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Voting unanimously, the SC ordered the poll body to enable the voter verified paper audit trail feature of the vote counting machines to be used for the polls.  (Philstar.com/File)


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WHEN Philippine Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te announced last Tuesday the High Court’s favorable decision on Sen. Grace Poe’s much awaited disqualification case, he was reported to have said, “I am authorized to say that there will be four concurring opinions to the Majority Decision, and five dissenting opinions. Please note that since the Court has only authorized the release of the vote, it may not be safe to report which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence. Thus, it may be best to simply say, the SC grants Sen. Poe’s petitions, 9-6, allowing her to run for the presidency.”

It is obvious from the above statement that the Supreme Court is dictating on media what it could report and how it should report the Court’s decision reversing the Commission on Elections on Sen. Poe’s disqualification as presidential candidate last December.

Mr. Te says he was instructed that the media could only report the justices’ vote count, 9-6.

That’s it!

And (here’s the subtle warning), “it may not be safe to report which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence.”

Apparently, the Supreme Court, especially the nine who voted for Sen. Poe, are trying to avoid a possible backlash from those who might find the basis for the vote objectionable or questionable if announced right away.

So, the High Court, in anticipation, evidently limited the release of information contrary to usual practice, at the expense of the rights of people to know and the rights of the press to report the news.

The Court was correct.

There are strong disagreements even before the justices’ opinions are made public.


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Presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe delivers a speech before thousands during the celebration of International Women’s Day at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila on March 8.  (Photo by Jay Morales)


The bold and bright columnist of The Manila Times Yen Makabenta wrote, “In ignoring the constitutional provisions for certain qualifications for candidates for president, the Court sent the Constitution into exile, and suspended the rule of law. This will galvanize people into action.

“...Obsessed with retaining some power and influence after the elections, President BS. Aquino meddled in the Court’s voting by ordering SC justices he appointed to support Ms Poe.

“There’s talk that two former chief justices did the legwork for Ms. Poe’s camp in persuading and cajoling the justices to vote in Ms. Poe’s favor. She had money to burn.”

My good friend, Atty. Manuel J. Laserna, Jr., a 1985 bar top placer (3rd) in Manila, posted in his legal blog the following last Thursday:

“At the end of the day, numbers rule whether it is Congress or the SC (Supreme Court).

“We disagree with the SC decision declaring the eligibility of Poe to run for president.

“We believe its decision to reverse the Comelec rulings is wrong.

“As members of the Bar, though, we have no choice but to respect and accept all SC decisions as part of PH jurisprudence.

“When the MTC, RTC and CA make mistakes, they are appealable to and reviewable by the SC.

“When the SC, as the highest court of the land, makes mistakes, they ‘form part of the law of the land.’

“By legal fiction, the SC is incapable of making mistakes.

“Its mistakes are deemed to be the ‘correct law of the land.’

“Its mistakes ‘form part of the law of the land.’

“Comelec, et. al. may file their respective motions for reconsideration to give the SC a chance to correct its own mistake in the case of Poe.

“The SC will most probably deny such motions.

“We’ll just have to wait for a future SC to revisit the abovementioned error in an appropriate case.

“With due respect, we say that the current ‘Sereno Court’ has failed us.

“We are disappointed.

“But our love for the rule of law is not weakened.

“Jurisprudence, just like politics, changes with the signs of the times.”

Incisive and intelligent opinions from Atty. Laserna.


***


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Sen. Jovito Salonga

The last of the highly-respected and admired Filipino senator of the 70s, Jovito Salonga (pictured above), has departed on March 10 to begin his eternal life.

He was 95.

For young Filipinos who do not know, the late Philippine Government official championed the cause of the poor as he won three consecutive times as number 1 senator.  

The Philippine Government refers to the late senator as “Pillar of Philippine democracy.”

Salonga studied law at the University of the Philippines.

Together with another patriotic Filipino senator, Jose W. Diokno, they topped the 1944 bar examinations with a score of 95.3%.

Salonga obtained his masters of law degree from Harvard Law School in 1948, and his doctor of law degree from Yale Law School in 1949.

The late senator was an eloquent and powerful speaker.

During his years as senator, I used to go to the Old Congress Building when then Sen. Salonga was scheduled to deliver a privilege speech.

I was never disappointed listening to him.

May the late senator rest in peace.

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