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The Tragedy of Mood Law

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Tragedy of Mood Law
Ronald Roy – November 23, 2011

It is now 6 in the drizzly morn of November 23, the deadline for submitting this very article for publication on November 28. On the invitation of a fellow counselor-at-law for a political tête-à-tête  in a Rockwell coffee shop— who has not yet arrived—I find myself conversing with a feisty electrical engineer occupying an adjoining table.

He has been working his laptop, reading a major daily, sipping coffee, asking too many questions, and is now finally fulminating: “Why don’t we just string her up?! Everybody knows she’s guilty anyway! Besides, the might of 99 out of 100 Filipinos demanding justice cannot be ignored!”

I calmly tell him that I know exactly how he feels. But I also remind him that mob might is never right in the eyes of the law, which is precisely there to protect Cgma’s right to the same due process he and I are claiming a right to.

Mob rule, I tell him without sounding imperiously didactic, must yield to the rule of law— to its majesty, lest we prove no better than the tyrant we denounce, and lest we take a fatally precipitous path for our floundering democracy.

There are always legal remedies, I press on. We can amend or repeal laws we don’t like, but until we do so, we must obey them. Besides, the law allows us the redress of impeachment of any or all of the 8 Justices of the Corona Court, who we believe have betrayed the public trust or culpably violated the Constitution. There is no need to demonize them.

Let us trust that the Law has been crafted to adjudicate disputes at the highest level of impartiality and reason, and assure ourselves that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, no less, deserves to benefit from that trust.

My host has just arrived, and is placing an order for a continental breakfast for two to be set at a far end where it’s more private.

As I rise to join him, I give the engineer a parting shot assuring him that nothing will give me greater pleasure than to personally lock up Arroyo and her cohorts for life, and reminding him of Thomas Fuller’s learned advice: “Be you never so high, the law is above you.”

Then his face is furrowed with consternation when I tell him: My friend, like it or not, that’s what democracy is all about.

Jose M. Roy III, aka Judd, a product of the Ateneo College of Law, is a professor of law and an attorney from ROSCOR. Roy and  Syquia. He once served at the Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila as its acting President and Law Dean, and likewise served as Chief of Staff of SC Chief Justice Andres Narvassa, and Commissioner and concurrent Executive Director of the Preparatory Commission of the Constitutional Convention under the Estrada  Administration.

Allow a proud father to describe Judd as among today’s best in the arena of legal polemics and elocutionists—a badge of esteem he consistently wore throughout his storied campus days as a declaimer, orator and debater, in local and international fora.

But now he is in a rush to catch an RTC hearing, having barely touched his croissant and the now-cold americano brew. My hand on his shoulder, I wish him well for the day that has just started and thank him for the treat and opportunity to tape-record his treatise on what he calls the “Tragedy of Mood Law,” as follows:

Here are some disturbing quotes lifted from Twitter; @Jimparedes: The corrupt and powerful have a right to due process. The rest have the right to suffer indignities and be philosophical. I don’t care about the nuances of the law. I care about jailing crooks. The Arroyos are happy. The people are not. One can argue it is legal for Arroyos to leave, but it stinks. We’ve been screwed again.

@RisaHontiveros: Mabuhay sina Justice Mendoza, Bernabe, Carpio, Sereno at Reyes!

@kikiberkiber: May sariling republic ang supreme court.

Leah Navarro, as quoted: “Its our turn to abuse the system.”

These non-lawyers must feel that the Supreme Court should use its power to interpret the Constitution in a manner that suits their whims, biases, ideas, or moods.

The clamor to punish the last tyrant is no longer a reference to the establishment or restoration of democracy. It now refers to punishing the last person who previously wielded power in what might be viewed as tyrannical. In this country, that usually means the last president.

But where does tyranny lie? Is it in the court that adheres to the letter of the Constitution or in the executive that doggedly pursues his political promises?

Even Harry Roque in an interview with Howie Severino, expressed the less-than-honest opinion that allowing Cgma to leave would violate Marcos v. Manglapus, where the right of Marcos to return to the country was denied for reasons of national security.

Harry ought to know that the situation then was far from similar: Marcos was forced out of office in a coup d’etat and could very much have mounted a counter coup with forces still loyal to him.

To argue that the same situation exists now is probably driven by Harry’s political bias. In other words, he is given to that distorted interpretation of jurisprudence because it suits his mood, not because it is the best view of jurisprudence on the point.

Why is it that when the law works in favor of someone who is regarded as rich and powerful, we hear the endless whining of the self-appointed majority that the law protects only the wealthy? Have we lost our marbles?

Even P-Noy seeks to justify the case of the government by stating that keeping GMA around to account for possible future cases is “a matter of national interest.” Have any of us bothered to read what the Constitution says? Well, has it never occurred to us that the Constitution means AT LEAST exactly what it says?

As a people, we seem content with believing that we stand on morally sound convictions while adhering to the notion that democracy is an end in itself. With these as premises, we go on holding that the system should satisfy our sense of right or wrong— which, in an ideal world, it should.

It seems we cannot admit that our views are nothing more than a series of moods— depending on who’s involved and which side of the political fence we’re on. Just as we fail to accept rigidity in the enforcement of traffic rules, we’re quick to cry foul when the law favors public enemy no.1—or whomsoever that might be at the moment.

Now, we claim to be a people bound to a democratic form of government, necessarily implying that we adhere to the Constitution. It follows, ergo, that we accept the principle that the Supreme Court has the final word on any dispute. That is where the proverbial buck stops.

Unfortunately, when we are in the mood to defy the Court, we fail to recognize that we have breached our own bond to constitutional democracy. In other words, our whole concept of law in a democracy has been reduced to a whim, caprice, passion or, otherwise stated: the mood of the moment. This is, sadly, the tragedy of mood law.

Amen to that, Judd.

I hasten to conclude, and hopefully the engineer is reading this, that any notion of an impending state of anarchy is outlandish, because P-Noy’s anti-corruption drive is supported by an exceedingly vast majority of Filipinos.

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  1. January 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

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