PRESSURE ON THE SUPREME COURT MAY COMPROMISE CREDIBILITY OF ITS DECISION ON THE PEOPLES INITIATIVE PETITION
CODAL condemns the pressure being applied to the Supreme Court, personally conducted and openly admitted by pro charter change advocates like Pres. Gloria Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia. The people may express their opinion publicly in the exercise of their constitutional right to expression on such an important issue. However, personally lobbying Justices of the Supreme Court to decide in favor of the peoples initiative in exchange for promised rewards, is no longer an exercise of a constitutional right, but an unlawful attempt at bribery and a contemptuous attack on the independence of the Court particularly if the lobbying is done by those who have the power or influence to affect the appointment of members of the Court and its Chief Justice. We are aghast that a member of the Bar in the person of the Justice Secretary while rebuking the Chief Justice, the person being “pressured”, found nothing wrong with the acts of those who pressure. We urge those who seek to pressure the Supreme Court in exchange for promised rewards to desist from personally and directly lobbying members of the Court because such influence peddling is legally, constitutionally and morally wrong.
We ask members of the Supreme Court to assert their independence by shunning the intense pressure and deciding on the basis of what their conscience dictates as right under the law and the Constitution. The charter change issue is an important issue that merits an engaged public debate among the people who are free to express their opinion for or against charter change. While the Court should recognize the need for such a public expression of advocacy, it should not allow the kind of pressure openly admitted and justified by pro charter change advocates.
We believe that current charter change is for the benefit of everyone except the Filipino people. The Sigaw ng Bayan instigated ‘peoples initiative’ is also unconstitutional because, inter alia, (i) the proposed changes revises the Constitution, and is therefore constitutionally prohibited (ii) there is no enabling law as required by the Constitution and (iii) and it did not get the 3% and 12% signatures of the registered voters. We find the intense lobbying by local officials self serving since they will benefit from the ‘no election’ scenario under the new Constitution. Furthermore, we find it dangerous that the proposed Constitution provides for the creation of an interim parliament that, because it is empowered to further amend the Constitution, may not call for an election for years and perpetuate itself for a long time similar to Pres. Marcos’ interim government during martial law.
We express our dismay that due to the pressure and lobbying admitted by the Chief Justice and Speaker de Venecia, the Court’s decision on the initiative case is inextricably compromised. We urge members of the legal profession to rally against this insidious attempt to change the Constitution by violating it. We ask the Filipino people, to publicly give the proposed charter change their resounding disapproval and publicly disown the ‘initiative’ that was never ours in the first place.
Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date : October 25, 2006