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Flawed selection of and degraded Supreme Court


I am not a lawyer, nor am I a person who enjoys any legal credential. I am an ordinary man trying to express logic and reasons and illuminating what is right for the greater good of the place of my birth, the Philippines—that beautiful shining country in the East. Here, I will try to be brief but concise as I explain my insight to what I feel is a major flaw in the making of the Supreme Court of the country—why it seems degraded, swayed by and subservient to the power of the Presidency.
It is said that the Unites States—the most powerful democracy in the world—is the role model from which institutions of democratic governance in the Philippines are derived from. This is true, but it is not all true.

Upon review of the process by which justices of the Philippine Supreme Court are appointed, I argue that Court’s renowned stature—as co-equal to the Executive and the Legislative branches of government— is degraded and tainted stemming from the very process the justices of the highest Court are appointed. Here the Judicial and Bar Council is the only body that can recommend nominees for appointment to vacancies in the Supreme Court. From at least three nominees, the President selects one and that one becomes it—a justice of the Court, period. This undemocratic, brief non-populous process creates conditions where and when the appointed justice becomes so much beholden to the President—thus creating subservient attitude towards the Presidency.

In the United States—the place I have now lived for over 39 years, the abode that gave me opportunity to major in Religious Studies vice Law—the selection of justices of the Supreme Court significantly differs. This difference somehow supports creation of independence and credible thinking that renders power and stature to the Court as co-equal to the other two branches in the ideal tradition of check-and-balance system.

Here, more than one body can submit nominees; Congress, the Justice Department, the Court system and any organization can submit same. From all these nominees and after tedious vetting processes, the President makes an appointment. But this appointment is not the end but the beginning of another difficult process for the appointee. Under the US Constitution, the Senate has the authority to consent to or to disapprove the appointee of the President. The appointee’s professional credentials and qualification, ideological compatibility, and philosophical persuasions are checked, discussed, debated, and finally decided by the full Senate.

As I see, the process of selecting Supreme Court justices in the United States is superior over that in the Philippines. Again, the process here provides attribute of independence to the Supreme Court as its members are beholden not only to the President elected by the people but also beholden to the Congress voted by the citizenry—and ultimately beholden to the citizenry who selected the occupants of the Presidency and Congress. I find this as the core substance of the democratic check-and-balance system, when all three branches of government, as co-equal, perform watchdog duties upon each other on behalf of the citizenry they are beholden to and they are to serve.

May this commentary stir some political minds, create basis to change law— so that the Judiciary becomes truly responsible and responsive to the Constitution and to the people of the Philippines.

On the other hand, I do not subscribe to the claim by others—legal scholars, intellectual writers, et al—that the Supreme Court is right even when it is wrong. To accept this logic is apathy, moral weakness and shameful appeasement with the likes of Hitler and the devil; to concur with this paradigm negates what is truly right and what is truly wrong. Right can not be wrong, wrong can not be right, it must be either right or wrong in line with righteous living, irrespective of theological doctrines.

I do not subscribe as well to the notion that the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. For I can assert as well that—for demonstrated unbridled incompetence, corrupt practices, and favoritism of the Courts—the police power and the power to declare martial law of the Executive can also serve as the court of last resort.
And either through violent or peaceful means, the people power can also become truly the court of last resort.

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