Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ignorant and Ignoble

"While the Court has taken an increasingly liberal approach to the rule of Locus Standi, it is not an open invitation for the ignorant and the ignoble to file petitions that prove nothing but their cerebral deficit.” These are the harsh words of Chief Justice Reynato Puno in dismissing the consolidated petitions - filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano and his daughter Evangeline Lozano, who is also a lawyer, and one Louis "Barok" Biraogo - that seek to nullify HR 1109.

To receive such a strong rebuke, from the chief justice no less coupled by the near unanimous approval of a court of 13, is indicative not only of the brimming legal errors attending the Lozano petition, but also of something even more despicable. To be sure, the Lozano petition is not the first to land on the doorsteps of the High Court to be thrown out for lack of a justiciable controversy. The petition recently filed by the youthful Bohol Congressman Adam Relson Jala, asking a ruling on joint voting by Congress on Charter change, easily comes to mind. That petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court in a minute resolution for prematurity also.

And there are several other cases dismissed on similar grounds, or, if not dismissed, the issues of justiciable controversy and standing are contentious, which goes to show that they are not really easily grasped concepts even among some legal practitioners specializing in constitutional law litigations.

So what made the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Puno in particular, revile at the Lozanos by indirectly calling them ignorant, ignoble and suffering from cerebral deficit? What is it that previous suitors of the court, who were equally unlearned in the fine art of engaging its attention, did not do or have to incur the court's displeasure? Is it the personality of Oliver Lozano himself - a man who has long been associated with the Marcoses - that struck a discordant note in the mind of the chief? Is it because it was Oliver Lozano, the man who has filed four defective impeachment complaints in succession against President Macapagal-Arroyo, with no conceivable purpose but to get ahead of the flock in unseating an unpopular president to gain media mileage or for defeating legally sound impeachment complaints by playing around the one-year bar on impeachment?

Chief Justice Puno did not merely content himself in stating the usual, although seemingly arcane, legal principles that are too often involved in constitutional law litigations in disposing the Lozano petition. He went as far as question the fitness of father-and-daughter Lozanos as members of the legal profession. He branded them as ignorant, presumably of the law - which could be a ground for administrative discipline for lawyers and judges alike - and ignoble, which refers to baseness of character that would make one unfit as a lawyer. Now I am not suggesting that lawyers are angels, but if one is found wanting in the qualities required by the rules of professional responsibility his or her license may be taken away.

Perhaps Chief Justice Puno was also aggravated by the possibility that Lozano's petition could be trying to add a stamp of validity to the much-hated HR 1109 by forcing the Supreme Court to indirectly declare it legal, given that the Lower House has yet to encroach on the powers of the Senate. Indeed, the chief has said in his ponencia, maybe grudgingly, that no "usurpation of power or gross abuse of discretion has yet taken place.” This somehow undercuts the public outcry against the congressmen who have been called various distasteful names, chiefly flouters of the Constitution, in approving HR 1109. With Lozano's petition out and the High Court's ruling, these congressmen can now tell their detractors with even greater defiance that they did nothing illegal. What the Lozano petition purported to accomplish - to declare HR 1109 illegal - in effect made the Supreme Court give a stamp of validity to HR 1109. The quintessential Lozano at work!

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