Compromise and common sense

“Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages happy.”

    Is the Supreme Court superior to the Impeachment Court or is the Impeachment Court supreme within its ambit? That is the question of the moment.

    Lawyers will always cite the Constitutional provision that favors their argument. One side will point to Article VIII Sec. 1: The Supreme Court has the power and the duty “to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government”. The other side will cite Article X1 Sec. 6: “The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.”

    Either argument is solid so the question, if neither side gives in, will have to be resolved arbitrarily.

    An impasse has to be ended one way or the other if the country is to move forward. That will bring the Executive into the picture because it is the only branch of government that has the means to enforce the rule of law. And the thing is the Executive can go either way on the issue and it will still be preserving and defending the Constitution and the rule of law because both points of view, as far as supremacy is concerned, are valid.

    The way out of the dilemma cannot be found in the language of the Constitution as interpreted by lawyers. The way out can be found through common sense.

    There are only 31 officials who can be impeached: the President, the Vice-president, the Ombudsman, 15 members of the Supreme Court, 3 members of the Commission on Audit (COA), 3 members of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and 7 members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

    One can glean from this list that it will not be difficult for the Supreme Court to exercise neutrality, to referee and call fouls, in the impeachment of 16 officials. (The Court’s behavior in the cases of Chief Justice Davide and Ombudsman Merci Gutierrez were, hopefully, exceptions.) But how can one assume impartiality from the Supreme Court Justices when one of their own is being impeached? That would be like asking a member of the opposing team to referee a championship game and expect him to remain non-partisan. It defies reason. It goes against human nature.

    There must be a compromise. The Impeachment Court must defer to the Supreme Court when it comes to those 16 officials and the Supreme Court in turn must defer to the Impeachment Court when it is its members who are being impeached. Now an argument can be made that such a compromise is unfair to the 15 justices of the SC because they will have no recourse if they believe their rights have been violated. Unfortunately, the framers of the Constitution did not foresee the day when the SC would have to referee a proceeding where one of its members is the respondent. (Who would have thought our justices would sink so low?) Consequently, the Impeachment Court and the Supreme Court have no choice but to work with what they have. They can use their wisdom and defer to each other or they can butt heads until the Executive is forced to step in.

    At this point, it is vital to know the difference between principled compromise and compromised principles.


Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • I rather see the trial as a defining moment for the Philippines. Do the senators grasp what impartiality means in a land of favors? Do they understand that the entire world is watching?

  • This constitutional crisis was brought upon to us by the master by which this blog so humbly serves. Pnoy had shown contempt against Corona from day 1. Pnoy is an immature brat who is incapable of compromise and common sense. Ask a common man from a street about the ongoing impeachment trial and you will see that people are likely to link the proceedings with Hacienda Luisita. Corona told Pnoy to let go of his precious toy. Pnoy said, oh no you can’t, out you go. 

    Enough said.

  • J_ag

    The long held traditions of entitlement and impunity is deeply ingrained among the powerful in this country. Institutions are simply frames to give the country a sense of civilization. 

  • J_ag

    It is Congress in the end who is the sole authority to interpret and change what the Constitution is and not the SC. What we are seeing here is the battle between two autocrats. One in the executive and one in the SC. 

    The lack of a culture of  true representative government makes the most powerful branch of the State, Congress,  the weakest of the triumvirate since it gave up its power of the purse to the Executive.  

    The Executive has become the most powerful branch of the State since it has control of the purse strings with very little oversight. 

    Capture the executive you have capture of the State. FM and GMA proved that two very smart people can tweak the Congress and the SC to their whims and caprices. PNoy is finding out that one has to be crafty as they were to change the system. You cannot use the already broken system to fix things. 

    PNoy does not have the intellectual competence to transform this system. There are extremely bright people who have been at the forefront of the power relations in this country since FM held sway. GMA strengthened the hand of these people.  

    Pnoy is no match for them. The men around him lack the gravitas for such a huge challenge. 

    • Manuelbuencamino

      You’l be surprised. Don’t underestimate the President. This “extremely bright people” who are at the forefront are not really that bright. Don’t mistake unscrupulousness for intelligence.

      • J_ag

        Unfortunately the unscrupulous in this country have the wealth to hire the best and the brightest to shield them from scrutiny. Raul Roco, Frank Drillon, Ed Angara, and many other stalwarts from ACCRA were all at the employ of FM and Danding Cojuangco. 

        Juan Ponce Enrile if there was true revolution in 1986 would have been tried for murder. 

        Morality is a societal construction. Those that break the rules in this country are on top of of the heap. 

  • Anonymous

    ManuB’s thesis — it goes beyond reason to expect impartiality when kamag-anaks are concerned —-   s/c justices protecting one of its own,  How far will Persi-Noy go to protect the family farm?

    Are we talking on the same page?   Or this saHHT-tahyr in the form of talking from one side — PersiNoy and family farm, no connection, after all, persiNoynoy is son of Cory —- while talking on the other side, the professional colleagues Supreme Court, GUILTY!!!!

  • Anonymous

    so what does persi-denTE Noynoy say?   I mean, what persiDente Noynoy says isimportant because  (1) Persi-Dente Noy-Noy says he knows the law and he needs no lawyers and judges and ex-judges to tell him what to do;  (2) Persi-Dente Noynoy (after listening to his bosses and other voices) does act without referring to lawyers and ex-judges and judges;  (3) Persi-Dente has  Supreme Authority over NBI, BIR, PNP and Army.

    What persi-Dente Noynoy says is important because he is very qualified being a child of a former president.

    • Manuelbuencamino


      Pull your head out of your ass, a little fresh air will do you good.

      • Anonymous

        Hey…  ManuB’s back from Malakanyang and another session of being a mouth piece…..   Hah hah hah hah!!!!