The last Cassandra and the French Revolution

Mr. Amando Doronila may well be the last Cassandra in the mini-drama of today’s Philippine politics. He believes that the President has “narrow political objectives” in unpacking a packed Supreme Court, and implicitly that the “daang matuwid” is not so straight after all. He warns that people power of the EDSA I model cannot be used “to bail us out of a constitutional crisis.”

But is Mr. Doronila in the right? Or is he pleading for an old corrupt order?

He may well be right about the “packing” of the Supreme Court by the previous President to favor herself in future controversies. One can argue endlessly that such packing might have been avoided if Supreme Court justices were required to obtain Congressional approval as under previous constitutions. But this is a matter for constitutional amendment.

What may be bothersome are the twin substantive premises of Mr. Doronila’s argument.

One is that there is today a “constitutional crisis.” He calls it “the fiercest confrontation yet between the presidency and the judiciary in the political sector since the founding of the republic.”

Is it? A “crisis” might well have arisen when the Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Department of Justice (DOJ), but such a crisis would have been one where the Executive might have told the Court to man the immigration counter at the airport and take responsibility and “honors” for granting Mrs. Arroyo her constitutional right to travel. Instead, the DOJ read out the Due Process rulebook, arguing that notice through the media is legally insufficient, and (somewhat belatedly) that compliance with conditions in the TRO be duly certified. The DOJ had and still has a point: if a TRO makes the main issue moot, such a TRO itself violates Due Process. In short, there can be no crisis when the matter is not in the black and white with which Mr. Doronila paints.

But where the Executive and the Judiciary do not see eye to eye is no crisis. It is part of Checks and Balances. It is part of the political and national conversation on matters of public interest. It is ordinary.

Mr. Doronila’s other premise is that there is a grand design to upend the constitution through mob rule. He considers a scenario (an “option”) where the President and his supporters would “harness the streets to storm the high court and drag out Corona and other suspected pro-Arroyo justices with another ‘people power’ show of force.”

Is Mr. Doronila serious? With the Arab and Russian springs, as well as the Occupy Wall Street Movement, what is happening is that ordinary people want their voices heard but obviously not to the extent of the chaos of the mob rule of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century. If anything, this newer version of people power is as genteel as a grandmother who has just learned to tweet.

What seems clear from reading Mr. Doronila’s “piece” is that he draws a straw man (“mob rule”) so that he can argue for the Rule of Law, even if what we have is a rule of law that does not produce Justice. No one has a monopoly on how to define Justice, which is why we have political discourse. Mr. Doronila’s brand of justice favors the rich and formerly powerful but not those whose rights have been ignored. Surely, those who suffered the inanity of the previous Administration have a right to seeth. That is why Mr. Doronila’s piece rankles.

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