Midnight CJ and the Four R’s

Rene Saguisag

The framers could have said the position of Chief Justice (CJ) should be filled up immediately and that only the CJ could swear in a Prez. They did not. They said any judicial vacancy should be filled up within 90 days, which I suggest is even merely directory, not even mandatory. No way we can mandamus a Prez.

The case of Justice Minita Chico Nazario, where the vacancy was filled up six months later is instructive; she twisted in the wind that long before finally taking her oath and becoming a credit to the SC.

It took more than six months for CJ Querube C. Makalintal to replace CJ Roberto R. Concepcion. Thus, the virtue of collegiality. It also shows that when the Constitution gave the Prez 90 days to name a new Justice, the lack of urgency was seen. May the SC order the JBC, headed by the CJ?

When Marcos won, if my memory is true, I had at least two excellent teachers who had been named to the bench just before Macapagal himself was to step down. Seen as more than qualified, maybe, but no one in the judiciary, or elsewhere, is indispensable. The two had to go. In May, 1982, for a working week, we had no Supreme Court at all! All told, vacant days added together, we had no CJ for years. The nation moved on. There simply was no fire.

Now we have a golden chance for a transparent process in lieu of arcana. Justice Rene Corona must disclose in open hearing his suspicion that Justice Tony Carpio was out to smear him. Tony denied the charge, corroborated by Nanding Campos, who Rene had said tried to influence him improperly by using three ex-Justices to approach him (which those of us of the old school us would never do; it just was not and should not be done).

GMA acknowledged on December 30, 2002 that she divides our people. Now, she plans to continue in public life, and some salivate. Why? Are these but the noises of democracy we were glad to have again in 1986 after 15 years of coercive elimination of dissenters, leading to Jackson’s unanimity of the graveyard?

Charito Planas I first met in Washington, D.C. in 1982. She has chosen to be with GMA. The right to pick we cannot question, be it elixir or poison we choose. But, as in the case of Gary Olivar, what does she have to say about the Morong 43? The duo both courageously fought martial misrule. May God bless them both. But we in the human rights community need to hear them on the 43.

FOCAP (like our friend, Tony Lopez) could be naughty. Last Tuesday it held a forum entitled Who Will Fix the Mess? I saw no one take issue with the tendentious theme. All prez wannabes said No to operating the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Bravo! A Korean firm said it would need a billion pesos at least, which may yet double, or triple, to repair and upgrade it. But, we are pasable-OK-na-puede-na Pinoys. I hope Prez Cory and I would no longer be blamed for not operating the plant in 1986, when Chernobyl made it easy to mothball it. But, I had not realized I was so effective chairing the Cabinet and Senate Committees on it that here we are, 24 years after the event and no Prez or wannabe is for operating it.

This fact emerged with crystal clarity in the FOCAP affair. Nick Perlas was with me in the 1986-1992 effort.

Even Engineer FVR would not dare put the nuke plant on line (his home province is Pangasinan; I married one from there and it now welcomes nuke power in a nation where Murphy’s Law—if anything can go wrong, it will—prevails in rampancy: I am not sure we can be like Russia or Japan ably dealing with Chernobyl or Toyota’s recall). We need new energy plans. We need to know from the bets what their plans are, on top of their other sales talk, to pay public servants above the level of corruption by laying down the economic foundation of honesty. Dick Gordon would want school teachers to get P40,000 a month, less than the additional bonus of House employees last Christmas given by Congressmen: how much did they get for themselves?

There must be a better deal for employees, whether public or private, for them to compete for admission into public service.

On specifics, what do they have to say on senior citizens discounts where an employer’s profit is marginal and who will go under with the additional discount? Is this not confiscatory? Any subsidy? Else, the employer may fire employees to salvage the ailing business. There must be a health program too so one with a dollar (less than P50) can have dialysis monthly. More than Motherhood spiels we need from the leading bets. Those who have no chance should withdraw, to improve the chances of even a bad bet; else, by hurting him, we may get a worse, or even the worst one, in lying, cheating and stealing. Balzac said that behind every great wealth is a great crime. How many of the bets have no great wealth?

Anyway, I need to see in the text of the 1987 Constitution, or maybe, someone can show us that, in the debates, the intent was that in the judiciary “midnight appointments” are allowed, contrary to what the SC has nixed. I know how careful the JBC and SC are in observing the no-appointment rule during the critical two months. That was why the promotion of some RTC Judges created a hassle some years ago (even if admittedly, the nominees were good); there was static about antedating to make it appear as not falling within the interdicted two-month period. No transparency. Shielding the nomination process from scrutiny should go. If it would need a constitutional change so be it. Back to the Commission on Appointments? Noynoy I don’t recall ever having opposed any change in the 1987 Consti. He and his Mom, along with millions, simply wanted to do the Right thing in the Right way at the Right time for the Right reason.

Nothing says the CJ should administer the oath. Cory and Doy were sworn in on February 25, 1986 by “mere” Associate Justices, who used the rather unconventional formulation I rushed the night before in a rinky-dink typewriter. Indeed, an ordinary notary public can administer it. When we took power in 1986, I had no time to take it but then it was a risky revolutionary government we had inaugurated. Later, in a more normal time, I took it before a notary. It could not be said that I violated my Four R’s.

Today, what is not being violated in the violent time in the vilest possible way?