More Supreme than the Supreme Court?

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By Miel Feria

While some sectors of society lauded Secretary de Lima for bravely defying the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court and not allowing Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country last week , I was alarmed and scared by this act of defiance by a government official against the country’s highest court.

What law would be left untouched, what right would be held sacred when the very courts that have been set up to protect those rights could be violated by an appointed official? Would it be all right to trample on one person’s rights, to disregard an order from the Supreme Court in the name of justice? What would be the boundaries of such power to overrule the highest court? What of separation of powers in the government? Should the Supreme Court kowtow to the Executive Branch of the Government?

The Supreme Court is inviolate

“Supreme Court na ang nagsabi, wala nang appeal yan!”

This was something my brother would often tell me when something has been decided in our family, the Supreme Court referring to our Father. When our father decided, we didn’t have any choice but to follow. While the decision may be final, Dad was just and would often hear both sides of the story before making any decisions. My dad would always make sure that he was fair in his judgment.

Though my Dad is far from perfect, I knew that his word was law and that I should not question his decisions whenever he decided against me or praise him whenever his decided in my favor. His authority is absolute, regardless of whether I felt slighted or favored. My Dad was the Supreme Court; whatever decisions he made were final and binding.

I have been keen on my being fair to others. I have always abided by the rules. Just like in the courts, my Dad would often say that you were innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. No one should assume another person’s guilt until it was proven. Growing up, this made me careful when passing judgment on others.

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Just like my Dad, I saw the law and the courts as inviolate. Whatever the courts decided, I would follow. I may bitch and complain about a certain ruling but I knew that after all the appeals have been exhausted, the decision of the court is final and binding. After all, it was not called the Supreme Court for nothing, right?

It is for this reason that I feel alarmed by the way DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima blatantly ignored and disobeyed the TRO issued by the Supreme Court regarding the former President. I know the Secretary acted on what she thought was for the best interest of the country but this is not enough reason to ignore an order from the highest court in the land.

The Act sets a dangerous precedent

A number of personalities have expressed concern over this transgression as well. As Cito Beltran said in his column last Monday, this act can be used as a precedent for the Administration to overrule the Supreme Court whenever they feel the need to put the best interest of the country over any individual’s rights.

Nowhere is it written that it is acceptable to sacrifice the right of one individual for the good of the rest. Each person’s rights are as important as those of all others. The action by the DOJ Secretary can now be used as a precedent by businesses, institutions and other branches of the government to ignore or disobey TROs issued by the court.

I may have disagreed with the former president on a number of issues, but I still feel that she deserves to be treated with respect: after all, she has not been convicted of anything yet, and on top of that she is a member of the House of Representatives. She should have been allowed to leave the country, and seek the medical attention she needed.

If the government were dead set on making the former President answer to the different accusations against her, they should have sent someone with her and not prevented her from leaving the country. By doing what they did, the administration did not show political will to prosecute: instead, they demonstrated a willingness to suborn an independent branch of the government to accomplish whatever purpose they have in the name of justice. Not only did they trample on a former President’s rights, they have undermined the highest court in the land as well.
The DOJ Secretary should not be the only one to be blamed for the incident. Surely the Secretary did not or could not have acted with such authority without the support of the Chief Executive, so he should be held liable as well. In the wake of another controversial decision of the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised if this newfound authority of the “more supreme that the Supreme Court” DOJ Secretary be used to delay the implementation of the said order.

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