Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lambino, the Fallout

I wrote elswehere that the Supreme Court's decision in Javellana in 1973 destroyed its reputation and signaled the Court's subservience to the executive branch of government. More than three decades later, the Arroyo administration elevated the their own attempt to revise the Constitution before the Supreme Court. The Court was given an opportunity to reprise its role in 1973 and approve a shift to a parliamentary form of government despite the apparent defects in manner the Constitution is amended.

When the Court deliberated on Lambino, I suggested that a ruling in favor of the initiative would have been politically safe route; it will shield the Court from heat. I predicted that ruling against initiative would open the Court to vilification by the other branches of government.

Indeed, the Speaker of the House aattacked the Supreme Court and went so far as to initiate impeachment proceedings against the Justices who voted against the initiative claiming the Supreme Court destroyed the dreams of millions of Filipinos when it dismissed the Palace-sponsored campaign.

I also predicted that whatever flak the Court will get will be temporary and that when the smoke has cleared, the Court would become stronger. A recent survey by Pulse Asia proved just that. In that survey, Pulse Asia reported that:

The Supreme Court and Chief Justice Panganiban enjoy higher approval and trust ratings in November 2006 relative to the previous quarter At the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision junking the people’s initiative petition of the Sigaw ng Bayan, the performance and trust ratings of both the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice improve between July and November 2006. While the overall approval rating of Chief Justice Panganiban increases by 9 percentage points during this period, that of the Supreme Court goes up from 36% to 46%.

Furthermore, the Chief Justice also registers a 10-percentage point gain in his overall trust rating between July and November 2006. In the case of the Supreme Court, its present overall trust rating (43%) is 9 percentage points higher than the July 2006 figure (34%).

There is a lesson to be learned here. More than three decades ago, the Court took the safe route, preserved its own existence at the cost of its own credibility. For years the Court had had to struggle to rebuild the people's faith in the institution.

By refusing to pay into politicians' games this time the Court gained public respect. This lesson should inspire public servants to resist every temptation to compromise their integrity. It presents the clearest reason for standing by the truth.

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