.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Opening Salvo and Technicalities

If the impeachment legal team has been concerned with technicalities of late, manifested by the daily filing of the same impeachment complaint, there is reason for that madness.  And that madness stems from the fact that the House of Representatives is assuredly going to employ the same dilatory technicalities that they successfully employed in the impeachment last year.

What technicalities are we going to expect from them?

Consider the first salvo of Atty. Romulo Macalintal whose forte is the highly lucrative practice of Election Law and not Constitutional Law.  He posits the idea that the new impeachment complaint cannot prosper because the old one is still pending before the Supreme Court. That is an understandable interpretation from someone who is well versed in quasi-judicial proceedings but who does not seem to differentiate between an appeal and a petition for certiorari. That argument has largely been answered by the impeachment team.  He is beating a dead horse dead since last year.

And if he fails to get the nod of the House to stop them from hearing the case, Atty. Macalintal will file a petition before the Supreme Court hoping to for the court to issue an injunction to prevent Congress from pressing on with the impeachment complaint. While possible, to would largely violate the separation of powers doctrine if the Court issues an injunction.

Then Atty. Oliver Lozano will come into the fray and hazard his weird theory that his complaint has been filed with Secretary General, notwithstanding the fact that there is no endorsement and notwithstanding the fact that his complaint has been dismissed last year.

Then the pro-administration congressmen will read the complaint and state several points:  (1) the charges are rehashed, merely abbreviating the charges filed in the previous impeachment complaint; (2) the charges brought about by the Supreme Court declaration on the unconstitutionality of E. O. 464, PP No. 1017, and the Calibrated Preemptive Response are not grounds defined as culpable violation of the constitution because at the time of their issuance, the presumption of regularity exists; and (3) the killing of journalists and members of leftists organizations, assuming they are true, are not the direct commission of the president and therefore, the association is stretched.

But if those claims are true, I reckon there is nothing for them to worry about and so, let the complainants present their evidence in the Committee on Justice.  In the words of Alfred Neumann, “What me, worry?“

Of course, at the end of the day, the administration will always resort to a carrot and stick approach to prevent 79 congressmen from endorsing the complaint.  On that point, no constitutional ratio, however compelling, can prod 79 souls to sign other than their own personal convictions and principles, not mammon, to guide their conscience.  But before the voting occurs, it is hoped that a mass movement of voters will compel their representatives to do the right thing.

It is in this final stage that Constitutional Law leaves us bereft of any assistance and we are constrained to appeal to a Higher Force to make the leap from endorsement to impeachment.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Macalintal's Gobbledygook

Atty. Romulo Macalintal is making a mountain out of a molehill.  In an Inquirer news report, he claims the opposition cannot yet file an impeachment complaint because the previous one is still pending before the Supreme Court.  

Let us break the sum into its parts.

It is true that an impeachment complaint can only be filed once every anniversary year.

It is also true that there is a pending petition before the Supreme Court questioning the action of the Committee on Justice and also the plenary for dismissing the impeachment complaint last year.  

It is not true, however, that because a petition is still pending before the Supreme Court, an impeachment complaint cannot be filed for the simple reason that the Supreme Court has the power to bend its own rules.  The High Court can expediently consider that since a new impeachment complaint has already been filed before the House Secretary General which the justices can take judicial notice of, then it may consider the petition before the Supreme Court as motu propio or automatically withdrawn, thus rendering the prior petition as moot and academic.

In the alternative, the Supreme Court may choose to rule on the petition previously filed to finally interpret when a second impeachment complaint is barred and to further refine the ruling they laid down in the Francisco case where they pegged a reckoning point for an initiated impeachment complaint.

Whichever way one looks at the oncoming impeachment complaint, the protestations of Atty. Macalintal is as facile as his previous declaration that a proclamation of a national emergency is no different from a proclamation of a state of calamity. I remember retorting in the ANC’s The World Tonight that a proclamation of a state of calamity does not authorize the president, the military or the police to take over public utilities or the news media outlets.  

Atty. Macalintal knows his arguments are weak. But his audience is not the lawyers but the indifferent and the apathetic amongst us. He seeks to raise the specter of doom and gloom with the rise of another impeachment complaint to fester in that lackadaisical audience the spirit of pessimism and hopelessness.  He parrots the government line that it is hopeless to file another impeachment complaint simply because there not enough congressmen to send it to the Senate.  

Well, as the saying goes, it ain’t over till Congressman Zamora or the fat lady sings.  The impeachment complaint this year is no longer a simple wait and see attitude for the congressmen to run and hide.  The citizens will make sure that a day of reckoning shall fall on those solons who seek to count the costs and those who have expunged honor and principle from their political vocabulary.  2007 is not far behind.  The day of the Lord will be at hand!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Constitutional Law Class

It is the first day of my Constitutional Law Class at the Far Eastern University Institute of Law.  

Unlike most law professors which apply escuela brevi for the first day, I take this opportunity to get to know my 38 or so students intimately, and also the chance to orient them as to what constitutional law is all about.

It is interesting for law students to be taking up Constitutional Law just when everything about the Constitution is about to be massacred.  The People’s Initiative makes a mockery of the constitutional mechanism for charter change, E. O. 464 insults the intelligence of the masses and the Supreme Court by mismatching the constitutional provision from their intent, CPR belittles the right to free expression and peaceful assembly by holding rallies hostage to a permit, PP 1017 broadens executive power hitherto unknown since General Order No. 6 of the 1973 Constitution.

On the other hand, it is just as challenging mulling what constitutional muscle is being used by the other side to counter the administration’s propaganda.  First and foremost is the impending impeachment that is set to be filed within this month.  The previously spent force of the opposition is gearing up and no matter how steep the uphill climb may seem, the Oracions, the Pastors and the Garduces of the opposition, civil society, and all the allied political forces are set to once more file an impeachment complaint against the President.

Have they not learned their lesson? The answer to that question is misdirected.  It is not they who have not learned their lesson but the administration.  For as long as the administration continues to peddle obfuscation, deceit, and fraud to maintain its hold on power, the pro-impeachment people will continue to pound the lessons on good government, honesty and public service over and over again until either the dam of outrage shall burst or the president give in to her Jiminy Cricket.  

There are other mechanisms that the constitution can provide to fight a government that is ill-willed, ill-tempered and ill mannered. Constitutional Law provides the arsenal of all those mechanisms and it is exciting to live in these interesting times, contrary to the Chinese curse.  

I spoke once to Dean Raul Pangalangan, former UP law dean and he mentioned that he used to find Constitutional Law I boring but since this president became the incumbent, the structures of government, once a soporific topic, is now as exciting as the death penalty.

It is this reason that I am enthused to teach Constitutional Law. The bedrock of our laws is about to be shaken by the powers trembling knowing that their end is in sight and their day of reckoning coming soon.  To empower the law students to realize that the constitution cannot be tinkered with so trivially is already winning half the battle. The minds and hearts of these law students, properly trained in the appreciation of the constitution, will be witnesses in the same manner that twenty years ago, I was taking up Constitutional Law when we lived and witnessed that exciting and glorious EDSA Revolution.

I hope my law students will have a chance to experience the same epiphany I had in 1986.  May we truly live in interesting times!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Pinoy West Wing?

For the longest time, I have been a fan of the West Wing. Since Channel 23 showed it, I have religiously followed the series with extreme fanaticism. I even bought 2 complete seasons of the series in VCD format at the Powerbooks where to my dismay, the editing by the legitimate distributors was so lousy it would have been preferable to buy from the Pirates of Metrowalk. But I digress.

Being a Communication Arts graduate from de la Salle University who specialized in scriptwriting and film, and trained under the best scriptwriter in the land, Dr. Doy del Mundo, I was wondering to myself: Why can't anybody from the two competing stations come out with a series like the West Wing where they tackle the national burning issues of the season?

Are Filipinos too dumb that we cannot possibly comprehend the nuances of policy making? Are we too lazy to understand the complexities that go along with governance, horse trading and power-sharing?

The West Wing provides us with a glimpse of how the Washington Beltway works. Though abbreviated to one hour, it presents each side of the argument and while it has an obvious Democratic bent owing to the political mindset of the creators, it does present a probable scenario and one ends up believing in the nobility of politics as a profession.

And so, I ask, why doesn’t ABS or GMA7 come up with a decent show like West Wing instead of pandering to the masses? Instead of dumbing down the masses with Koreanovelas, why not lift them up? Instead of complaining about the hopelessness of our political situation, why not graphically portray our politics in the hope of cauterizing the apathy, the indifference and the ennui of the middle class?

We are not without talents and situations that can rival the intensity of any West Wing episode. I would be glad to join a cabal of writers to craft one up, come up with noble solutions and maybe, just maybe, our politicians would watch the series and perchance, life imitates art?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This Time Last Year

Since everybody is into celebrating the first year anniversary of the Garci tapes, I would like to chime in too but will ask myself: What were my beliefs this time last year?

This time last year, I believe that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the duly elected president of the Republic of the Philippines;

This time last year, I heard the Garci tapes and I could distinctly hear that the female voice on the tapes was that of the President;

This time last year, I felt that even if her voice was on the tape, the tapes could not be used for the simple reason that they were inadmissible from the cursory reading of the Anti-Wiretapping Act;

This time last year, I could not believe Secretary Ignacio Bunye, himself a lawyer, admitted that the voice on the tapes were those of the president;

This time last year, I could not believe the president could have committed a monumentally stupid act and the chutzpah of micromanaging even the shadow activities of her presidential campaign;

This time last year, I could not believe the monumentally incompetent Secretary Ignacio Bunye would nail GMA to the cross by admitting and then producing another very, very contrived and pirated piece of CD;

This time last year, I wrote Manolo Quezon III  the President should not resign but must by operation of  the constitutional mechanism, be allowed to face the charges in an impeachment hearing before the Senate;

Finally, this time last year, I sincerely believed President Arroyo was the best person to lead the country, bar none!

That was last year.

How and when they changed is part of my personal timeline that coincided with the fast unfolding developments last year.

What is past is prologue!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Scrap Sub Judice

I have often heard in many TV interviews that people cannot comment on a case because it is “sub judice” or literally, under judgment. They refrain from doing so under the theory that to speak about the case will affect the administration of justice or the objectivity of the judges.

I think the Philippine judicial system should scrap sub-judice from our system since it is one useless vestige of a common-law system which we have never really adopted.

Without going to the origins of sub-judice, one of the intentions of the rule was to protect the jury, a group of people unlearned in the law but are tasked to sit in judgment against one of their peers, from various influences outside the court such as but not limited to newspaper articles, TV interviews or such fora that may tend to influence the jury from rendering a judgment based on evidences which were never presented in court.

In the Philippine jurisdiction, we do not have a so called jury of peers. The only person tasked to render judgment is the judge who is schooled in the spirit, letter and procedures of the law. Thus, there is theoretically and realistically no need to gag anyone from speaking about an ongoing case because the judge is aware of what evidence is admissible or can be excluded, he is familiar with the technical rules of evidence and the reception of oral testimonies of witnesses.

In short, the purpose for which sub judice was laid down clearly does not exist in a civil law system where we do not have peers, learned or dumb, to decide a case against a person.

To continue to insist on the sub judice rule is to insult the intelligence of the judge. The continued existence of the rule is to imply that the judge, legally trained and steep in procedural law, is incapable of appreciating the evidences before his court and that an open and frank discussion of a pending case would unduly influence him.

We must give the judges the benefit of the daw, that they are perfectly capable of rendering an objective judgment amidst the media hype. With our judicial system in such a sorry state, what could possibly go so wrong with the removal of that hypocritical rule, where one practically sees lawyers commenting on a case immediately after hearing before the cameras.

To remove sub judice is to enlighten the public. After all, knowledge is power. It is time to remove the shroud of the law. Removing the rule is the first step to democratizing the monopoly of lawyers on the law and legal processes.