Sed lex, dura lex

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror November 1, 2006  edition, p. A6.

Justice Antonio Carpio’s ponente calling the people’s initiative  a “gigantic fraud” and characterizing its “vox populi, vox Dei” argument as  “incantation,” as though it were some kind of witch’s spell, is what the “American street” calls a “bitch-slapping,” the most humiliating and degrading variety.  Carpio’s scathing remarks should have sufficed but the other justices wanted to throw some licks in as well.

Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said, “Unfortunately, the right thing is being rushed in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.”  WHACK!  Justice Adolfo Azcuna, quoting Shakespeare, said: “Why, friends, you go to do you know not what.” WHAP!

Perhaps the most stinging slaps came from Justice Gutierrez. She said: “Vox populi vox Dei—the voice of the people is the voice of God.   Caution should be exercised in choosing one’s battlecry, lest it do more harm than good to one’s cause.  [WHACK!] In its original context, the complete version of this Latin phrase means exactly the opposite of what it is frequently taken to mean. It originated from a holy man, the monk Alcuin, who advised Charlemagne… ‘And those people should not be listened to who keep on saying, ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God,’ since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.’ [WHAP!]  Perhaps, it is by providence that the true meaning of the Latin phrase is revealed upon petitioners and their allies—that they may reflect upon the sincerity and authenticity of their ‘people’s initiative.’”  WHACK!

She added:  “History has been a witness to countless iniquities committed in the name of God. Wars were waged, despotism tolerated and oppressions justified—all these transpired as man boasted of God’s imprimatur. Today, petitioners and their allies hum the same rallying call, convincing this Court that the people’s initiative is the ‘voice of the people’ and, therefore, the ‘voice of God.’  [WHACK!]  After a thorough consideration of the petitions, I have come to realize that man, with his ingenuity and arrogance, has perfected the craft of imitating the voice of God.  [WHAP!]  It is against this kind of genius that the Court must guard itself.” WHACK!

She unmasked the face behind the people’s initiative:  “In fine, considering the political scenario in our country today, it is my view that the so-called people’s initiative to amend our Constitution from bicameral-presidential to unicameral-parliamentary is actually not an initiative of the people, but an initiative of some of our politicians….”

And knocked those buck-teeth out: “There is, therefore, no reason why this Court should allow itself to be used as a legitimizing authority by the so-called people’s initiative for those who want to perpetuate themselves in power…[WHACK!] At this point, I can say without fear that there is nothing wrong with our present government structure.

Consequent1y, we must not change it…what we should change are some of the people running the government, NOT the SYSTEM…[WHAP!]  Yes, the voice of the people is the voice of God. But under the circumstances in this case, the voice of God is not audible.” WHACK!

OUCH ALREADY! But Gutierrez was not done yet. The respondent, Comelec, would also feel the back of her hand:  “[R]espondents did nothing to stop what was clearly lawless, and even arguably winked at, as it were, if not condoned and allowed, the waste and misuse of its personnel, time, facilities and resources on an enterprise that had no legal basis….[WHACK!] Seemingly mesmerized, it is time to disenthrall them….WHAP!  It was excessively obvious to the undersigned and other observers that respondent Chairman, straining at the leash, was lawyering for Sigaw ng Bayan in the Senate! [WHACK!]  It was discomfiting that he would gloss over the seeming wholesale falsification of 96.30% of the signatures in an exercise with no credibility!” WHAP!

Although in public she pretended to be graceful and sober about Sigaw’s thrashing, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo took the high court’s remarks personally.  Her gofer, Mike Defensor, said: “The President does not mind them (SC) disagreeing with her on some issue because they have to be independent. But she takes it badly when the criticisms are too much…. She’s really perplexed that those she picked for the position would turn out to have the harshest opinions.”

Why was Mrs. Arroyo personally offended by remarks addressed to Raul Lambino and company? The high court didn’t even mention her by name.  Oh well.

We know it’s impolite to gloat but we’ll make an exception this time because it may be our only chance to paraphrase Gloria Arroyo’s famous gloat on the killing of the first impeachment: “The Filipino people mark a glorious day in history, when instead of forcing a Parliamentary system through people power, they chose to keep the Presidential system through voting in the halls of Constitutional Democracy.”

Sed lex dura lex. That’s Latin for “in your face!”

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