Monday, July 25, 2016

TO BAIL OR NOT TO BAIL… THAT IS THE QUESTION (Enrile vs. Sandiganbayan, et al.)

By Obiter07

Pursuant to the 1987 Constitution and Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, an accused is not entitled to bail in capital offenses - or where the charges would merit the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment - until the court holds hearings to determine if the evidence of guilt is strong.  In this case, bail was granted even though 1) the case involved plunder where the convicted principal shall be punished by life imprisonment; 2) there was no evidentiary hearing (to determine if the evidence of guilt is strong); 3) the granting of bail was based on new grounds: ill health, social standing and the previous favorable conduct of the accused; and 4) the new grounds were not even alleged by the accused.

In Enrile vs. Sandiganbayan, et al. (G.R. No. 213847, August 18, 2015), the Court’s opening statements are telling of its final verdict: “[t]he decision whether to detain or release an accused before and during trial is ultimately an incident of the judicial power to hear and determine his criminal case.”  However,  the “strength of the Prosecution’s case, albeit a good measure of the accused’s propensity for flight or for causing harm to the public, is subsidiary to the primary objective of bail, which is to ensure that the accused appears at trial.” 

Senator Enrile was charged, with several others, of the crime of plunder before the Sandiganbayan with respect to the alleged “diversion and misuse of appropriations under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).”  When a warrant of arrest was issued against him, Senator Enrile surrendered himself to the Sandiganbayan and was later confined at the PNP hospital. He then filed the Motion to Fix Bail, arguing that bail should be granted “because: (a) the Prosecution had not yet established that the evidence of his guilt was strong; (b) although he was charged with plunder, the penalty as to him would only be reclusion temporal, not reclusion perpetua; and (c) he was not a flight risk, and his age and physical condition must further be seriously considered.” This was denied by Sandiganbayan.   His motion for reconsideration of this resolution was likewise denied.  He then filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court, he further argued that, if convicted, he would not face the penalty of reclusion perpetua  “considering the presence of two mitigating circumstances – his age and his voluntary surrender.” There is also no “proof showing that his guilt for the crime of plunder is strong; and that he should not be considered a flight risk taking into account that he is already over the age of 90, his medical condition, and his social standing.”

The Court stated that it could not consider his argument that the “two mitigating circumstances that should be appreciated in his favor, namely: that he was already over 70 years at the time of the alleged commission of the offense, and that he voluntarily surrendered” would entitle him to bail as this would lower the penalty from reclusion perpetua.  This was because, “the determination, being primarily factual in context, is ideally to be made by the trial court.”

The Court instead granted bail even in the absence of a hearing to determine guilt “guided by the earlier mentioned principal purpose of bail, which is to guarantee the appearance of the accused at the trial, or whenever so required by the court.” It went on to cite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to:

“x x x uphold the fundamental human rights as well as value the worth and dignity of every person. This commitment is enshrined in Section II, Article II of our Constitution which provides: “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” 

The Court determined that “[t]he Philippines, therefore, has the responsibility of protecting and promoting the right of every person to liberty and due process, ensuring that those detained or arrested can participate in the proceedings before a court, to enable it to decide without delay on the legality of the detention and order their release if justified. In other words, the Philippine authorities are under obligation to make available to every person under detention such remedies which safeguard their fundamental right to liberty. These remedies include the right to be admitted to bail.” [Emphasis supplied]

The Court gave weight to “his social and political standing and his having immediately surrendered to the authorities upon his being charged in court indicate that the risk of his flight or escape from this jurisdiction is highly unlikely. His personal disposition from the onset of his indictment for plunder, formal or otherwise, has demonstrated his utter respect for the legal processes of this country. We also do not ignore that at an earlier time many years ago when he had been charged with rebellion with murder and multiple frustrated murder, he already evinced a similar personal disposition of respect for the legal processes, and was granted bail during the pendency of his trial because he was not seen as a flight risk. With his solid reputation in both his public and his private lives, his long years of public service, and history’s judgment of him being at stake, he should be granted bail.”

Also the “currently fragile state of Enrile’s health presents another compelling justification for his admission to bail xxx.” His various ailments were considered by the Court, from hypertension to COPD which, singly or collectively, could pose significant risks to the life of Enrile xxx.” Even the OIC of the PNP General Hospital where he was confined, did not recommend that this confinement continue “because of the limitations in the medical support at that hospital.”

The Court further held that bail “for the provisional liberty of the accused, regardless of the crime charged, should be allowed independently of the merits of the charge, provided his continued incarceration is clearly shown to be injurious to his health or to endanger his life. Indeed, denying him bail despite imperiling his health and life would not serve the true objective of preventive incarceration during the trial.

Citing Dela Rama v. The People’s Court: “x x x [U]nless allowance of bail is forbidden by law in the particular case, the illness of the prisoner, independently of the merits of the case, is a circumstance, and the humanity of the law makes it a consideration which should, regardless of the charge and the stage of the proceeding, influence the court to exercise its discretion to admit the prisoner to bail; x x x”

The Court observed that “that granting provisional liberty to Enrile will then enable him to have his medical condition be properly addressed and better attended to by competent physicians in the hospitals of his choice. This will not only aid in his adequate preparation of his defense but, more importantly, will guarantee his appearance in court for the trial.”

He should not be made to wait “for the trial to finish before a meaningful consideration of the application for bail can be had is to defeat the objective of bail, which is to entitle the accused to provisional liberty pending the trial. There may be circumstances decisive of the issue of bail – whose existence is either admitted by the Prosecution, or is properly the subject of judicial notice – that the courts can already consider in resolving the application for bail without awaiting the trial to finish.” The Court stated that it was balancing “the scales of justice by protecting the interest of the People through ensuring his personal appearance at the trial, and at the same time realizing for him the guarantees of due process as well as to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

It found that the Sandiganbayan “arbitrarily ignored the objective of bail to ensure the appearance of the accused during the trial; and unwarrantedly disregarded the clear showing of the fragile health and advanced age of Enrile.”  The Court ordered his release upon the posting of a cash bond of P1,000,000.00.

Since under the Constitution and the Rules of Court, humanitarian considerations are not grounds for the grant of bail, we remain curious as to the Court’s future decisions once similar humanitarian petitions for bail are filed. 


Monday, October 5, 2015

BROTHERHOOD OF THE DAMNED: THE FIRST EVER HAZING CONVICTIONS (Convictions under the Anti-Hazing law based on disputable presumption of actual participation and circumstantial evidence)

By Siesta-friendly

Republic Act No. 8049 (An Act Regulating Hazing And Other Forms Of Initiation Rites In Fraternities, Sororities, And Other Organizations And Providing Penalties Therefor), popularly known as the Anti-Hazing Law, has been in existence since 1995.  We’ve had several deaths due to hazing since then yet 2015 is the year we get our first convictions.  It also took a while to get the convictions considering it was in January 14, 2006 when Alpha Phi Omega neophyte Marlon Villanueva was killed during hazing.

Apart from the first hazing convictions, Dandy L. Dungo and Gregorio A. Sibal, Jr. vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 209464, July 1, 2015) is also notable for its anti-hazing convictions based on “disputable presumption of actual participation” and based on circumstantial evidence.

In support of the convictions, below are the facts detailed by the CA and cited by the SC -

1.      Marlon Villanueva is a neophyte of Alpha Phi Omega, as testified by his roommate Joey Atienza.
2.      At around 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of January 13, 2006, [UPLB student Gay Czarina] Sunga was staying at their tambayan, talking to her organization mates.  Three men were seated two meters way from her.  She identified two of the men as appellants Sibal and Dungo, while she did not know the third man.  The three men were wearing black shirts with the seal of the Alpha Phi Omega.
3.      Later at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, two more men coming from the entomology wing arrived and approached the three men.  Among the men who just arrived was the victim, Marlon Villanueva.  One of the men wearing black APO shirts handed over to the two fraternity neophytes some money and told the men "Mamalengke na kayo."  He later took back the money and said, "Huwag na, kami na lang."
4.      One of the men wearing a black APO shirt, who was later identified as appellant Dungo, stood up and asked Marlon if the latter already reported to him, and asked him why he did not report to him when he was just at the, tambayan.  Dungo then continuously punched the victim on his arm.  This went on for five minutes. Marlon just kept quiet with his head bowed down. Fifteen minutes later, the men left going towards the Entomology wing.
5.      The deceased Marlon Villanueva was 'last seen alive by Joey Atienza at 7:00 in the evening of 13 January 2006, from whom he borrowed the shoes he wore at the initiation right [sic]. Marlon told Joey that it was his "finals" night.  
6.      On January 13, 2006 at around 8:30 to 9:00 o'clock in the evening, [nearby sari-sari store owner] Susan Ignacio saw more than twenty (20) persons arrive at the Villa Novaliches Resort onboard a jeepney.  She estimated the ages of these persons to be between 20 to 30 years old.  Three (3) persons riding a single motorcycle likewise arrived at the resort.
7.      Ignacio saw about fifteen (15) persons gather on top of the terrace at the resort who looked like they were praying.  Later that evening, at least three (3) of these persons went to her store to buy some items.  She did not know their names but could identity [sic] their faces.  After she was shown colored photographs, she pointed to the man later identified as Herald Christopher Braseros.  She also pointed out the man later identified as Gregorio Sibal, Jr.
8.      Donato Magat, a tricycle driver plying the route of Pansol, Calamba City, testified that around 3:00 o'clock in the morning of January 14, 2006, he was waiting for passengers at the corner of Villa Novaliches Resort when a man approached him and told him that someone inside the resort needed a ride. Magat then went to the resort and asked the two (2) men standing by the gate who will be riding his tricycle.
9.      The four (4) men boarded his tricycle but Magat noticed that when he touched the body of the man who was being carried, it felt cold.  The said man looked very weak like a vegetable.
10.  Seferino Espina y Jabay testified that he worked as a security guard at the J.P. Rizal Hospital and was assigned at the emergency room.  At around 3:00 o'clock in the early morning of January 14, 2006, he was with another security guard, Abelardo Natividad and hospital helper Danilo Glindo a.k.a. Gringo, when a tricycle arrived at the emergency room containing four (4) passengers, excluding the driver.  He was an arm's length away from said tricycle.  He identified two of the passengers thereof as appellants Dungo and Sibal.  Espina said he and Glinda helped the passengers unload a body inside the tricycle and brought it to the emergency room.
11.  Afterwards, Espina asked the two men for identification cards.  The latter replied that they did not bring with them any I.D. or wallet.  Instead of giving their true names, the appellants listed down their names in the hospital logbook as Brandon Gonzales y Lanzon and Jericho Paril y Rivera.  Espina then told the two men not to leave, not telling them that they secretly called the police to report the incident which was their standard operating procedure when a dead body was brought to the hospital.
12.  Dr. Ramon Masilungan, who was then the attending physician at the emergency room, observed that Marlon was motionless, had no heartbeat and already cyanotic.
13.  Dr. Masilungan tried to revive Marlon for about 15 to 20 minutes.  However, the latter did not respond to resuscitation and was pronounced dead.  Dr. Masilungan noticed a big contusion hematoma on the left side of the victim's face and several injuries on his arms and legs.  He further attested that Marlon's face was already cyanotic.
14.  When Dr. Masilungan pulled down Marlon's pants, he saw a large contusion on both legs which extended from the upper portion of his thigh down to the couplexial portion or the back of the knee.
15.  Due to the nature, extent and location of Marlon's injuries, Dr. Masilungan opined that he was a victim of hazing.  Dr. Masilungan is familiar with hazing injuries, having undergone hazing when he was a student and also because of his experience treating victims of hazing incidents.
16.  Dr. Roy Camarillo, Medico-Legal Officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory in Region IV, Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Calamba City, testified that he performed an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim on January 14 2006;  that the victim's cause of death was blunt head trauma.  From 1999 to 2006, he was able to conduct post-mortem examination of the two (2) persons whose deaths were attributed to hazing.  These two (2) persons sustained multiple contusions and injuries on different parts of their body, particularly on the buttocks, on both upper and lower extremities. Both persons died of brain hemorrhage.  Correlating these two cases to the injuries found on the victim's body, Dr. Camarillo attested that the victim, Marlon Villanueva, sustained similar injuries to those two (2) persons. Based on the presence of multiple injuries and contusions on his body, he opined that these injuries were hazing-related.  (Dungo and Sibal vs. People)

The RTC convicted Dungo and Sibal for violation of Section 4 of the Anti-Hazing Law and sentenced them to suffer Reclusion Perpetua. 

Said Section 4 reads as follows:

“Section 4.  If the person subjected to hazing or other forms of initiation rites suffers any physical injury or dies as a result thereof, the officers and members of the fraternity, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as principals.  The person or persons who participated in the hazing shall suffer:
1.      The penalty of reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) if death, rape, sodomy or mutilation results there from.

The CA affirmed the RTC’s judgment in toto.

Sufficiency of the Information

On appeal to the SC, Dungo and Sibal claimed that the RTC and CA judgments violated the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them because the offense charged in the information is different from that for which they were found guilty.

The information stated that Dungo and Sibal "did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence upon one Marlon Villanueva y Mejilla", i.e. they were charged for hazing by actual participation, while the only offense proven at trial was hazing by inducement.

The SC noted the complete wording of the information which reads as follows:

“That on or about 2:30 in the early morning of January 14, 2006, at Villa Novaliches, Brgy. Pansol, Calamba City, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, during a planned initiation rite and being then officers and members of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and present thereat, in conspiracy with more or less twenty other members and officers, whose identity is not yet known, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence upon one MARLON VILLANUEVA y MEJILLA, a neophyte thereof and as condition for his admission to the fraternity, thereby subjecting him to physical harm, resulting to his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the victim.” (Dungo and Sibal vs. People)

The SC held that the information stated a “planned initiation rite” and “a planned event can be understood to have different phases … [T]he hazing activity had different stages and the perpetrators had different roles therein, not solely inflicting physical injury to the neophyte. One of the roles of the petitioners in the hazing activity was to induce Villanueva to be present.  Dungo and Sibal not only induced Villanueva to be present at the resort, but they actually brought him there.  They fulfilled their roles in the planned hazing rite which eventually led to the death of Villanueva.  The hazing would not have been accomplished were it not for the acts of the petitioners that induced the victim to be present.”  

The SC said that “[s]ecrecy and silence are common characterizations of the dynamics of hazing.  To require the prosecutor to indicate every step of the planned initiation rite in the information at the inception of the criminal case, when details of the clandestine hazing are almost nil, would be an arduous task, if not downright impossible. The law does not require the impossible”.

In upholding that the information was sufficient to convict the accused for violation of Section 4 of the Anti-Hazing Law, the SC held that it sufficiently stated “every element of the crime of hazing, the offenders, and the accompanying circumstances in the planned initiation activity”.

Prima facie evidence of participation does not violate the right of the accused to be presumed innocent

Despite alleging only one error in their appeal, appellants in their Reply alleged that the prosecution failed to establish conspiracy.  The SC, while noting that the appellants raised a question of fact not allowed in their appeal, decided to open the whole case for review “in the interest of justice” and “due to the novelty of the issue presented”.

The novel issue involves Section 4 paragraph 6 of the Anti-Hazing Law which states:

“The presence of any person during the hazing is prima facie evidence of participation therein as principal unless he prevented the commission of the acts punishable herein.”

The SC said that the law “presents a novel provision that introduces a disputable presumption of actual participation; and which modifies the concept of conspiracy …  because a disputable presumption arises from the mere presence of the offender during the hazing, which can be rebutted by proving that the accused took steps to prevent the commission of the hazing.”

First, the SC reminded appellants that “[p]enal laws which feature prima facie evidence by disputable presumptions against the offenders are not new, and can be observed in the following: (1) the possession of drug paraphernalia gives rise to prima facie evidence of the use of dangerous drug; (2) the dishonor of the check for insufficient funds is prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds or credit; 102 and (3) the possession of any good which has been the subject of robbery or thievery shall be prima facie evidence of

The SC found there was prima facie evidence of appellants’ participation in the hazing based on the testimonies of disinterested and credible witnesses establishing their (1) acts of inducing Marlon Villanueva to participate in the hazing, and (2) their presence in the resort (the crime scene).  And since there was no testimony that either appellant prevented the hazing, the disputable presumption was not overcome.  Thus, the facts were sufficient to establish their roles in the conspiracy.

Guilt beyond reasonable doubt also proven by circumstantial evidence

The SC noted that “[c]rimes are usually committed in secret and under conditions where concealment is highly probable” and so direct evidence is understandably not always available.  And, “hazing is shrouded in secrecy.  Fraternities and sororities … are secretive in nature and their members are reluctant to give any information regarding initiation rites. The silence is only broken after someone has been injured so severely that medical attention is required … Bearing in mind the concealment of hazing, it is only logical and proper for the prosecution to resort to the presentation of circumstantial evidence to prove it.”

The SC laid down the requisites and rules for sustaining a conviction based on circumstantial evidence: “(1) there [is] more than one circumstance; (2) the inference must be based on proven facts; and (3) the combination of all circumstances produces a conviction beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused … Jurisprudence requires that the circumstances must be established to form an unbroken chain of events leading to one fair reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the author of the crime.”

Finally, the defenses of denial and alibi - being the “weakest of all defenses because they are easy to concoct and fabricate” - were deemed insufficient by the SC. The only witnesses presented by appellants were their fraternity brothers and Dungo’s girlfriend who cannot be deemed impartial and disinterested so as to be credible and reliable.

SC’s suggested amendments to the Anti-Hazing Law

The SC suggested the imposition of penalty or liability for non-compliance of the following provisions regarding the requirement of notice (Section 2) and the requirement of representation (Section 3)-

“Section 2. No hazing or initiation rites in any form or manner by a fraternity, sorority or organization shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation. The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities which shall not exceed three (3) days, shall include the names of those to be subjected to such activities, and shall further contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites.

Section 3. The head of the school or organization or their representatives must assign at least two (2) representatives of the school or organization, as the case may be, to be present during the initiation. It is the duty of such representative to see to it that no physical harm of any kind shall be inflicted upon a recruit, neophyte or applicant.“

The SC also suggested that Section 4 include not only physical harm but psychological harm as well.

It is really no cause for jubilation, that the first convictions on this law have been handed down and upheld.  The passage of the law should have been enough to do away with hazing.  This case only memorializes three lives that have been ruined, that of the victim’s which has been untimely taken and that of his two tormentors.  No real brotherhood is worth paying such a steep price for membership.  This case should give pause and reason to all prospective initiates and their masters.

We end this with how the SC ended its decision –

“R.A. No. 8049 is a democratic response to the uproar against hazing.  It demonstrates that there must, and should, be another way of fostering brotherhood, other than through the culture of violence and suffering. The senseless deaths of these young men shall never be forgotten, for justice is the spark that lights the candles of their graves.”


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [Second of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8187 and G.R. Nos. 187836 and 187916)

By Siesta-friendly

As we discussed in Part 1, the first challenged Ordinance (No. 8027) – which reclassified the Pandacan area from Industrial to Commercial and ordered industrial businesses like the oil industries maintaining depots in the area to cease and desist from operating – was held as constitutional by the SC. 

In an about-face, Manila city hall then issued Ordinance No. 8187 for the purpose of reclassifying (again) the Pandacan area by creating a Medium Industrial Zone and Heavy Industrial Zone thus allowing oil depots to continue to exist in Pandacan.  

If your first ordinance was upheld by the Supreme Court as a valid exercise of police power because it aimed “to safeguard the rights to life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila”, why not issue another ordinance to repeal it, completely contradict it and forget about that small concern regarding the life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila. 

Let us allow the SC to explain why –

“… the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the matter has thrice changed, largely depending on the new composition of the council and/or political affiliations. The foregoing, thus, shows that its determination of the “general welfare” of the city does not after all gear towards the protection of the people in its true sense and meaning, but is, one way or another, dependent on the personal preference of the members who sit in the council as to which particular sector among its constituents it wishes to favor.”

Mindful that the safety of the ManileƱos were still at risk, the SC continued -

“Now that the City of Manila, through the mayor and the city councilors, has changed its view on the matter, favoring the city’s economic-related benefits, through the continued stay of the oil terminals, over the protection of the very lives and safety of its constituents, it is imperative for this Court to make a final determination on the basis of the facts on the table as to which specific right of the inhabitants of Manila should prevail…”

Thus, the SC struck down Ordinance No 8187 as invalid and unconstitutional for the same reasons it upheld the constitutionality of Ordinance No. 8027, further saying that -

“The issue of whether or not the Pandacan Terminal is not a likely target of terrorist attacks has already been passed upon in G. R. No. 156052.  Based on the assessment of the Committee on Housing, Resettlement and Urban Development of the City of Manila and the then position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, the Court was convinced that the threat of terrorism is imminent. It remains so convinced.

… the very nature of the depots where millions of liters of highly flammable and highly volatile products, regardless of whether or not the composition may cause explosions, has no place in a densely populated area. Surely, any untoward incident in the oil depots, be it related to terrorism of whatever origin or otherwise, would definitely cause not only destruction to properties within and among the neighboring communities but certainly mass deaths and injuries.


It is the removal of the danger to life not the mere subdual of risk of catastrophe, that we saw in and made us favor Ordinance No. 8027. That reason, unaffected by Ordinance No. 8187, compels the affirmance of our Decision in G.R. No. 156052.”

And so, the SC finally set a definite period for the relocation of the oil depot -

“The oil companies shall be given a fresh non-extendible period of forty-five (45) days from notice within which to submit to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 39, Manila an updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule. The relocation, in turn, shall be completed not later than six months from the date of their submission.”

We expect this to be the last we hear of the continued stay of the depots even though there is a new mayor in Manila, different from the mayor who signed Ordinance No. 8027 and different from that who signed Ordinance No. 8187.It was the Supreme Court that had to remind local legislators that they are supposed to have the welfare of the people foremost in mind.

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [First of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8027 and G.R. 156052]


Saturday, September 12, 2015

FULL COURT PRESS: What your 2016 vote will mean for the Supreme Court

By Siesta-friendly

The next Philippine President is constitutionally set to hold office for 6 years from 2016 – 2022.   And within her/his term, 11 Supreme Court justices are constitutionally mandated to retire once they reach 70 years.
Already potent as it is, the president’s power to appoint will be most significant when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices as the new Chief Executive will be able to pack the court.
Judicial review
With the 1987 Constitution’s power of judicial review, to wit -

“Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” (Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

citizens have appealed to the Supreme Court on issues seemingly strictly within the jurisdiction of the executive or legislative departments.

Where pre-1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court could cite the doctrine of “political question” as a valid excuse in refusing to settle certain executive or legislative actions, that is no longer the case. With the 1987 Constitutional provision on judicial review, any act of a government official/s can be questioned on constitutional grounds if done in “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”.

So, if the next President chooses well, we can have a Supreme Court that can provide an effective check on executive or legislative excesses. If not, we end up with a Supreme Court rubber-stamping any questioned abusive executive or legislative action. Or possibly worse, an activist Court that indirectly legislates through its decisions.

And we indirectly have a hand in shaping the composition of the Supreme Court when we choose the person authorized to appoint its members.

Soon-to-retire SC justices

Here are the names of the 11 justices and their respective retirement dates:

  1. Martin S. Villarama, Jr. - April 14, 2016
  2. Jose P. Perez - December 14, 2016
  3. Arturo D. Brion - December 29, 2016
  4. Bienvenido L. Reyes - July 6, 2017
  5. Jose C. Mendoza - August 13, 2017
  6. Presbitero J. Velasco - August 8, 2018
  7. Teresita Leonardo-De Castro- Oct. 8, 2018
  8. Mariano C. Del Castillo - July 29, 2019
  9. Lucas P. Bersamin - October 18, 2019
  10. Antonio T. Carpio - October 26, 2019
  11. Francis H. Jardeleza - September 26, 1949

We note that 10 of the 11 are Gloria Arroyo appointees, so while we look forward to the diminishing Arroyo court, we are wary that the next President would appoint justices lacking independence, integrity and morality thereby forming another President’s court which will unabashedly issue decisions favoring their appointer.

Thus, we need a President with independence, integrity and morality to get a Supreme Court of the same character.

So this campaign season, let us encourage debates on governance issues, and not politics. Let us set high standards for our leaders, and not settle for popularity. Let us look for the leader who will have the people’s interest – not his, nor his family, cronies or party’s – at heart. And let us vote wisely. It is not only the membership in the Court that is at stake but our very future.
“A world is supported by four things ...
the learning of the wise,
the justice of the great,
the prayers of the righteous
and the valour of the brave.
But all of these are as nothing ... without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.”
- The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, in Frank Herbert’s “Dune”