By ROCKY JAKE NGALOB
“No master but LAW, No guide but CONSCIENCE, No aim but JUSTICE.” -Justice J.B.L. Reyes
And so what we feared, came. The 8-6 vote granting the Quo Waranto petititon against Chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is the final nail to our democracy’s coffin. However, we are not surprised considering that the ‘biased five’ did not have any ounce of delicadeza to inhibit themselves from the proceedings.
Law students now are in a limbo. Torn between two; upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and recognizing legal orders duly constituted by the highest court particularly jurisprudence that form parts of the law of the land. They know too that the Constitution is the highest law of the land and all laws should bow down to its supremacy. The problem however, eight magistrates also knew that, and somewhat decided to throw away their learnings and decades of practice when they granted the Quo Waranto petition.
Law students work their way night after night burning the midnight oil towards the wee hours religiously deciphering and understanding the complexities of our laws. Some of these laws even sometimes go against their political and life principles. A mental tug-of-war between personal beliefs against the mandates of law. Some learn to harmonize both contrasting side while most chose the easiest way and willingly submit to the supremacy of the law.
Law students sacrifice time, family, sometimes love life, work and mental serenity to appreciate and comprehend the law only to witness legal luminaries within the highest court of the land going against it. It’s like a child listening to his drunk father preaching the evils of liquor.
When law students already had enough of the hypocrisy, they voiced out their opinions to the public through the social media, their freedom wall in their generation, to reach out to fellow youths and students. As a consequence, they were met with different kinds of ridicule from intellectuals, trolls and a handful of legal practitioners claiming that they are wrong and that they don’t have any position and authority to present their legal opinions. Sure, law students are no lawyers but nevertheless no one holds the monopoly of knowledge and at the same time no one should be barred from presenting legitimate dissent.
For the past days following the ouster of Chief Justice Sereno, was no calming sight but a loud and roaring message from a substantial number of law schools, through their Student Government/Council, registering their dissent. This is a rare act unity among law students. An occurrence that will be carved in history. Opinions have been presented and debated. However, most of these engagements were limited to law students and lawyers while the rest were reduced into mere spectators to the issue.
For this reason, I will not be discussing the case here. The fact the matter is, the provision in our Constitution, if read via holistic approach, is straight forward. Sereno should be brought before the Senate to be tried in an impeachment proceeding. In fact, to share our annotated Consti Book authored by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, he stated that the list of enumerated officials who may be impeached was closed with the use of the second sentence. Basically, the provision, if read as a whole, it separated those impeachable public officers from the rest of public officers.
Fr. Bernas, who by the way, is one of the framers of the Constitution, argued further that impeachment is to ensure that public officers like the President, Supreme Court justices, who occupy critical positions in government can stay in their positions and exercise their functions freely and independently, free from the threats of being removed or harassment cases due to disagreements with their decisions. So the process for their removal is made more deliberate and difficult and requires serious grounds.
The highest court of the land handed its own guillotine. The Quo Waranto grant against Chief Justice Sereno has rendered them vulnerable to attacks fueled by political and personal agenda coming from the executive branch and the lower courts. Our constitutional system of check and balances was placed for a reason; to limit powers of the three branches from potential abuse. This harmony of among the three branches was enshrined in our constitution purposely to ward off and correct the evils of authoritarian rule.
It would seem that those who failed Consti 1 subject, those who went against the Constitution during their freshmen year in law school, a time when they were still resolute and still questioning the law, were no longer justified. They were made to submit to law and to present arguments backed by legal basis, and if possible the legal basis should be the Constitution, only to slapped with the contrary.
What’s worse, law students seemed to have lost confidence with the Judiciary, particularly to the Supreme Court. They now pose a question, “when the last bastion of truth, justice and democracy failed the people where else should we run to?” Well unfortunate as it may seem, we should never be dismayed with the events. “Don’t lose your soul” said Marvic Justice Leonen because according to him, history has shown that those precedents we hate can be overturned in the future in more enlightened times with better lawyers who have a better sense of justice.
To law students, especially those who partake in legal aids/clinics, those who share their legal learnings in paralegal trainings/seminars, and to those who immerse themselves within the community despite their tight schedules, know too well that the best legal advice to be imparted is not to lean too much in the law as the ultimate savior. The savior resides within people themselves. The empowered and organized masses mobilizing against the oppressive status quo is a formidable weapon in tipping the scale back to their favor. The sooner they will realize that, the closer we are in rectifying the wrongs and restoring the spirit of the very document that was hand forged by the people’s movement – the 1987 Constitution.
The Quo Waranto fiasco has awakened a sleeping giant and they still keep poking at it. I won’t be surprised that in the future, lady justice will untie her blindfold and start wielding her sword in protecting the Constitution we hold dear. # nordis.net