Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Supreme Court as ‘court of last error’ | Inquirer Opinion

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Interestingly, the Court may sometimes reverse itself. A case in point: Ebranilag v. Division Superintendent of Schools of Cebu, decided in 1993, which upheld the religious freedom of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the petitioners, and exempted them from saluting the Philippine flag which, in their view, is an “image” to which the Bible prohibits them from rendering obeisance. This decision reversed the Court’s earlier ruling in Gerona v. Secretary of Education (106 Phil. 2), which sustained the flag ceremony as a valid exercise of the police power aimed at inculcating in the public the virtue of patriotism and consequently did not exempt members of Jehovah’s Witnesses from saluting the flag. Evidently, the Court made a mistake in deciding Gerona.

Of recent vintage is the latest ruling of the Court in a 2013 decision striking down the pork barrel system as unconstitutional, thereby reversing its earlier rulings in two cases, LAMP v. Secretary of Budget & Management (2012) and Philconsa v. Enriquez (1994), which upheld the constitutionality of the same funding scheme. Again, the Court appears to have erred in deciding the LAMP and Philconsa cases.

Yes, indeed, let’s face it: The Supreme Court is a human institution. It cannot claim infallibility in its decision-making process. To be sure, it may commit errors in rendering its decisions. And should that happen, that’s it. That’s the law.

That’s the bottom line.

- BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR., retired senior commissioner, Commission on Audit

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