I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Politicizing the Supreme Court

Those who accuse members of the Supreme Court of dabbling in politics have got it all wrong. It’s not the Justices themselves who do the politicizing, it’s the people who talk about them that are the most guilty of that offense.

Take Satur Ocampo, f’rinstance.

Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo said on Saturday the Supreme Court would be closely watched should the majority in the House of Representatives succeed in their plan to bring to the tribunal the question of whether Congress as a constituent assembly should vote jointly or separately in proposing changes to the Constitution.

It would not only be the Constitution that would be tested but the magistrates as well, said Ocampo, who has accused Malacañang of plotting to amend the Constitution to extend the President’s term.

A joint voting scheme is expected to render the Senate a minority since the chamber would only have 23 votes that correspond to the number of senators compared to the House’s 238.

“It is expected it will be a big test for the Supreme Court,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo said a Supreme Court decision on Charter change (Cha-cha) would have political implications, and that a decision could reflect badly on the tribunal.

“The Supreme Court might rule that both houses should vote jointly, and the people would see this as being favorable to the President,” he said.

What the fuck?

In case you didn’t get it, what Satur – the same guy who admitted to attesting, under oath, to a document he knew was false – said was that if the Supreme Court didn’t rule the way he and his ilk feel that it should, then the Supreme Court will have ‘failed the test’ and would be branded as lackeys of the President. What Satur is saying is that if the Court doesn’t agree with him, it is manifestly partial and therefore unjust. This puts the Court in a difficult position. It can either agree with Satur blindly, if only to prove its independence; or it can be independent and yet suffer the ignominy of the charges of partiality hurled against them before any petition has even been filed before them.

And in case you still don’t get it, what that means is that Satur has already decided how the Constitution should be interpreted. He just wants the Supreme Court to rubber stamp his learned opinion. Now when did the function of interpreting the Charter pass from the Court to this one man who does not even recognize the authority of that damned document? Hell. If politicians can speak with unchallengeable authority about what the Constitution means, then there is no conceivable need for a Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, and it should be able to do so without regard for whom the interpretation will favor. But that’s not the role Satur Ocampo and his ilk want the SC to play. So, as part of their game plan, they launch a campaign to shape the minds of the public, emphasizing the political color of the issues until political color becomes the only consideration. And they do this by accusing the Court of playing politics whenever the outcome is unacceptable for them, and playing up public adulation when the decision is favorable. It’s like Pavlov’s bell.

Either way, Satur’s massaging of popular opinion and shaping of public perception significantly and negatively affects how the SC does its job. Now, under Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, here’s what it says:

Contempt of court involves the doing of an act, or the failure to do an act, in such manner as to create an affront to the court and the sovereign dignity with which it is clothed.  It is defined as “disobedience to the court by acting in opposition to its authority, justice and dignity.”  

                (a)           Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions;

                (b)           Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;

                 (c)           Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under Section 1 of this Rule;

                 (d)          Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;

                 (e)          Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority

                 (f)            Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;

                 (g)          The rescue, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of a court held him

Reads like a perfect fit.

‘Course it’ll be a cold day in hell before the Supreme Court even admonishes someone like Satur Ocampo. Which is why the politicizing influence of statements like his will continue until our Supreme Court either grows a pair or just totally gives up the ghost. 



And speaking of Pavlov’s bell … that particular image prolly explains why Satur and his ilk are able to express their contempt for the court with such impunity. If we had SC justices who were less preoccupied with media glory, then there would be a greater chance that they would move more decisively against people who think nothing of calling them puppets.


Filed under: politics, , ,

One Response

  1. Bencard says:

    of course, satur had no complaint when the sc invalidated the indictments against him and the “batasan 5”. i would even hazard a guess that, because of that, he entertained the thought that the court was the last bulwark of democracy.

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