The Supreme Court has to face the music
“The darkest hour is just before dawn.”
This attributably Irish proverb, according to the Phrase Finder website, was first committed to print in 1650 by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller in his religious travelogue A Pisgah – Sight of Palestine. Fuller used it in this wise: “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth." The phrase evokes no other quality but hope. From the gloomy moments of the wee hours, people anticipate the full glory of the morning sun. It is in this period of darkness or adversity that one gets to appreciate more any single ray of light.
It is on this score that I congratulate the author, Ms Marites Dañguilan Vitug, for sending a clear message across – that a full day awaits the Court. There is much to be done. (Editor's note: Vitug recently launched her new book on the Supreme Court, "Hour Before Dawn: The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Supreme Court.")
The author could not have arrived at such composition and set the perfect pitch, without vigorously drumbeating a consistent tune – that is, the Court also needs to face the music. Before any master plan of reform can be orchestrated, any organization needs to come to terms with itself in the context of recent events.
As compellingly presented by the author in the pages of her book, the reality is that political pressure is always lurking around every bend and luring people in every turn of events. It will always be there where opportunity or opportunism calls. Politics will come into play if one will allow it. The Court should shun it outright.
Moreover, as ably recounted by the author, the series of sommersaults or reversals has likewise been hounding the Court.
The late Secretary Jesse Robredo had his acclaimed style of “tsinelas” leadership. The Court also had episodes of displaying its own brand of “tsinelas” tendency… and it is called “flip-flops” [it’s a brand].
A Spanish proverb goes: El sabio muda consejo, el necio no. A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will. Having cited that, what do you make of a man who changes his mind twice, thrice or even more? Well, at least, a woman is entitled to change her mind. American writer Elizabeth Macklin punctuates that it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. That has not become a woman’s sole prerogative, however, as our recent history has shown.
More incisively, blogger S.J. Reidhead quotes Tyron Edwards saying “[he] [who] never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.” The evident premise in a change of decision is thus rectification.
There are two things that ought to be remembered when dealing with this issue.
First, the Court is not infallible. A court may reconsider its decision. When it commits an inaccuracy, it is its duty to rectify, modify or clarify it through the appropriate issuance within the limitations of procedural rules.
Second, the law is dynamic and ever-evolving. Whereas before at one point in history, slavery was perfectly legal, it is now absolutely prohibited. At one point in time, however, there could only be one law or legal interpretation to a difficult question of law. The Supreme Court, being the final arbiter, should speak in one voice.
Solicited or unsolicited, any piece of advice can only do so much. There is no other source of initiative that can reform the Court but the court itself. Institutional integrity starts with personal integrity. The Court can only be as good as the persons who compose it.
Ideally, that should not be a problem at all. After all, the Constitution requires, as a qualification, that every member of the Court, or the judiciary for that matter, should be persons of “proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.” In the end, history will judge us all.
I understand the author has had her bouts with libel suits that have become risks of the trade. It is advanced, with apologies to Benjamin Franklin, that if all printer were determined not to print anything until they were sure it would convey only words of truth, there would be very little discovered.
History tells us that modern-day truths and breakthrough exposés were considered heresies and blasphemies at their inception until after they were painstakingly challenged and distilled in the agora of ideas where sacred beliefs and sacrilegious opinions clash to produce that spark that enlightens.
Once again, congratulations to the “Hour Before Dawn.”
To the fans and followers of this much-anticipated book, the wait is finally over. And to the fans and followers of the Supreme Court, the flames of reform that the book seeks to fan shall hopefully finally intensify. - Rappler.com
(The author, a retired Supreme Court associate justice and at present the Ombudsman, delivered this speech during the launch of Marites Dañguilan Vitug's book, "Hour Before Dawn: The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Supreme Court," on September 21 at Fully Booked, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. The book is available in all branches of National Bookstore and the La Solidaridad bookshop on Padre Faura, Manila.)