The Supreme Court Decision on Executive Privilege: A License For Impunity

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When the Supreme Court said that the conversations between Romulo Neri and her President is covered by “executive privilege,” I said to myself, “garbage in, garbage out.” With a Court of such composition maybe one cannot expect a decision better than that. If the current Court is deciding on that historical claim of executive privilege (the White House tapes), Nixon might have finished his term and subsequently shenanigans of the presidents of the US would forever be hidden from public view.

With such a decision of the Court, illegal activities of the president and his/her men/women will forever be secrets. There will be no more witnesses and paper trails will just be wisps of the imagination.

Before the advent of Martial Law, the Philippine Supreme Court was generally composed of the best and brighest of the legal profession, the so-called legal luminaries. Bar topnotchers and legal pillars dominated that institution.

But, alas, even with such bright minds, it was not able to acquit itself well during Martial Law. It also rendered hodge-podge decisions when questions  about Marcos’ rule  and ‘prerogatives’ were brought upon it. It was not them that made the legal profession shine during those darkest hours (with the possible exception of the late Justice Claudio Teehankee) but the likes of the late Senator Jose Diokno and the present Senator Joker Arroyo, who with the last ounce of legal reasoning possible tried to challenge the impunity of the dictatorship.

Intelligence can be inherited, education can be bought, expertise can be trained but courage is one thing that cannot be taught. And it is courage that utterly lacking in our Supreme Court for a long time now. It a virtue Senators Diokno and Arroyo had in abundance.

I rue that Senators Diokno, Arroyo, Saguisag and Roco never became Supreme Court Chief Justices. If only people like them were in our highest Court decisions would probably have been different and Malacanang will probably heed the admonishions of the Court.

Today, lawyers of none-so-sterling qualifications dominate the highest Court. In terms of academic and legal achievements they are none-so-different from the occupants of the lesser courts. Pedestrian decisions? You have it!

In our country, majesty of the law is only in the minds of the lawyers.

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