Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the January 5, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“I hope some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays its eggs in my brain, because later you might think you’re having a good idea but it’s just eggs hatching.” – Jack Handy

After the Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Hubert Webb and company for the Vizconde rape-slays, Midas Marquez, the spokesman of the Supreme Court, got the bright idea of explaining to the public that the Court did not mean the accused were innocent, that it only said there was no proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Well, in our system of justice anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty so I’m wondering which part of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” did Midas not understand?

Last Thursday, another bright idea hatched in Midas’ brain. Still smarting from President Aquino’s remark that the judiciary is the greatest obstacle in his fight against corruption, Midas advised the Malacañang legal team to lecture the President on the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.

“I am certain they can explain these fairly simple nuances to the President, who need not be a lawyer,” he remarked snidely.

Well, Midas passed the bar so he can pass himself off as a lawyer and, like he said, fairly simple legal nuances can be understood by just about anybody so judicial overreach shouldn’t be too difficult for him to comprehend.

Before the Supreme Court hears a case, it must first determine the legal standing of petitioners. In the EO1 case the Court decided the petitioners-legislators had locus standi because they asserted that EO1 usurps the power of Congress to create a public office and to appropriate funds for its operation. The Court also gave private petitioner “Barok” Biraogo legal standing but not because he had shown that “he sustained, or is in danger of sustaining, any personal and direct injury attributable to the implementation of Executive Order No. 1” but because his petition covered ”matters of transcendental importance”, whatever that means.

To cut a long story short, the Court threw out the petitioners’ argument that the Truth Commission usurped the powers of Congress and that it supplanted the powers of the Ombudsman and the Justice Department. So case dismissed or should have been, as none of the petitioners had legal standing on the issue of equal protection.

The Court in the case of Nunez vs. Sandiganbayan specified those who fall under the equal protection clause:

“Those adversely affected may under the circumstances invoke the equal protection clause only if they can show that the governmental act assailed, far from being inspired by the attainment of the common weal was prompted by the spirit of hostility, or at the very least, discrimination that finds no support in reason.”

Midas may wish  to underline the phrase “Those adversely affected” because it is the key to understanding judicial overreach in the EO1 case and what it did to the separation of powers principle.

Justice Antonio Carpio’s dissenting opinion in the EO1 Case touches on judicial overreach:

“Here, petitioners do not claim to be adversely affected by the alleged selective prosecution under EO 1. Even in the absence of such a claim by the proper party, the majority opinion strikes down EO 1 as discriminatory and thus violative of the equal protection clause. This is a gratuitous act to those who are not before this Court, a discriminatory exception to the rule that only those ‘adversely affected’ by an alleged selective prosecution can invoke the equal protection clause.”

Carpio added that if the Court can obstruct President Aquino from carrying out his constitutional duties then “it can also prevent the House of Representatives or the Senate from conducting an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the financial transactions of the Arroyo administration, on the ground of violation of the equal protection clause.”

If I may add further, the majority stood on equal protection because it had no other leg to stand on. To make their case, they conjured a category called “past administrations” as if there were no substantial distinctions between honest and crooked presidents, as if all administrations were similarly situated. The majority’s hat trick reminded me of an earlier Supreme Court that pulled “constructive resignation” out of its collective ass to legalize the overthrow of President Estrada.

Judicial overreach breaches the separation of powers between co-equal branches of government. Thus, President Aquino has every reason to complain against the Court’s encroachment.

Midas, dey wuz jez eggs hatchin but who knew, right?