BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘The secretary of justice does not know, or chooses not to know, that a sitting justice of the Supreme Court can be removed only by impeachment.’
If there is one unfit nominee for Chief Justice, it is the secretary of justice herself. Leila de Lima accused the Integrated Bar of the Philippines of applying a double standard when it dismissed the disbarment complaints against Justices Antonio T. Carpio and Maria Lourdes P. Serreno but would not consider her motion for reconsideration seeking the summary dismissal of immorality complaints against her.
The secretary of justice does not know, or chooses not to know, that a sitting justice of the Supreme Court can be removed only by impeachment. If she does not know, this is sheer ignorance. This is reason for members of the JBC not to vote for her for inclusion in the short list.
The secretary of justice made herself look even more stupid and ignorant of the law when she said lawyers being considered for a post in the SC invariably find themselves at the mercy of the Court.
She was directly referring to a provision in law that it is the Supreme Court that has the final say on whether a lawyer should be disbarred on recommendation of the IBP.
She cannot be exempted from investigation for disbarment complaints for the reason that she has been nominated to the Judicial and Bar Council for the position of Chief Justice. The exemption she demands smacks of unequal protection of the law which she should guard against as a lawyer, secretary of justice and possibly Chief Justice considering how President Aquino burns the midnight oil pressuring the IBC to drop the complaint and failing that, now wants the JBC to amend its rules to accommodate her.
Alexander Pope was right in saying “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”
I should now be allowed to make the guess, in fact the conclusion, that President Aquino wants her appointed as Chief Justice because she does not know much about the law.
That makes her easier to manipulate. She is prone to oblige whatever the President wants because she does not know the law. That ignorance which the President can take advantage of for his personal and political benefit is the armor that De Lima will use to remain in the service of the President.
We will not assume that the President does not know Mrs. De Lima’s endless limitations in law. We will assume that she knows all about it and will take advantage of it to its full extent.
The relationship is worse than the undying loyalty of Renato Corona to Gloria Arroyo. Corona got his just desserts. He was convicted in the impeachment trial. The same fate should befall De Lima if she is appointed Chief Justice. .
If Mrs. De Lima were a associate justice in the Court of Appeals or in any inferior Court, she should be dismissed pronto by the Supreme Court for not knowing that justices of the High Tribunal may be removed from office only by impeachment.
It is precisely in appreciation of that law that the IBP dismissed the disbarment charges against Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
Ignorance of the law is worse than plunder in the sense that it facilitates shameless and more scandalous plunder and naked violation of the Constitution and the laws. Ignorance of the law that excuses no one according to the law itself is a curse when it is in the person of a secretary of justice who wants to become Chief Justice, courtesy of the Supreme Court.
It now appears that the President himself does not know about this naked ignorance, nor was he told by his advisers about it. We now have two peas in a pod.
We cannot find any reason why President Aquino should work so very hard to convince the Judicial and Bar Council to include her in the short list. Not having the majority of five, one of the members of the JBC undoubtedly blindly loyal to the President and traitor to the Constitution and the laws, is trying his best or his worst to get the JBC to amend its rules so that Mrs. De Lima may land in the short list.
On the other hand, the IBC stands pat on its duty to have a complaint against any lawyer thoroughly investigated even if the respondent or maybe because the respondent is a potential Chief Justice?
How in God’s name did the professor of De Lima in the San Beda law school teach her that the IBP can investigate a disbarment complaint against a sitting magistrate of the Supreme Court?
De Lima was quoted by ABS CBN saying “while the undersigned (De Lima) finds herself powerless in the face of the six-month lag in the referral of her disbarment cases, (she should have said baseless charges) to the IBP, not to mention the eight-month inaction in the show cause order the Court itself initiated against her, the justices of the Supreme Court are able to exonerate their colleagues from their own administrative cases in time for and coinciding with the opening of the nomination for the position of Chief Justice.”
That statement is meaningless. The whole point is that the IBP will proceed with its full-dress investigation. Maybe the IBP will find her without guilt. Maybe the Supreme Court will abide by the findings of the IBP. Maybe it will not.
The point is there is a complaint that must be investigated. Since at least one member of the IBP allowed himself to be used by the President for the inclusion of Mrs. De Lima in the short list by amending the rules of the Constitutional body, Malacañang or President Aquino himself must have forgotten to ask the JBC to amend its rules.
This may have happened because the legal team of Mr. Aquino might have felt cocksure that they could influence the IBP to summarily dismiss the charges against Mrs. De Lima. It so happens that the IBP is an independent body that cannot be swayed or ordered to skip a legal process for the benefit of the President and his ward.
There have been lapses in the choice of De Lima for Chief Justice. Unfortunately, it is not the President who will pay the price because he expects to benefit from the same lapses.
It is the Filipino people who will ultimately pay. And to think that they voted Benigno Simeon Aquino as President in the hope that his “matuwid na daan” is sincere. As it turns out it is another empty slogan like slogans of all Presidents are empty. We must have done something terribly wrong when we were young to deserve all this.