OPINION: A supreme miscalculation reaps the whirlwind

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Dec 09 2017 06:28 AM

To ask a naughty question is an attempt to be naughty. Let me try.

This is in reference to Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita L. de Castro who may have volunteered her appearance and testimony before a Congressional “dog and pony show" on Wednesday, November 29.

When the Supreme Court en banc gave leave to and permitted her requested appearance before the Congressional impeachment committee, did most members of the ‘en banc’ already know in advance that she would make a mess of herself? 

The target of Justice Teresita’s internet-streamed tirade was her superior/supervisor, the Chief Justice (CJ) Maria Lourdes A. Sereno. She is younger, gifted with a more pleasant visage, personality and temperament than her accuser Justice de Castro. A junior at that in the Bench’s pecking order. Junior Justice, that is until Ms. Sereno was appointed by President Aquino to be Chief Magistrate, a post Justice de Castro was also vying for, as revealed during her Congressional appearance.

The Lady CJ is accused, among others, of violating in-house administrative rules of the High Court disguised as a prosecutorial attempt passing it up as “culpable violation of the Constitution,” and therefore impeachable. This was filed by an ambulance-chasing penny-ante notary. Let me mention his name as my contribution towards satisfying his publicity whimsy: Atty. Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon. (Take a bow, ‘torney.)

Never ever before in the history of the Philippines has a Supreme Court Justice deigned descend, from the heretofore hallowed heights of its esteemed and revered perch, down to the level of a number of partisan politicians. They are the prevailing ‘super majority’ in the House of Representatives. Well, Justice de Castro just did. In so doing, she took “a high risk gamble for her own personal and professional reputation.” So editorialized the Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

Tallying up public reaction, she lost her roll of the dice! If Justice de Castro thought that she could settle what now appeared to be an internal ‘intra-familia’ hurt (like being ignored and overshadowed) and score points by washing proverbial dirty linen in public, she must now realize that she miscalculated. 

To my naughty mind, the climax of her performance came with a meaningfully resounding thud! Pardon my Sampaloc patois— “Supalpal!” “Kumalabog!” After ‘washing in public’ an internal linen litany of her perceived ‘errors’ committed by the Lady CJ, the prey of her appearance, De Castro was asked if a violation of an in-house administrative regulation rose to a “violation of the Constitution.” You could almost hear the Congressmen begging—"please tell us, declare this to be impeachable!” Well, she demurred. “I decline to answer that question,” de Castro declared. To the consternation of the impeachment committee, their much vaunted juridical ‘consigliere’ failed to deliver!

While the real nature of this impeachment case against CJ Sereno is now clear and well-understood, how the House will pass judgment over their dog and pony fishing expedition is still anybody’s guess. 

Following De Castro’s appearance before that House committee, I reviewed a plethora of the ensuing Facebook comments and read through commentary appendages to digital newspapers. Without being a professional content analyst/pollster, one can easily discern that at least 95% of the expressions were judgmentally uncomplimentary. Poor Teresita! She did lose her gamble so miserably to the point that a galore of memes emerged making fun of her.
Also resuscitated were abominable judicial issues and decisions she voted for in compliance with suspected partisan predilections. These are: acquitting a former President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) already in detention for high crimes; releasing incarcerated politicians (Enrile and Estrada) accused of plunder, awaiting trial; and voting to allow a scoundrel (deposed dictator Marcos) to be buried in the National Cemetery for Heroes!

In all seriousness, however, that De Castro performance has elicited a collective expression of profound concern from the legal profession. Pronouncing it most aptly, a practicing attorney cyberfriend, Wilfredo Garrido (UP lawyer and a fellow Waray-waray. A family man and an avid romantic mountaineer) wrote. 

Let me quote him: “For us members of the Bar, what saddens us the most is the damage she is doing to the institution, weakening its independence, lifting the veil of secrecy that lends the Court its aura and majesty. We will never see the Supreme Court in the same light again.”

Indeed, washing dirty linen in public has consequences. Clothesline drying is hardly ever secure from unexpected gusts. Poor Justice Teresita L. de Castro, who has less than year prior to hanging up her judicial robe (she retires in October next year), has instead earned the reputation of being petty, vain, envious, covetous and vindictive! Such a whirlwind it has been!

”For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind!” (Book of Hosea 8:7 - Old Testament)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.