Friday, June 13, 2003


While doing the rounds on the Filipiniana section of National Bookstore today, I chanced upon Prof. Alan Paguia's booklet "Rule of Law or Rule of Force" which to my impression is an attempt to do a scholarly study on the legitimacy of the succession of President Arroyo. The booklet contains the materials on the case and is selling for PHP 75.00

Prof. Alan Paguia argues in his little booklet that the ouster of Erap which the Philippine Supreme Court ruled as valid in the case Estrada v. Arroyo is a triumph of the Rule of Force over the Rule of Law and exhorts the people to restore the Rule of Law, presumably, by bringing back Erap to power. He doesn't say this explicitly but that's the only way you can interpret the lines that go -- the people should decide blah blah blah.

Nice try. Good politics. Bad lawyering.

Doesn't our Constitution say that the Supreme Court is the supreme interpreter of the law of the land? I can still hear Fr. Bernas, S.J., one of ONLY two living experts in Constitutional Law the other being Justice V.V. Mendoza, lecturing that judicial power is the prerogative of the Supreme Court to decide rightly or wrongly over legal issues and still be right. What does that mean? It means that in our constitutional system of government whatever the Supreme Court says over a legal issue, be it logical and lucid decision or arbitrary word salad, is the last word on the matter. The rule of law compels us to obey what the Supreme Court says. That's why some years back when Prof. Alan Paguia lost a big case in the Supreme Court, he published an advertisement appealing to God Almighty to reverse the Supreme Court. In other words, if you lose a case in the Supreme Court, there is no place to appeal anymore but Heaven. If the Supreme Court says, for example, that lunatics can be lawyers, nobody can argue against that. Not the President. Not Congress. It's the law. Hell, we have many lawyer lunatics selling little booklets of their own.

It is the Supreme Court's interpretation that Arroyo's succession is legitimate. Erap resigned, albeit constructively. It is a ruling that will probably be remembered as one of the ugliest, if not the ugliest. But the Supreme Court Justices could have just written the lyrics of "Impossible Dream" to support the decision and Fr. Bernas would have said it's the exercise of judicial power -- rightly or wrongly -- it is right. That's the law. It's final. There is no appeal to a higher court. So how can the ruling of the Supreme Court be a triumph of the rule of force?

By exhorting the "people" to restore the Rule of Law, presumably, by doing another EDSA 3, Prof. Paguia is exhorting them to use the Rule of Force. So if the little booklet succeeds in persuading the people to "restore" the Rule of Law, it would be a triumph of the Rule of Force. That's why I am saying the little booklet is good politics but bad lawyering. It is really tricky. The best among us would have fallen for it too. I guess Prof. Alan Paguia has lost a little faith because today he is not appealing to God Almighty. Instead, he is appealing to the "people".

My late friend playwright Wilfrido Ma. Guerero used to say that the difference between art and propaganda is truth. Art, because it is grounded on the truth, lasts forever. Propaganda, because it is intended to support a single political persuasion, is forgotten as soon as a new order is established. The little booklet is nothing but propaganda masquerading as legal scholarship. It is a great disappointment to the people once they learn that they have just been duped into buying the center piece of Erap's press kit written by a man who goes around carrying the title "Ateneo Professor", as if he has the last word on the subject.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Introducing our Greatest Hits Page

In June 1991, the month I went to Ateneo Law School, I was dead sure I wanted to be a lawyer. But lawyering for me -- as it is now -- is always subservient to my pursuit of my passion for writing. No doubt, I've had many moments experiencing the power of the written word. What a feeling it is to find that truth lurks in legal opinions, court pleadings and legal briefs. But nothing can compare to the many "highs" I had blogging "La Vida Lawyer" for this site. My Best of Lawyerly Yours page is where I will keep these moments. There are little gems there that I treasure. I hope you find one you can like.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Blog Headers in Search of a Body

I'm a having a little difficulty writing a full essay lately. But let me list down some ideas that that's been brewing in the hope that they develop into art (nyah nyah):

The Frank Chavez on my list.

1. What no Frank Chavez in my Top Ten? I met the legendary trial lawyer yesterday and was quite impressed with his resolve. A client of mine has decided to secure his services to do the back-breaking trial work in a set of related cases (22 as of 1996) in which I serve as the chief pleading writer. Then, it occurred to me -- how can I miss him in my Top Ten? The truth is I never saw him in action before. I do remember him very well as the Solicitor General of Cory Aquino who successfully defended the government policy to pay creditors first before spending on education when the constitutionality of the policy was challenged before the Supreme Court. Recently, he pleaded the case of Fraport in the government case to annul the contract for the award of building the new airport. I hope to write about the man's antics when he enters the courtroom for these cases that have shaped my carreer in its early years.

Testing Supreme Court Logic on Computer Circuits

2. Speaking of the Fraport case, I really want to find the time to figure out the validity of the logic in that decision. My Logic teacher Fr. Tomas O'Shaughnnessy S.J., a ver pleasant Irishman, taught us how to test the validity of arguments using computer circuits.It was fun employing it on propagandists masquerading us know-it-all columnists back in college. I swear you could easily spot the non-sequiturs. The system was so simple then. If the logic was valid, the light bulb will light up. If not, it stays dead. If only I can recover my notes from way back then. But take a look at this argument from the Fraport Case decided by the Supreme Court: The winning bidder did not have money to bid on the project. Therefore, the award to the winning bidder is void. Sounds logical to me. Although I still can't understand why they were ruled as unqualified after they have already successfully completed the airport. I don't know how that will fit in Fr. O'Shaughnessy's logic computer circuits.

New Law for Small Enterpreneurs

3. I found a new law which exempts businesses with less than PHP 3 Million in assets (not counting the land and eqiuipment) from income taxes and the Minimum Wage Law. The law is called the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise Act of 2002 signed by the President on November 13, 2002. The law includes all business including professionals.What a boost for the small players like us.

Alan Paguia Strikes Again

4. Ateneo Professor Alan Paguia argues that Erap is still President. Years ago, Prof. Paguia published a full page ad in the nation's leading newspapers appealing to "God Almighty" to reverse a Supreme Court decision that extended the appeal period of fifteen (15) days in favor of an adverse party. Prof. Paguia is my new Man from La Mancha. I, however, wish that he spend his time on more relevant passions.

Solo Practice and Holidays

5. I used to love holidays. When I was an employee, holidays meant no work, but same pay. So I spent holidays doing stuff that I couldn't do because of my work. I went around the malls, bought books, watched movies, take pictures and surf the web. Now, that I am my employer, I'm beginning to hate holidays. Holidays mean less time to do work that pays. I can't go to hearings, so can't bill appearance fees. I can't meet up with clients to close deals, so I don't get commissions. I can't follow up bills of clinets. I can't ask assistants to do paperwork. The trouble is, deadlines don't admit holidays as excuses. So I end up working even harder on holidays. No mallings, no books, no movies, no pictures, no web.