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cha-cha
11/4/2006 6:48:09 AM

THE FALLIBILITY OF THE RULE OF LAW

The rule of law must be respected. The highest tribunal of the land has spoken on the people’s initiative to revise the constitution no matter how much we disagree with it. Nor should we expect the Supreme Court to grant a motion for reconsideration. An inconsistent ruling as to the finality of a decision violates the doctrine of stare decisis. The Court should “stand by the thing it decided.” Otherwise, we will follow a path into anarchy.

That said I find the majority opinion unpersuasive. As a law student (at least here in New York), we learn that the interpretation of the constitution is essentially whatever the justices say it is. And we hope that the justices do not render their judgment in a vacuum; that they are guided by their unfettered wisdom to render a just decision. As Justice Robert Jackson of the US Supreme Court had aptly stated, “we are infallible only because we are final.”

The majority opinion ruled that the people’s initiative is without merit. It found the petition without basis in law under the 1987 Constitution. In a sense, the opinion strictly construed the intent of its framers. If the Court stopped there, I would have agreed in its reasoning. But, it went further to analyze the factual merits of the petition; whether the language of the petition was sufficient to understand for those who signed it. The Court liberally quoting from the decisions of the highest state tribunals of a foreign country outlining the factors which constitutes a valid petition and concluded based on those factors that the people's initiative was an elaborate fraud perpetrated on the voters who signed it. To begin with, basic contract law as any first year law student would learn is that an agreement or a petition is valid if a person has signed it. It is presumed that a person who affixes his signature to the petition understood what he signed for. He did not merely raise his hand to agree on something as a result of physical threat of violence. To construe it in the same manner is rather insulting to the 6.3 million Filipinos who signed it. Furthermore, the Court failed to address the probability or rather factual improbability of how the charter change movement could have perpetrated 6.3 million counts of fraud on the signatories of the petition.

The Philippine Supreme Court in reality relegated itself into a glorified trial court. It did not write an opinion for the ages. That is the reason why I do not believe this decision will be remembered in history.

If the pillar of a democracy is the true administration of justice, then perhaps the majority of the Court should take heed what Justice Cardozo wrote almost a century ago: “Those who think more of symmetry and logic in the development of legal rules than of practical adaptation to the attainment of a just result will be troubled by a classification where the lines of division are so wavering and blurred.” The majority will have to live with the results of their decision to maintain the status quo in the current constitution; of a fundamentalist Roman Catholic Church who believes that being born into a life of poverty is a blessing; an opposition on the right who is traditionally corrupt; ideologues on the left who have become dangerous extortionists; provincial governments which are powerless to address basic health and education because imperial bureaucrats in Manila think its better to give 40% of the meager national budget to payments of foreign debt; and the continuing middle class brain drain who are leaving for good because self-centered nationalists prohibit foreigners from creating jobs.

I.T. “Sid” Garbanzos
City University of New York
School of Law
Flushing, New York



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