You know you’re screwed when it’s the Chief Justice who is calling you out
You’re now the 16th President of the Philippines and you are privileged enough to have a swarm of supporters, willing to take a bullet for you. You’re privileged enough to come home to your province on a private jet whenever you’re feeling homesick from being in Manila for too long (and your parents would have threatened to send you back to your province if you did this as a college student).
Not to mention that at this point, you’re seen as nothing more than a hero simply because you are not your predecessor – and thus, you can get away with a misdeed or two because people would think you’re just warming up to the job and you’re having a hard time undoing your predecessor’s mistakes.
But then, you make that one big fuck up and you are first called out by ordinary people. Then by public figures. Then by congressmen and senators. You still don’t give a damn.
Then it’s the Chief Justice who calls you out.
Last August 6, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte released a list of public servants involved in the illegal drug trade. Now, that was a very heroic thing for him to do even if he knew that some of the people in the list would be people he knew well (in fact, one of the people in the list is apparently a close friend of the PNP Chief).
But then, it turned out that some of the people on the list were already dead. That’s despite the President being told by police officials that gave him the list that accurate research was done over it.
You might be thinking, wow, our president is so naive!
Because he probably is. Which is why many people think he is unfit for the job. Reading off those names on Public TV is one thing, but fact checking whether the people behind those names are still alive or not is another thing.
The Chief Justice of course, wasn’t going to take this sitting down. On August 9, 2016, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno firmly fought for a “no warrant, no surrender” system – meaning, those people whose names were in the drug watch list are not to surrender unless a warrant is served on them.
“I would caution them against surrendering or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly issued warrant of arrest,” the Chief Justice said. She also stated that “As the sole entity charged with the discipline of judges, the Supreme Court decides when judges are excused from bench duty and report to it”.
Processing and issuing warrants to people doing illegal stuff, that’s called due process by the way. Considering how these public servants in the drug watch list have surely gotten themselves involved in the illegal drug trade (based on the “accurate research” by the police working on their cases) – there’s no reason why the President can’t send warrants to these people, and if they resist to be investigated, our President can always order the police assert themselves over these suspects.
Asking these people on Public TV to simply surrender (instead of sending them warrants asking for their surrender) isn’t foolproof. Just look at the case of that politician from Visayas whose son already fled the country while he had to endure undergoing investigations.
Had the President sent a warrant to this politician (and his son), the chances of one of them fleeing investigation is lesser and isn’t that what the President wants? To get these people investigated and to have them answerable for their crimes?
Duterte may think he’s an expert on the law simply because he’s also a lawyer like the Chief Justice but there’s a reason why Chief Justice Sereno is the Chief Justice and he isn’t – and it’s obviously because our Chief Justice knows our laws better than our President.
Our President just happens to be a lawyer too, which is why people think he is just as good as interpreting the law as the Chief Justice. Besides, being a lawyer is not a prerequisite to becoming President so being a President does not automatically make you a master in interpreting laws.
Earning a law degree and practicing it for decades is not an automatic qualification for the post of the Supreme Court Justice. You can still have that law degree and practice law for decades and still suck at being a lawyer.
Perhaps, our President has too much pride which is why he couldn’t admit that he’s rusty on some parts of the law – which is why he pretends he knows everything about certain functions of the law when in fact, he knows close to nothing about it.
Perhaps, CJ Sereno should have been our President if we were aiming for a President who is ready to get down and get dirty in the quest to flush criminality out of our country because you know, she knows the law better than the current President and we can save ourselves the pain of seeing good citizens of our country die because they looked like drug peddlers when in fact, they’ve never gone anywhere near illegal drugs in their lives.
Pragmatically speaking, she’ll have the chance to win an election considering that she is now one of the highest officials of our government and she’ll surely has the mechanism to run an election campaign if we look at the connections and positions she’s acquired throughout the years.
Definitely, unlike Miriam Defensor-Santiago, she’s not a naive idealist who thinks she can win the elections sitting down even if she already screwed up in the first place because of the running mate she picked and her lack of campaign mechanism.