Consequences of the quo warranto decision of May 11
Much has been written on why the Quo Warranto Decision of the Supreme Court on May 11 was flawed. Legal luminaries, former chief justices, numerous lawyer groups, church people, academic circles, NGO leaders, politicians and many others have expressed and continue to express their indignation at the blatant disregard for the Philippine Constitutions and for the rules of law. Of course, there are also defenders of the decision but their arguments are so flimsy. From now on, it could no longer be invoked that because a decision comes from the Supreme Court it has to be right. The High Court has made an enormous blunder, and it will take a lot of effort—and perhaps time—to redeem itself, if ever.
But some are asking, does it really matter that the decision was reached in this way? The process may be wrong, but what consequences will it have in our democratic life?
From a non-lawyer’s point of view, here are some of the consequences of such a decision:
- It tells us that the justices of the Supreme Court cannot be trusted in interpreting the Constitution. With convoluted arguments, they can bend the interpretation according to their purposes. This case clearly bears this out.
- The decision to oust the Chief Justice of the land sends a signal that nobody is safe in the country anymore. If the Chief Justice herself cannot get justice, who else can? I do not say that the Chief Justice is without fault. I just ask that she be tried in the proper forum – in the senate according to impeachment rules where she can defend herself.
- No appointed officials, even of constitutional bodies such as the ombudsman, the commissioner on audit and the commissioner of the COMELEC, can be free from now on from undue pressure in doing their job. They have to kowtow to those in power or else they can be eased from their office by means not even provided by law.
- The Supreme Court is now seen as a Duterte Court. It has lost its independence from the executive branch. It can no longer put a check to the whims of the one in power.
- The justices in the Supreme Court can easily become a barkadahan of likeminded persons. Anyone with a different view can be taken out by themselves. Not only does the Supreme Court as an institution lost its independence. Each of the justices has lost his/her independence. Each has to look over his/her shoulder if his/her decisions and ways will sit well with the gang. Objective justice will not anymore be the main concern. Who can trust such a court?
The quo warranto decision and how it was arrived at have brought down the Supreme Court. People are protesting because they know that it is also bringing down our democracy. Dictatorial rule is already upon us. Can we take this without a whimper?