The quarreling magistrates

Whatever the differences of the magistrates of the Supreme Court are, the situation has now deteriorated into a street brawl for everyone to see. The fighting has even split the Supreme Court personnel. The reds are those against the Chief Justice.

This is the kind we see at the municipal level when a mayor is ousted and calls for his supporters to demonstrate.

There is no longer any attempt to hide from the people whatever differences the justices might have and try to settle their conflict amicably away from the prying eyes of the public and media. Whatever they are, the public can only speculate. Is it ambition? Incompetence, as some are saying on the part of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno? Corruption, maybe, or perhaps jealousy on the part of some of those plotting her ouster?

Perhaps it is all of the above. If it is indeed all those, it may perhaps be a good time to remind everyone to remember what the Lord said: “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” The quarrel of the magistrates can only damage further the reputation and prestige of the Supreme Court which to begin with is already not very high.

Regardless of what the government is saying that the courts will continue to function normally, the standing of the Supreme Court has already been tarnished in the eyes of the public. If the people who are supposed to be the most learned in law, whose characters are supposed to be the embodiment of what is best in the legal profession, are behaving the way they are, what can the public expect from the other pillars of the judicial system?

What is happening at the Supreme Court reminds me of what happened in my own service, the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine National Police. It used to be that when an officer was appointed as the Chief PC or PNP, that officer was expected to serve his full term and retire from that position. This, however, was radically changed during the term of General Cesar Nazareno when he was removed from his post and retired prematurely. When that happened, it proved that the position was not protected after all. All that had to be done was find a sufficient reason to replace the incumbent which in fact happened a few times.

I equate that to the infighting going on at the Supreme Court today. It used to be that the magistrate were considered gods in Mount Olympus. Remote, detached from ordinary mortals like you and me and who are only heard when they make landmark decisions. This is no longer the case especially when former Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

So, we have Mr. Aquino to thank for the chaos now going on at the Supreme Court.

I am no fan of Chief Justice Sereno. Maybe she should have not been appointed in the first place. She may also be all that she is being accused of—but there is a process provided by the Constitution to remove a Chief Justice, and that is by impeachment. The government therefore has the duty to follow the procedure instead of trying to find a shortcut. This can only damage our government institutions which are already fragile and may collapse anytime.

The House of Representatives should conclude its proceedings and forward the articles of impeachment to the Senate were the trial should take place. If there is a lesson at all about what happened to Chief Justice Renato Corona and what is happening to Chief Justice Sereno, it is that a future president, when appointing a chief justice should search long and hard to find someone with unquestioned integrity, impeccable credentials and a reputation beyond reproach to appoint as the Chief Magistrate of the land.

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When Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño posted on Facebook a photo of himself in complete uniform of a rear admiral of the Philippine Coast Guard, little did he realize that it will get him into trouble. The Coast Guard came out with a statement that he is actually not in the roaster of the PCG.

Dino therefore has a lot of explaining to do. For one, how did he become a Rear Admiral with all those awards having only been inducted into the PCGA in 2015 as he claims.

In fairness to the good undersecretary, the integrity of the PCG and the process of commissioning officers, this situation must be resolved at the earliest possible time. If I remember correctly, a presidential approval is needed when someone is commissioned and promoted in the service. Was Diño’s promotion to rear admiral approved by the President or was this done by a simple pronouncement of a certain Admiral Villanueva who appears to have recruited Diño in 2015?

Is this admiral authorized to recruit and promote? In Diño’s photograph, he is wearing a lot of awards which points out that he must truly be an outstanding officer. It appears that he is also an airborne guy. It would be nice to know where he earned his jump wings because as far as I know, the PCG is not offering the course. Only the Army does. It is entirely possible of course that he did parachute jumping when he was younger.

Nonetheless, he does owe the public some explanation and clarification as the PCG is pointing out. Otherwise, he could really be charged for usurpation of authority and being a fraud for exhibiting and wearing a uniform that he is not authorized to wear.

Topics: Supreme Court
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