Political terrorism

TOMORROW, Jan. 19, Congress will resume its session amid talk that an impeachment complaint would be filed against Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno for allegedly withholding the promulgation of a decision, penned by Justice Ruben T. Reyes, ousting Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong from her congressional seat. I believe that, by itself, this withholding cannot support an impeachment.

CJ not personally liable. First, in its Resolution dated Dec. 10, 2008, the Supreme Court stated, “Since nine (9) Justices, not counting the Chief Justice, would concur only ‘in the result,’ the Justices unanimously decided to withhold the promulgation of the ponencia of Justice Reyes. It was noted that if a majority concurs only ‘in the result,’ the ponencia has no doctrinal value. More importantly, any decision ousting a sitting member of the House of Representatives should spell out clearly the legal basis relied upon by the majority for such extreme measure.” (bold types and italics in original)

Plainly then, it was the Court itself, not the Chief Justice, that withheld the promulgation. Some, including me, may—with due respect—disagree with the Court’s two reasons (and even with the grammar used) for the non-promulgation. The Constitution does not require “doctrinal value” to validate a judgment. Neither does it demand such value in ousting a solon. Indeed, there are many decisions that do not lay down doctrines. Nonetheless, the inaction of the Court en banc as a collegial body cannot be used against the CJ.

Second, I believe that the subject decision is unconstitutional, not because it lacks doctrinal value, but because it violates Sec. 14 of Article VIII of the Constitution that states, “No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and law on which it is based.” Per Velarde v Social Justice Party (June 28, 2004), a decision that violates this provision is void and non-existent.

An “in the result” vote concurs with the conclusion of the decision, but not with its premises and reasons. The majority who merely concurred “in the result” did not express “clearly and distinctly the facts and law” justifying their vote. In effect, the majority did not state at all the bases of the judgment.

Third, the grounds for impeachment are: “Culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” Sitting on a void decision is not one of them. Au contraire, promulgating a decision with nine justices concurring only “in the result” may arguably—repeat, arguably—constitute “culpable violation of the Constitution.”

Numbers game. Many politicians claim that impeachment is a numbers game where all that is needed is the vote of “at least one-third of all the members of the House of Representatives.” However, I think that to ignore the constitutional grounds would constitute grave abuse of discretion that the Supreme Court could enjoin, as it did with the attempt to oust Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. in 2003. A naked insistence to impeach Chief Justice Puno based on sheer tyranny of numbers would be political terrorism of the most odious kind.

Having said that, I also believe that the Court should decide the Limkaichong case with deliberate speed. Already, more than one and a half years have lapsed in the three-year term of a representative. The case has been amply deliberated upon. The issues are not difficult. In fairness, the Court should issue a prudent decision within 30 days from now.

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Metrobank Foundation’s anniversary. Sometime ago, columnist Wilson Cheng asked me what one word best describes Dr. George S. K. Ty, chair of the Metrobank Group. Without hesitation, I replied, “Trust.” In these days of financial meltdowns and of cratered confidence in institutions and icons, people look up to a person who does what he says and who takes care of their concerns more than he does his own.

Aside from heading a conglomerate engaged mainly in banking (Metropolitan Bank, the country’s largest), motor vehicles (Toyota Philippines) and real estate (Federal Land), Dr. Ty has, to date, endowed the Metrobank Foundation with over P2.5 billion. From the endowment’s income, the foundation promotes excellence in education, health care and the visual arts.

It spends over P100 million yearly to search for and reward the “most outstanding” teachers, soldiers, policemen, journalists, artists and scholars (over 2,000 of them). It assists various projects of its partner institutions. It maintains a medical center (Manila Doctors Hospital) and a school (Manila Doctors College). Together with the Toyota Motor Philippines Foundation, it is building a P100-million “Asian Heritage House and Auditorium” at the University of the Philippines.

I have agreed to be the keynote speaker during the 30th anniversary of the Metrobank Foundation on Jan. 22, because I believe that excellence, the underlying philosophy of its philanthropic activities blends perfectly with trust, the personification of its founder.

These two qualities—excellence and trust or ET—complement each other. Surely, we trust others because they exude honesty and competence. Like US President-elect Barack Obama, they can confidently say “Yes we can” because their rhetoric is backed up by their track record of “Yes we did.” Competence and confidence, excellence and trust go together, build on one another and are impregnable altogether.

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