[In the Web] Credibility vs. legalism

Supreme Court Spokesman Midas Marquez announced that the High Court voted 8-5 reiterating the temporary restraining order on the Watch List Order of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued against former President Gloria Arroyo. Photo from http://ph.news.yahoo.com


By Efren Sicangco Cruz

It seems to me that this whole Arroyo controversy, for non-lawyers like me, is more an issue of credibility rather than a question of legalism, which means the tendency to observe the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

This reinforces the thesis that all Supreme Courts, in the Philippines or the United States or any other country, are political institutions and justices are influenced by their political beliefs. We should not, therefore, accept their decisions as legally infallible.

In the issue of whether the TRO legally invalidated the hold order and, therefore, GMA should have been allowed to leave, is one clear example of my statement that this is an issue of credibility. I have listened to so-called brilliant lawyers debating both sides of the question.

On one side of the issue is Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who made copies of her nine-page dissent available to the public last Friday. According to her, the TRO issued on Nov. 15 remained ineffective because the Arroyo couple had failed to comply with Condition No. 2 — that the “petitioners shall appoint a legal representative common to both of them who will receive subpoenas, orders, and others legal processes on their behalf during their absence.”

On the other side of the issue is Court Administrator and spokesperson Midas Marquez, who held a press conference last Friday to announce that the Supreme Court had rejected the appeal of the Executive Branch to reconsider the issuance of the TRO and said that the TRO remained in full force and effect.

Justice Sereno said that Court spokesperson Marquez was wrong when he told reporters that the TRO remained in effect. She said: “The Court Administrator cum Acting Chief of the PIO is hereby advised to be careful not to go beyond his role in such offices and that he has no authority to interpret any of our judicial issuances, including the present resolution, a function he never had from the beginning.”

Marquez, on the other hand, refused to budge and said : “As much as we should all respect the dissenting opinion of the good Justice, I announced the majority opinion which prevails and should be complied with.”

My lawyer friends are all feverishly debating the legalisms of these pronouncements. Who am I to believe? There is no doubt in my mind that I simply believe that Associate Justice Sereno has more credibility than Court Administrator Midas Marquez. In a court case when there are two contradicting testimonies, the final judgment is based on credibility. Therefore, I am not proposing anything incredulous or even illegal.

I leave it to my readers to examine the background of each contending person, as they would do in a court of law, and decide who is more credible. I feel comfortable in saying that I believe most of my readers will come to share my conclusion.

It has been the contention that, in order to escape from politicized decisions, citizens must resort to litigation. I share the conclusions of many other political observers that the law, especially constitutional law, is simply politics by other means. Judges decide cases on the basis of the results they favor and then select the legal criteria or precedents to justify and make persuasive the results they have already chosen.

Read full article at http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=Credibility-vs.-legalism&id=41979


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