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Conscience and Wisdom

Conscience and Wisdom
Ronald Roy— 2012 August 02

I have always thought that a magistrate worth his salt is one who renders judgments in spades, that is, to the fullest extent of his conscience and wisdom. Within this context, it will be difficult to critique Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas on what led him to grant former spurious Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s petition for bail in connection with her violation of the Electoral Sabotage Law, a non-bailable felony.

Mupas anchored his decision that stirred up a hornet’s nest on what he deemed as the weak and uncorroborated testimony of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas who had overheard Arroyo ordering the then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. to produce a 12-0 in the province in favor of her administration’s senatorial bets. Mupas likewise noted that no evidence was presented to show that Unas had actually witnessed specific acts of poll fraud.

Well, that’s his opinion. Pres. Noynoy and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima lead a horde of GMA-bashers who think otherwise. I’ve always been a hard-hitting journalist against Gloria Arroyo, but from where I sit it’s really hard to tell, very especially given that his ruling deserves the presumption of regularity, most particularly as to the prevalent rumor that he took a bribe for granting the bail petition.

Surely, Mupas is hurting in a society of gossipers whose scuttlebutt becomes fact especially where high officials’ palms are suspected to have been crossed with silver. A few fellow street parliamentarians were drumming up plans to denounce him, but I pacified them with the reassurance that the imp would be back where she belongs. 

In reply to one of them, I said that if per chance I had been the Judge to decide GMA’s petition for bail, I might have denied it within the framework of my conscience and wisdom.

No two magistrates, as no two persons, are perfectly identical— an axiom that explains why superior courts are collegial bodies where brilliant jurists are often locked in contretemps. Indeed, no two magistrates, as no two persons, possess identical depths of conscience and wisdom.

We are all born each with a moral conscience, which is the ability to distinguish between what is moral and what is immoral. One’s conscience is the voice of God that enables him to spot evils that lurk in everyday life. Even an atheist, one who refutes God’s existence, has a conscience through which God tells him not to covet what is not his, or otherwise not to harm another without justifiable reason— and he listens and obeys.

In my hypothetical case, I might have denied the petition for bail because I would have interpreted GMA’s statement (to Ampatuan Sr. to produce a 12-0 result for her senate bets) as an order for him to cheat, in violation of the Electoral Sabotage Law; and I would have been comfortable discharging a moral duty to debunk the small liar’s insistence that it was never her purpose in the Maguindanao elections to cheat— by hook or by crook.

Yes, I would have been morally comfortable with my decision, given her reputation as a power-grabber— she victimized Erap Estrada and Ronnie Poe, remember?—  and given Ampatuan Sr’s notoriety as the architect of that horrendous carnage in the same province.

The fact that Arroyo and Ampatuan Sr. have not yet been convicted of any crime does not convince me that they must be presumed to be innocent, and I will not allow my conscience to capitulate to the rigid technicality of this legal presumption.

I believe that Judge Mupas might have himself denied the bail petition if only he had utilized fully the power of his moral conscience in the same way I would have done. As a matter of possibility, he might have “called it as he saw it”, as the saying goes, in which case I would even doff off my hat to him for granting a much reviled person a favor, knowing that by doing so he would be facing public censure; and if, dear reader, that was how it happened, let’s credit him with integrity.

So there! Perhaps Mupas does not deserve all the flak he’s getting. Maybe he’s being unduly chided for showing how magistrates should function with probity, integrity, honesty and independence. But then, well, perhaps with some appreciable dose of wisdom put into his controversial ruling, all the ranting from P-Noy and his contingent of allies will die down. 

But again, we will never know how much of wisdom Mupas used for his ruling. Like it or not, incidentally, the Constitution demands, albeit tacitly, the exercise of wisdom by public officials in the performance of their duties.

But first, what is wisdom? Scattered research materials say that wisdom is a human attribute comprising experience, intellect and intuition; that experience is a mass of facts and events observed and lived out; that intellect is the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract matters; and that intuition is the ability to understand without the need for conscious reasoning.

Interestingly, an ancient philosopher once said that conscience was a part of wisdom. If so, I would suppose that the proverb about life beginning at 40 is not without good reason. And lest we forget, let us also note that the wisdom range from 40 to 70 years of age is born out of success stories of men past their middle years or prime, stories which must have led Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac) to comment: “At 20 years of age the will reigns, at 30 the wit, at 40 the judgment.”

Perhaps 89-year-old Cha-cha proponent Manong Johnny should comment on some constitutional age qualifications, as follows: at least 40 years of age for the President and the Vice President (with no retirement age); at least 40 years of age for Members of the Supreme Court and lower collegiate courts, (with retirement age at 70, which is also fixed for judges of lower courts); at least 35 for Senators, and at least 25— repeat: 25— for Representatives! HA?!? 25?!? Diyos kong maawain!!!

Not only can the 89-year old JPE, supposedly energized by stem cells therapy, run for President, our country’s future continues to depend on puerile juveniles! This shows that if Charter change is needed, it should not be to improve the economic landscape, but to infuse lang pala the public service with more wisdom by simply amending age requirements!

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