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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Return of the CJ

Come 20 December 2005, Chief Justice ("CJ") Hilario Davide shall retire from an illustrious and remarkable judicial career. But not before making history that even the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, Jr. or Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court could ever conceive.

For one, Mr. Davide shall have been the only chief justice ever to preside and play front and center role in the impeachment of two presidents, Mr. Joseph Estrada, and as things are going and barring any political shenanigans, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Chief Justice Rehnquist presided in the Clinton impeachment trial and could only write about President Andrew Johnson's impeachment case.

Second, thus far, Mr. Davide is the only sitting chief justice ever sought to be impeached by some unenlightened members of Congress who felt that the judiciary needed to be fiscally disciplined. Only to be told by his judicial confreres to back off and study their constitution and case law further.

It would be interesting to see how CJ Davide will conduct himself in the Arroyo impeachment case. While he comported himself admirably in the Erap impeachment trial, he would nonetheless have picked up a few lessons here and there from his initial experience to avoid the same pitfalls in the second impeachment case.

One thing that comes to mind is that he ought to exercise a firmer control over the senator-judges in the manner by which these jurors conducted themselves in questioning the witnesses. As one who presides over the trial, he should not hesitate to impose his style and leadership on them. Lesser mortals would have copped out over some senators' "long and winding" speeches but CJ Davide must strip them of air time, if neccessary.

Another thing is that he should avoid and prevent another walkout by the prosecutors. The conduct of the prosecutors was not condemned by the public only because of the justifiably perceived bias exhibited by the pro-Erap senators in refusing to open the second envelope. However, as a court decorum, what they did was an insult to the CJ himself and to the judicial system. More so, when there was a previous setting for the next hearing and they refused to continue with the proceedings. In any court of law, that would have been contempt.

Apart from these seeming displays of a less-than-firm hand, we hope Mr. Davide would reflect on his missteps and guide the second one to a less agonizing and less zarzuela-like atmosphere for the sake of all Filipinos and to prove wrong those naysayers that impeachment is a long, tedious and contentious process.

But here is the catch. What if the administration is able to delay the whole proceeding to a point that CJ Davide would have to retire in the midst of the trial? Surely, under the Constitution, the new CJ would have to take over but would GMA appoint his former consiglieri , Justice Antonio Carpio or Justice Artemio Panganiban who engineered her ascendancy to the presidency but whose mentor is Jovito Salonga or will she follow the seniority rule and appoint Justice Reynato Puno? The Chief Justice may have no vote in the impeachment trial but the appointment would make another round of political hay.

And here is yet another conundrum for GMA. Right now, the administration gloats because the opposition is in shambles and does not have a unifying figure to rally around. Susan Roces refuses to be tempted by the fruit of the garden of evil. Cory Aquino refuses to participate along with the present opposition and their ilk lest their odiousness taint her credibility. And she has not called on her yellow army to swarm the streets. Brother Eddie Villanueva is preaching to the choir. The Vice-President has closed ranks with the President. FVR and JDV are seen as political opportunists. Senator Drilon has lost credibility within his fellow Liberal Party members and among Filipinos who still regard loyalty as "primus inter virtues" in politics. But nobody ever considered Chief Justice Hilario Davide as the next man that can govern the country.

And yet, he is the last man standing with sufficient moral gravitas to demand political cleansing and regeneration. What if his fellow Cebuano, Cardinal Vidal, the bishops or Mrs. Aquino was able to persuade him to make the supreme sacrifice of cutting short his judicial service and lead the Filipino people out of the valley of the shadows. That would have been an earthshaking moment for this administration. People would have gladly gone to the streets the third time around to install a morally and ethically upright man to govern our nation. By then, who would have cared about the constitutional processes and the rule of law when you have the reincarnation of Cincinnatus in our midst.

We do not know if another round of GMA intransigence would arise but if the next swell comes, it would do well for all men of goodwill to sacrifice their ambitions and to rally around the Chief who by then may no longer be one. Who knows, Hilario Davide maybe our last great brown hope but if he becomes the leader of this nation, I am sure he will better our instruction.

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