HOUSE INDEPENDENT BLOC WELCOMES SERENO’S STATEMENT
• October 26, 2014
• Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
• Published in Nation
THE House independent bloc welcomed yesterday the statement of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to adopt a strategy that would avoid flip-flopping rulings of the Supreme Court (SC) in the future as part of their efforts to speed up the resolution of cases.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, head of the bloc, and Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz backed any move that would strengthen the country’s judicial system.
“This is a welcome development and we support such statement to ensure that all new decisions would conform with the previous rulings. I also admire their exercise of independence which is helping hugely in regaining people’s trust and confidence to the institution,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), pointed out.
“Definitely, it can strengthen the judiciary as it stabilizes our legal precepts,” De la Cruz, a member of the bloc, said.
Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo agreed with Romualdez and De la Cruz, saying the plan of seeking “to stabilize jurisprudence” will be healthy for the country’s legal system.
“Ideally, the SC decisions should not change for reasons of stability and permanence. But, this does not happen because society changes. We do not have problem when changes in judicial doctrines reflect changes in society. We have problems when the SC flip-flops its decisions to favor certain vested interests. We have to draw the line. For sure, it will strengthen the judiciary,” Castelo said.
But Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a lawyer, belittled Sereno’s statement, saying “there is nothing novel in Sereno’s pronouncement. Every law student knows the basic rule of stare decisis — adherence to precedents.”
Barzaga, a former prosecutor during the Senate impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, even hit the “alarming” unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) in the Belgica case when it declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) despite its constitutionality ruling of the High Tribunal before.
“There is no more finality and stability in the SC decisions since any decision as shown in the Belgica case can be overturned anytime by the Supreme Court. Basic is the rule that when the SC is confronted with the issue of constitutionality of an act made by the legislature or the Executive, the SC as much as possible should exercise judicial restraint out of respect to a separate but a co-equal branch of the government,” Barzaga stressed, adding that the ruling may suggest that former justices who affirmed the constitutionality of pork barrel system were allegedly ignorant of the Constitution.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, another prosecutor in the Corona impeachment trial who warned of filing impeachment complaints against some SC justices over seemingly flip-flopping rulings, said “I just hope it (SC) does. I need to see the supposed strategy before I can further comment.”
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, a lawyer, urged Sereno “to explain based on solid, legal, philosophical and even moral and economic grounds the rationale why it is abandoning a well-settled ruling. As it is, the SC does not usually provide a convincing rationale why it is abandoning previous rulings and foregoing the stare decisis ruling when deciding differently from a previous case which has the same set of facts and legal issues.”
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., a lawyer and chairman of the House committee on justice, also welcomed the statement of Sereno.
“It is a very welcome development. We have been very clear even during the Corona impeachment that flip-flopping weakens the judicial system and erodes the people’s trust in the government. The flip-flopping which should be prohibited should however be distinguish from a decision abandoning a previous doctrine which is of course allowed,” said Tupas, the lead public prosecutor during the impeachment trial of ex-Chief Justice Renato Corona.