[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A moral snowball

The Supreme Court coup that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has provoked a civil militancy at once indignant and desperate.

The closeness of the vote (8-6) lightens somewhat the feeling of desperation, inspiring an enforceable, if vague, hope that the vote could be reversed. To that end, efforts are being undertaken to reach out to the persuadable justices by private representations. Meanwhile, protests are snowballing against the vote – street demonstrations, camp-outs, vigils, hunger strikes, and forums on campuses and elsewhere. The Senate itself, in a rare meeting of sentiments across the aisle, with 14 out of the 23 senators signing, has sent a protest resolution to the Supreme Court.    

The hopeful thinking is that two or 3 of the Court's majority may have simply allowed themselves to be swept along before they could be initiated fully into the plot and that, amid the storm of righteous outrage at the vote, they might rediscover their consciences and reconsider – at least two turn-around votes (6-8) are required to win a motion for reconsideration.

On the other hand, the indignation is heightened by a sense that the vote may have actually solidified the Supreme Court's cooptation into the ruling regime. After all, it has ruled consistently for Duterte's espousals, notably, the acquittal  of plunder suspect Gloria Arroyo, the former President and now Deputy Speaker; a hero's burial for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos; and martial law for all of Mindanao, an emergency whose justification ceased to exist when Duterte declared complete victory in his war there, in Marawi City, against a mixed band of brigands, separatists, and terrorist suspects.

But it's the Sereno ruling that has earned the Court singular infamy. It is simply unthinkable that justices of the highest court would risk the great shame of allowing their basal instincts, envy, and opportunism in particular, to get the better of them.

Five of the justices in fact openly compromised themselves by appearing at the House of Representatives' televised hearings of the impeachment case against Sereno, although, still, they had nothing to reveal that remotely qualifies as an impeachable offense. They simply vented resentments she apparently incurred being a much younger outsider coming in as their chief and a no-nonsense and un-clubby (conveniently misrepresented as un-collegial) administrator.

Only 52 years old, Sereno came in for a term of 18 years, ending at age 70, prospectively the longest in history. That frustrated all chances of the other justices to rise to chief. With her ouster, they could enjoy their spoils and take turns as chief over the 12 and a half years she left unserved and retire with, for one thing – one cheap thing – a higher pension.

If the 5 had inhibited themselves, as Sereno had demanded, from taking part in passing judgment on her – in fact they should have done that on their own as a matter of nominal decency, after betraying their biases – the vote would have gone her way. Still, and rightfully, she claimed moral victory.

Indeed, any fight for justice under the draconian regime of Rodrigo Duterte can only be a moral one. Sereno's own fight began when she resisted Duterte’s intrusions, laughably in the name of moral reform, into her jurisdiction – it certainly did not help that she always voted with the upstanding minority. Duterte swore to get her out of his way. Thus, an impeachment plot was set in motion against her. But, when impeachment began to look too tedious and unpredictable for Duterte's bullheaded pace, the Supreme Court hijacked the congressional authority to impeach and try Sereno and do the job itself, quickly and shamelessly, by quo warranto.

Quo warranto is a legal proceeding that applies standards easier than those for impeachment. Not that it legally applies to Sereno, but it was twisted to purpose – to declare her unqualified as chief justice. Unqualified after having served for 5 and a half years! Unqualified after having begun, as evidenced by court cases moving apace, to institute systemic reforms in the judiciary!

At any rate, if Duterte and his gang think they're done with Sereno, they’re mistaken. She's not going away. In fact, as soon as the vote came down on her, she emerged from the Supreme Court and descended onto the street to take her place among her masses of supporters and be embraced by them as both their leader and the embodiment of their cause.

She's been out there since, rallying the nation, making Duterte feel so insecure he has taken to calling out across the West Philippine Sea to his Manchurian principals. – Rappler.com