Monday, March 31, 2008

Neri, a culpable violation of the Constituion

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Ateneo de Manila law dean and an authoritative Philippine Constitutional Law commentator, is simply diplomatic in stating that the implication of the majority decision in Neri v. Senate Committee would be to “revolutionize the doctrine on executive privilege.”

On the other hand, the Hon. Artemio Panganiban, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice, is almost apocalyptic in finding the Neri decision to have “unreasonably suppressed the truth” and warning the justices against choosing “to serve . . . President Arroyo” or otherwise earn the dishonorable tag as the “Arroyo Supreme Court.”

When push comes to shove however and what’s teetering on the precipice is the very foundation of our democratic institutions, ought not Filipinos of the stature of Bernas and Panganiban do more and call a spade a spade? The message would certainly be heard louder if what’s said in unison is: That the judicial misconduct by the majority in Neri amounts to “culpable violation of the Constitution” and therefore constitutes impeachable offense.

Why not?

Panagniban is unequivocal that the Neri majority has ignored the “constitutional mandate requiring transparency and accountability of officials” and instead invoked and applied foreign jurisprudence that’s “simply inapplicable” (the greater part of which, if I may add, is a decision of a U.S. court of appeals).

On the other hand, for Bernas “the ponencia (ruling) that the matter was covered by executive privilege” could mean no less than “to sublimate guesswork.” Indeed, Neri v. Senate Committee while may not be a doctrine as yet is a “paralyzing and stifling” decision, Bernas, the Court’s most wanted amicus curiae, evidently suggests further.

Won’t the Court fire a lower court judge for disregarding clear constitutional mandates or basing on guesswork a decision the effect of which is to “cripple efforts to battle official corruption” or to seek the truth about such corruption rending a nation already financially strapped? This time, what’s inside the envelope the “Negotiable Nine” have denied the public to know?

For such an assault on the Constitution and the very foundation of Philippine republicanism, a motion for reconsideration as the next course of action would be a copout for Congress. But initiating impeachment proceedings against the erring justices will afford an opportunity to let out the folly of the unfortunate decision they arrived at in the comfort of their secret chambers.

Or, at the very least, the Senate can call the Palace bluff or threat of a constitutional crisis that may result from all and any of its proceedings or activities including legislations being rendered null if traceable to the supposedly infirm Senate Rules.

And by the way, where are the “fast draw” impeachment competitors, Lozano and Pulido?