Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Condonation doctrine and the Supreme Court

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The Nov. 11 Inquirer reported that the Supreme Court in a recent ruling has abandoned the “condonation doctrine” for being really a bad law. Finally!

It took more than half a century for the Court to realize how repugnant that doctrine was to the Constitution, which from 1935 through various amendments up to 1987, has enshrined the immutable concept that public office is a public trust, and with such trust always comes public accountability.

First enunciated in 1959, the condonation doctrine has been the constant refuge of crooks in government, who would run to it to enjoy immunity from suit after looting public funds and using such ill-gotten wealth to ensure their reelection! Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod, a nonlawyer, said it more bluntly: It was a “crazy” doctrine (“Doctrine of condonation reexamined,” Opinion, 4/18/15).

One wonders whatever happened to the “collective wisdom” of the Supreme Court justices all those years? It had to take plunder of the gravity and magnitude allegedly committed by the Binay family for them to realize how obscenely the idea of public service has been perverted!

For so long, the public has been outraged by the weirdness of that doctrine which virtually encouraged crooks to steal big in order to be able to buy their reelection. But it seemed etched in granite so indelibly nothing could move the Supreme Court to erase that obscenity from jurisprudence. Hence, the looting and plunder continued, corruption took deeper roots and is now practically ineradicable.

The Court cannot avoid taking responsibility for the miserable state this country is in today! It has let the people down. This belated epiphany cannot make up for its past sins of omission. The damage it has done will take eons to repair, if at all that is still possible.

And yet, quite alarmingly, the vote was only 7-3: meaning, five members did not participate, three dissented and only seven voted to “exorcise Philippine jurisprudence” of that pernicious doctrine. While seven may constitute an overwhelming majority of 10 members participating, it’s still one vote shy of the majority of eight for an en banc (full court of 15) decision. So, is there a chance the Supreme Court might revert to that doctrine in the future in favor of an important public official? Of course, if the five abstaining members decide to join the three dissenters!

The Supreme Court justices should stop behaving like “mini-gods of Mt. Olympus” incapable of doing wrong. The truth of the matter is, they can be just as namby-pamby as we ordinary mortals are! If anything, and if their previous flip-flops in other cases weren’t enough proof, this case shows how much more notoriously faulty their mindset can get. It’s not a bad idea for them to show some humility as “public servants,” instead of strutting around like peacocks in their fancy frocks!

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