“BIGGEST Batch of Women Cadets to Greet DU30,” read a headline, referring to the new women PMAyers. I made possible the entry of women into the PMA in a 1991 bicameral committee conference on a bill on Women in Nation Building, or RA 7192, authored by my college chum, Raul S. Roco. (A bicam meet is conducted when the two chambers’ differing versions need to be harmonized, or enhanced, making that body that powerful, as the Third House. I simply had the sex requirement deleted. There is of course the Fourth House, the camara de la imprenta, where it is said a naughty lawmaker would add a zero or two at the end to a budget, say, for an avenue, he he.)
I trust Gen. Florencio Magsino has forgiven me by now for fathering the breach in the last bastion of machismo, to last and even spread. Last time we met some years ago, he was still chiding me for my impertinence.
The chauvinist Prez and the times may not have been kind to women like Sen. Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Chit Carpio-Morales, journalists Maria Ressa/Pia Ranada, CHED chief Tatti Licuanan, and Chief Justice Meilou Sereno, for standing up to the Prez, whose expansionary appetite seems boundless. He wants total control of the government and the press. But, these gutsy, undiscourageable women, like Ka Celing Muñoz Palma, doggedly soldier on.
Unexpected quo warranto
The marathon House (of arguably namby-pamby tutas?) hearings may finally end but then there’s the remarkable and unexpected quo warranto (QW) proceeding filed by the Solicitor General Joe Calida. All along, the talk had been of RA 6713, until Rep. Vicente Veloso (former Court of Appeals justice) triggered a Eureka! moment in the Lower House, and in the SolGen’s QW petition, Compañero Joe unexpectedly hammered on RA3019, thusly:
“80. The SALN requirement in the Charter recognized what has already been in the statute books. As early as 1960, Congress imposed that requirement in RA3019. Section 7 of the law accordingly states:
“Section 7. Statement of assets and liabilities. Every public officer, within thirty days . . . after assuming office, and within the month of January of every other year thereafter, as well as upon the expiration of his term of office, or upon his resignation or separation from office, shall prepare and file with the office of the corresponding Department Head, or in the case of a Head of Department or chief of an independent office, with the Office of the President, or in the case of members of the Congress and the officials and employees thereof, with the Office of the Secretary of the corresponding House, a true detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including a statement of the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year:….(italics added)
Interesting. If the SolGen can show me an authentic copy of a statement timely filed by him or any other incumbent where the filer disclosed the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year, I’ll eat it.
The Good Book has something to say about seeing the mote in one’s eyes and missing the beam in one’s own. Joe’s 17 assistants who co-signed his petition may save their boss and themselves by showing us copies of their own SALNs complying with the Tolentino Law to show that we are not entirely a nation of scofflaws, or fake pretentious Tribunes.
All these years, I have challenged my studes to produce a SALN complying not only with RA 6713 (the Salonga-Saguisag Law), but also with RA 3019. Only one, a woman stude of mine, seems to have succeeded as to the latter but it was one preserved by the filer from the Dark Years; I passed her on that fantastic basis alone.
In 2012, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the lead agency under Sec. 12 of RA6713, tried to enforce Sec. 7 of RA3019; the Lower (bagay talaga) House howled. The CSC was seen scampering away with its tail between its legs. Natameme. CSC, how about it, today? The law hath not been dead though it hath slept? (Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”)
Administrative, not criminal
I have always stressed that our intent in passing RA6713 was administrative, not criminal. Thus, a vital provision is Sec. 10, on a Review and Compliance Procedure, for correction. Lead agency is the civil Civil Service Commission, not the punitive Ombudsman nor the Department of Justice.
What I have been suggesting is for Congress to amnesty the massive noncompliance, to benefit presidents down to the last barangay dogcatcher, with the caveat that thereafter, violators would be dealt with more severely, particularly lawyers.
My pal, Mon Tulfo, not a lawyer, says to qualify as a state witness, one must be “the least guilty,” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 20, 2018)), and who therefore may know nothing or little then, so, whatever for? What Sec. 17 (e) of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court really says is the “accused does not appear to be the most guilty,” but may know a lot of criminatory stuff.
On another pal Oscar Lagman’s questioning in the same PDI issue, the grant of bail to nonagenarian JPE, the Supreme Court, in 1946, granted bail for humanitarian reasons to Benigno Aquino, Sr., in 1947; he passed away the following year, at 47, watching a boxing match at the Rizal Memorial. Uncle Jovy Salonga was released by Macoy to the custody of Auntie Lydia, a prisoner of love.
Last time JPE and I shook hands in the Senate, where we were for Manang Letty Ramos-Shahani’s necro, his grip was firm and he indeed looked makamandag pa. Bedroom terrorist still? Indeed, how many can boast of at least 38 girlfriends, as reported in the Inquirer some years ago, if my memory is true? And counting? Frail, and deserving of release, was he, according to doctors in the Supreme Court? You’re telling me. Now, he’ll prosecute, vigorously.
Tough Manong JPE may be a bull-strong lead prosecutor in the trial of CJ Meilou Sereno, whom SolGen Joe Calida charged for allegedly not filing a statement under Sec. 7 of RA3019, again, on “the amounts and sources of [her]income, the amounts of [her]personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year.” (Petition, pp. 28-29.) Heretofore, talk was limited to RA6713. Now, the SolGen brought in RA 3019, and he may yet live to regret it. Again, if the feisty SolGen and his 17 assistants, all competent, who co-signed the quo warranto petition can show me copies of their statements mentioning said income, expenses and taxes, I’ll eat them.
Justices prejudging CJ
Not to miss the beams in one’s own eyes, when pointing out the motes in others. Such awfully sanctimonious piece of pious fiction in a country where laws are “more honored in the breach, than in the observance.” (Shakespeare, “Hamlet”)
Anyone charged is entitled to a fair and impartial tribunal. How many justices have prejudged the CJ and prematurely thrown their weight on the other side? Can they sit in judgment of one they have publicly condemned? It is hornbook doctrine that even if a rule be fair on its face but if it is administered with an evil eye and an unequal hand, it would violate one’s basic human and constitutional right to equal protection. (Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 US 356, 373-74, 1886)
Justice must satisfy the appearance of justice? How many justices have held their horses while evidence trickles in of some allegedly impeachable offense? Whatever may be proven in regard to the Tolentino Law of 1960 and the Salonga-Saguisag Law of 1989, an impeachable offense is respectfully submitted to be out, more so if the review-and-compliance requirement is not met.
And the unprecedented appearance in the House to make sumbong and the public statements of those who may not like the CJ, who may arguably need Dale Carnegie lessons, may come back to haunt them. They answer to their conscience and to history.
I hope to see a better Supreme Court focused on deciding cases—a lofty constitutional task—not frittering away their time in forlorn time- and energy-wasting turf struggles, dividing, and weakening the judiciary, to the delight of an irredentist presidency. But, even if so focused, decisions only seem to reflect the prevailing power situation, when and where the Palace is interested in.
That is the sin of the CJ, not kowtowing, and saying, “Yes, Master.” If she had behaved like the Lower House supernumerary, ooops, super-majority, she would not be impeached by the House and tried by the Senate, much less “quo-warrantized,” to borrow from a law classmate who floored Prof. Florenz Regalado with his neologism.