So Many Things We Owe Our Justices

By Francisco Tatad
Blog: First Things First

With the Philippine Supreme Court ruling on executive privilege (Neri vs. the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations et al), President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, despite continuing calls for her resignation, may have become the most powerful president around. And the SC, the most culpable and complicit Supreme Court anywhere.

Under the SC ruling, Cabinet members may no longer have to answer any question from Congress on any controversial issue involving the Office of the President. All they have to do is to invoke executive privilege, and Congress can go no further to oblige them to say anything to either House or any of its committees.

This has the effect of revising the Constitution. It effectively denies and destroys the right of Congress to inquire into sensitive matters involving the Executive, shreds off the principle of check and balance, and reduces Congress to an inferior branch of government, while making the Executive a part bigger than the whole.

The Justices labor to make a false distinction between hearings in aid of legislation and those related to the exercise of Congress’ oversight function. They make the highly questionable claim that Congress may compel the Executive’s participation in one, but not in the other. They forget that the Executive and the Legislative are two co-equal and coordinate branches of government: one may not compel the other to do anything, but a “request” by one may not be denied by the other, especially if it is written in the Constitution.

Like it or not, the SC ruling reinforces our people’s worst fears about our Justices. Many are beginning to feel that Mrs. Arroyo’s sins will soon pass away, but the sins of the Justices will continue to inflict grave injury upon the country long after they are gone.

The ruling on executive privilege is but the latest sin.

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