Letter to Sen. Francis Escudero

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

Sen. Francis Escudero, the most loquacious member, ever, of the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) expressed misgivings about the wisdom of the minimum age requirement for Chief Justice. 40.

“Isipin mo, kulang-kulang tatlong dekada uupo ‘yon doon, maliban na lamang kung mamamatay, magkakasakit, o mai-impeach. Ang dapat timbangin ng JBC at ni Pangulong Aquino, gusto ba natin gano’n katagal?”

Oo nga, noh? Hmmm (thinking)…(30 seconds pass)…. scalding hot coffee goes shooting out of my nose. Hence this short letter to the senator from my hospital bed in the intensive care unit for burn victims in St. Lucky’s Medical Center and Sanctuary (SLMCS).

Dear Sir Chiz,

Mawalang galang lang poh pero tinimbang na yan tanong ninyo 25 years ago. Everyone agreed way back then that 15 years experience as a judge in a lower court or as a practicing lawyer, in addition to being a natural-born Filipino between the ages of 40 and 70, meets the minimum requirement for membership in the Supreme Court. Sa madaling salita, if you can become an associate justice at age 40, you can also become a Chief Justice at age 40. Peryod na yan sana but now you’re arguing that the age of a candidate for Chief Justice still merits serious consideration.

“It (age) has advantages and disadvantages, which you really have to consider holistically. If you’re after stability and predictability of decisions of the Court that will last a long time, then perhaps, you might want to go for that [a 40 year old Chief Justice)] if you’re after a new perspective every once in a while and not tie the hands of the next President and be bound by the choice of this President for the next four to five Presidents, that will be subject to the exercise of the President’s wisdom and in a way the discretion of the JBC as well.”

Ang galing mo naman mag-Photoshop. You made stability and predictability, qualities valued by anyone whose horizon extends beyond election cycles, look like chains and you turned flip-flopping or, as you call it, “a new perspective every once in a while”, into a cool glass of reinvigorating freshly-squeezed orange juice.

Let it go, Sir Chiz. Focus on “proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence” and not age. There is no formula to figure out the ideal shelf-life for a Chief Justice anyway. Just deal with the known and the knowable, do not start arguments over the unknowable. Buckle down to the work ahead. You have to go through resumés, do face-to-face interviews, and evaluate inputs from those who have something to say about the nominees.

Your work is very important, don’t trivialize it. President Aquino cannot appoint anyone outside the shortlist of nominees that you will submit to him. Thus, his wisdom is limited by your wisdom, his discretion by your discretion. He cannot rise above your level even if he wants to because it is forbidden by the Constitution. So do your job well or it’s going to be garbage in, garbage out. Kawawa naman kami.

I was going to comment on your proposal that nominees for Chief Justice waive their right to secrecy but Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile beat me to it. He said you’re grandstanding.

“Masyado naman yatang OA ‘yun. It’s like telling the nominee we do not trust him so he needs to waive his right. It’s like telling would-be public servants we do not trust them. Maybe it would be better to just dissolve the republic. There is no hope if we do not trust our elected and appointed officials occupying powerful positions.”

Okay, medyo nag over-react din si Enrile. Sobra nga naman yung “just dissolve the republic.” But essentially he’s right. OA ka talaga because we can have transparency without treating those who want to serve as suspects. But I digress. Let’s go back to the top.

Sir Chiz, your job is to submit a short-list to the president. That’s it. Why can’t you do it QUIETLY for crying out loud? Far too many nostrils get scalded every time you open your mouth.

Still having to breathe through my mouth but hugs and kisses anyway,

MB

PS. SLMC will forward my medical bills to your office. Thanks in advance.

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