the ‘GMA 8’ had studied, the example of Sir Thomas More is a favorite Jesuit topic when seeking to reinforce the virtues that make men holy and to expose the corrupt and evil acts that ensure a man’s place in hell.

Institutions like the Tudor monarchy of 16th century England and our Supreme Court today cannot act in total disregard of the people’s sense of justice. Wrong honest mistakes the people can live with but not perceived willful injustice or the perceived obstruction of justice.

Justice for the Maguindanao Massacre victims

Your Chair Wrecker expresses solidarity with our living journalist colleagues in marking tomorrow the second anniversary of the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. Considered the single most brutal murder of journalists, we urge the immediate resolution of the case — justice, sooner than later, for our slain colleagues and their loved ones.

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