THE Supreme Court last week handed the Aquino Administration a legal drubbing when it declared in a 10-5 vote as unconstitutional the highly-touted Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

The High Court ruled that President Benigno Aquino’s first Executive Order (EO) 1 violated the equal protection clause by instructing the commission to investigate singlehandedly alleged corrupt acts and practices by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her officials during the latter’s nine-year administration.

In taking EO 1 to court, several petitioners charged, to which the High Court concurred, that the commission was “an adventure in partisan hostility, a launching pad for trial/conviction by publicity and a mere populist propaganda.”

The administration has the option of seeking reconsideration but it is unlikely that the justices will reverse the ruling which was resolved purely on its merit, not on political considerations even though all the justices who voted for or against were appointed by President Arroyo.

The only exception was Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno, who was appointed by President Aquino, and who voted with the minority.

“This means that all justices resolved the case based on what they feel was right and based solely on the law,” said the acting SC public information chief, also a lawyer.

In effect, the justices upheld that EO 1 violated the separation of powers of the executive and legislative branches of government. It also arrogated unto itself the power of Congress to create government or public offices, and vested the commission with quasi-judicial powers that requires a law which was outside the ambit of the executive department.

Why then did the President’s legal team, especially his executive secretary who is a lawyer himself, persist in creating the Truth Commission despite prevalent legal misgiving?

It smacks of shoddy legal staff work, or naked arrogance, that having won the presidential election by a vast majority, it can short circuit the justice system.

It’s about time the President took a close look at his obviously lightweight gurus. At the rate they are going, they might embroil him in more embarrassing and probably irreparable harm.

Being new at the job is no excuse for sloppiness. Or ineptitude.

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