Grace Poe case: Now the debate begins

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino
Grace Poe case: Now the debate begins
The people must now decide whether or not they want her to be president

We still have to hear its reasons, but the Supreme Court has voted for Ms. Grace Poe. What it says that we still have to read on the issues of law argued before it now becomes part of the Philippine legal system, not necessarily because it is correct, but because it is “supreme.” That is one of the inconveniences of the Rule of Law which we must put up with if we wish to continue in the enjoyment of its benefits.

The arguments arrayed against the candidacy of Ms. Grace Poe were formidable and, to my mind, neither privileged nor qualified to don the robes of a justice of the High Court. The arguments for her were largely non-arguments: concern for the plight of foundlings and an eagerness to avoid any semblance of discrimination against the disadvantaged.

Now, however, the debate starts. The arguments of lawyers have gone their course. The arguments of scholars of the law must now commence, or better, continue in earnestness and with even more intensity because this was a dispute that went far beyond Ms. Poe and into the very heart of the nature of the Constitution and the hermeneutics of constitutionalism.

But the more important debate should be that between thoughtful Filipinos. 

Knowing that Ms. Poe renounced her citizenship, foreswore allegiance to our Republic, opted to be a permanent resident of a foreign land, and then returned when it suited her to do so, aware that she was not completely truthful about the use of an American passport, and suspicious that she may have used more than one Social Security Number in the US to reap doubly from the benefits accorded social security enrollees, the people must now decide whether or not they want her to be president.

Those who have not gone aboard the Poe bandwagon because of FPJ (a pathetic reason to do so!) have signed on I think because they think her to be the decent alternative to one who promises to continue the Daang Matuwid, which a good number of our people would prefer to forget! 

But the question begs itself: Is she indeed an alternative, or a shadow candidate? And can we attribute to her the decency that has been attached to the mythic magnitude of the “amiable daughter of FPJ”?

No longer gods?

What happened yesterday also allows us to demythologize the Supreme Court, which is a good thing. It must be obeyed and, for better or worse, its doctrinal pronouncements must remain binding precedent where they apply.  

But its magistrates are no longer “the gods of Padre Faura,” but men and women with feet of clay, as malleable as human beings are, never driven solely by love of the law and fidelity to its commands, but susceptible to forces that do not always surface but are nevertheless surely at work. Thus are the ways of humankind. Thus is the way too of our Supreme Court.  

For now, its judgment will stand, and we shall endeavor to read the Constitution as it bids us too –  although I still have to see how we can continue to read the fundamental law as a coherent whole and trust in its letter. 

The Supreme Court must be obeyed, not because it is necessarily right, but because it is supreme, but only with the supremacy which fallible mortals are capable of. It is in many ways fortuitous, with the very same fortuity that makes kings supreme: because they happened to be sons of kings! –


The author is Dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College




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