[ANALYSIS | Deep Dive] Game changers
At the start of 2019, we take a Deep Dive into some of the things that we would want to see happen or not happen anymore in 2019 and why. These are the game changers we want – hope – to see in 2019.
1. The Supreme Court becomes supreme again
Amidst pervasive cynicism brought about by its decision to grant quo warranto and oust its own Chief Justice and in the face of growing impunity and attempts at constitutional adventurism, the Supreme Court in 2019 needs to be a game changer. Here are two ways to do that.
The first would be for the SC to decide, hopefully favorably, on the consolidated petitions which squarely raised the issue of extrajudicial killings, or EJKs, and the legality of government’s centerpiece programs – tokhang and double barrel. Confronting the policy head-on and asking the SC to take away the ostensible legal basis that created the environment for EJKs and other abuses in the name of the so-called “war on drugs,” the petitions represent a full-throated scream of “Stop!” If the SC decides favorably, it takes away any pretense of legality for the operations that have led to the killings and other abuses. And it stops impunity dead in its tracks.
The second would be for the SC to take seriously the duty to determine the sufficiency of the factual basis for any proclamation of martial law, suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or any extension thereof. Congress has just extended for the third time the proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until the end of the year. Previous challenges to the sufficiency of the factual basis for the proclamation and suspension have seen the SC exercising utmost deference to both the President and Congress. The third extension of martial law has been questioned before the SC. It might be time for the Court to look beyond the President’s proclamation and Congress’s extension and, in the exercise of its constitutionally-mandated checking role, truly determine the sufficiency of the factual basis for the third extension of martial law.
To be a game changer in 2019, the SC, as an institution, must once again breathe life into the principle of separation of powers; abandon undue deference; and exercise, in appropriate cases, its constitutionally-granted checking power to determine the existence of grave abuse of discretion on the part of any branch, instrumentality, or agency of government.
2. The JBC really digs deep
Because of the number of appointments to the SC that the President gets to make in 2019 alone, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) must really dig deep.
Due to compulsory retirements in 2019, the President gets to appoint one Chief Justice to succeed Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, who is retiring in October, and possibly up to 5 Associate Justices to replace Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, who retired on January 5; and Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo (July) and Francis H. Jardeleza (September); and Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio (October). The President’s fifth Associate Justice pick comes up if he appoints a Chief Justice from among the incumbents on the SC, thus leaving an Associate Justice vacancy.
The number of 2019 appointments alone would constitute a third of the SC and will certainly shape and influence the SC in the years to come. Thus far, the President has appointed career jurists from either the Court of Appeals or the Sandiganbayan for his SC Associate Justice picks (Martires and Gesmundo from the Sandiganbayan and Tijam, A. Reyes Jr., J. Reyes Jr., Hernando, and Carandang from the Court of Appeals), but he has also not appointed young justices, i.e., those who will serve for at least 10 years, with the exception of Gesmundo (retiring in 2026) and Hernando (retiring in 2036). Whether he continues doing so for 2019 remains to be seen.
The JBC needs to dig deeper and not simply rely on the time-bound public interview and the standard forms required for a Supreme Court application. It needs to go beyond these and scrutinize and consider seriously judicial voting records, personal and professional connections with the appointing power, financial entanglements, both existing and probable, of applicants, and other reasons for gratitude, thus the possible lack of independence on the part of SC aspirants.
3. The lower courts start flexing their muscle
In a previous Deep Dive, I lauded two Sandiganbayan justices and two RTC judges for going against the grain: Justices Dela Cruz and Estoesta, for dissenting in the Revilla acquittal, and Judge Andres Soriano, for refusing to buckle under pressure to resurrect a long-dead case just to arrest Senator Trillanes, and Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr, for convicting the murderers of Kian delos Santos, an EJK victim.
It is time for other members of the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals, and the trial courts of the first and second level to also show that Justices Dela Cruz and Estoesta and Judges Soriano, and Azucena Jr are not merely isolated bright lights but that there is an entire constellation out there of judges willing to stand up for what is right, regardless of consequences to professional growth and continued personal existence.
4. No one laughs at the President’s jokes
A comedian’s worst nightmare is a quiet room.
A game changer for 2019 would be quiet rooms during the President’s speeches.
5. We take the elections seriously and not elect political jokes into office
The May elections for Congress and local posts would itself be a game changer. While the President’s name is not on the ballot, it would be the first time since 2016 that the people, including the 16 million who voted him into power, would have a chance at correcting the imbalance of having a super majority controlling both houses of Congress. To do this, voters need to take the elections seriously and confront candidates head-on on issues. Voters also need to do their homework and not simply be enticed by attractive jingles, slick videos, shiny posters with photoshopped mug shots, and catchy taglines and hashtags; voters must demand that candidates justify themselves worthy of their votes. This is the only way to keep political jokes out of office.
6. We stand up to China
Nothing much needs to be added. This is both intuitive and also imperative, self-explanatory though not self-executing. It requires a deep love of country, a shared commitment to protect and stand up for what is ours, and a reckless faith in the force of a people united and empowered.
If this happens, it would be the biggest game changer of the year and possibly for many years to come. – Rappler.com