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.

No comments: