US Supreme Court Justice Scalia dies: Filipinos should be familiar with the controversy of SC appointments

Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portrait
The deceased: SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia

The news that recently came out of the United States was that one of its Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia, died on February 13 of natural causes in a West Texas ranch.

Appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in 1986 by then president Ronald Reagan, Scalia has had a reputation as being solidly ultra-conservative, along with fellow SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas. He is one of those who, in 2015, voted against marriage equality for same-sex marriages.

Justice Scalia’s death has prompted quite a bit of a reaction from the legal and political realm within the United States. Much of it focuses on the nomination of his replacement, a constitutional duty which now falls to outgoing president Barack Obama.

Republicans contend that the next president should be the one to nominate Scalia’s replacement. Through a few official statements from some of them, the sentiment is that they will do everything they can to block any nominations that president Obama, a Democrat, will attempt to make. One such example is from US Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R,Ky):

“Today our country lost an unwavering champion of a timeless document that unites each of us as Americans. Justice Scalia’s fidelity to the Constitution was rivaled only by the love of his family: his wife Maureen his nine children, and his many grandchildren. Through the sheer force of his intellect and his legendary wit, this giant of American jurisprudence almost singlehandedly revived an approach to constitutional interpretation that prioritized the text and original meaning of the Constitution. Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Scalia family.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Quite a few comments left on his Facebook page expressed disagreement with him, with the gist of it including the following:

“McConnell is an obstructionist”. “The president should be allowed to fulfill his constitutional duty”. “Such a statement is partisan politics at its finest”. “It is implied that the filling of the vacancy should be postponed in the hopes that a Republican president will emerge”. “The people chose Obama to be president in 2010, and McConnell does not seemingly recognize such”.

President Obama, for his part, is determined to fulfill his constitutional duty as president. We must take note that the next US national elections are on November 2016, about 7 months from now. Obama contends that this is ample time to make nominations, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility in evaluating his nominee/s. However, for a nominee to pass, it requires 60 out of the 100 votes in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Why should Filipinos be bothered to read or learn about the goings-on in American political circles? Well, the controversy that usually surrounds Supreme Court (SC) appointments, especially those that are made during election years, should be familiar to Filipinos.

gloria_arroyo
Gloria Arroyo: vilified for doing the same things BS Aquino did

Recall how in 2010, then outgoing president Gloria Arroyo copped a lot of flak for nominating then SC Associate Justice Renato Corona to Chief Justice (CJ) too close to the elections that year. There is supposedly a ban on appointments two months before elections. Corona was nominated as one of the possible nominees to replace outgoing CJ Reynato Puno. Despite the Philippine Judicial Bar Council (JBC) opening the nominations, and the SC ultimately dismissing petitions to stop the nomination and appointment of a replacement CJ, current president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III resurrected the issue, and made a big fuss about it, during the first two years of his term. Corona was eventually impeached in 2012.

An unpleasant future awaits President BS Aquino should an 'uncooperative' candidate win the 2016 elections.
BS Aquino does not want this to happen after he steps down as president.

Recall also, that during his term, BS Aquino has had to make his own appointments to the SC. Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose qualifications and psychological fitness have been questioned, was appointed as Corona’s replacement. Marvic Leonen was appointed to the seat vacated by Sereno, with many suspecting that it was for his work in the “peace negotiations” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which led to a controversial framework agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). And just at the start of this year, 2016, BS Aquino appointed former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa to replace retiring SC Justice Martin Villarama, Jr.

2016 happens to be an election year for the Philippines as well. Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao filed a report stating that the retirement of Villarama comes under questionable circumstances. Villarama was slated to retire on April 24, 2016, but opted to do so earlier. Although Villarama cited “deteriorating health” for his early retirement, it was allegedly under the convincing of Aquino political adviser Ronaldo Llamas. BS Aquino most likely wanted to avoid the situation of appointing Justices too close to the elections, and to pack the SC with his nominees as early as possible.

The key points to highlight are the following:

At the very least, some of the American electorate recognize the need for, and importance of, a fully-functional Supreme Court, (i.e, no vacancies) and are willing to stand up for it. The Filipino electorate, on the other hand, generally just do not seem to care, or are letting the politicians do the thinking for them. The very same politicians they keep complaining about.

Isn’t it but natural for a president to appoint a Justice with similar political or ideological leanings? Whether it is here or in the US this observation seems to hold true. Whether it is right or not is another issue entirely. Don’t we, in our daily lives, naturally gravitate towards people who mirror our own beliefs and perceptions anyway? Doesn’t like attract like when it comes to social interactions?

Therefore, BS Aquino has come out looking like a hypocrite. Not that he or his followers care anyway. He is simply being consistent; anything that Arroyo did smacked of politics and of stacking the odds to her favor and is corrupt, period. If BS Aquino does the same thing, it is with “good intentions”, it is for the sake of Daang Matuwid (Straight Path), and must not be questioned, because he is “not corrupt”. Gloria Arroyo’s continued detention seems to be, to this day, the only thing lending any sense of legitimacy to BS Aquino’s remaining administration. Never mind that the cases against her so far have all been dismissed.

And for that, BS Aquino has been no different from that of presidents past. In some cases, worse. Too bad Filipinos fell for that rhetoric of change six years ago. Whether they’ll be able to learn in the upcoming elections remains to be seen.

Currently, the SC is involved in the hearings regarding the disqualification of Grace Poe-Llamanzares as a presidential candidate. Rumors abound that Grace Poe is BS Aquino’s Plan B to stay out of jail; his primary manok, Mar Roxas, has been lagging in the surveys consistently. Of course BS Aquino would like to stay out of jail after he steps down; it would not be surprising if his political enemies are only too eager to file cases against him once his immunity from suit ceases.

Analysts, observers, and critics of the SC note that how it rules on Grace Poe’s disqualification is going to be an indication of its independence and competence. Will it stay faithful to and defend the constitution? Will it put political considerations first, especially those from the appointing president? What will the effect of the ruling be on the upcoming elections?

As always, stay tuned for the next show, the next stop in the tour, the next chapter, whatever you want to call it…

[Display image courtesy: architecture.about.com]

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About FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

33 Comments on “US Supreme Court Justice Scalia dies: Filipinos should be familiar with the controversy of SC appointments”

  1. Antonin Scalia was the attack dog of the Neo-Cons. Whenever it was convenient to try to interpet the US Constitution, which was NEVER supposed to be the SC’s job to begin with, Scalia endeavoured to try to act as if he were an original writer of the document. AND THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.An ‘originalist’ is what he was referred to as and that is just ludicrous as mind reading someone who has beed dead for over 200 years.
    Some of his bigger contrivances were giving the Corporations the same rights as citizens (Citizens United,2011) and various other ‘BOR’ reducing decisions.
    My prime reason for disliking the SCOTUS was what and how John Marshall did in 1811 to get the interpretting of the US Constitution done by the SCOTUS, whose job up until that point had NOTHING to do with US Constitution interpretation but since then most USA citizens do not even know that this job of interpretting the US Constitution was literally hi-jacked illegally….and it was never the intention of the writer’s of the US Constitution to interpret the document.

    1. So if “originalism” is both ludicrous and impossible (your words), isn’t the only other action left interpretation? Because that is essentially what any entity does when he/she references a work that was not composed by him/her. Unless you have the original framers or writers at your disposal to ask questions to, which I doubt is often the case. And even then, the evaluation process is still subject to the lens, biases, and frame of reference of the individual evaluator.

      Yes, I agree. It seems that “interpreting the constitution” is never explicitly stated in both the US constitution and in the Philippine constitution. What is merely stated about a supreme court is something like “the highest judicial body in the land” and “the final arbiter on all legal matters”. So there’s that whole gray area in which a Constitution is inherently blind.

      In practice, how does one evaluate the legality of any action, law, or statute, when existing laws are inadequate? By referencing it against the Constitution. But constitutions are inherently not detailed and/or silent on certain areas of legality. I’d like to think that a written constitution is not exempt from being unduly influenced by the era in which it was written. It seems natural to think that the original framers of any document could not have anticipated all future developments in any society. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      My point is, even if “interpreting the constitution” is never explicitly stated, it seems to be the unavoidable nature of the process. It is subject to the personal lens, point of view, and biases of the evaluators. Which is why supreme court appointments are so contentious and controversial.

    2. TRUE — judicial interpretation/review is NOT explicitly stated as one of the functions of the Supreme Court in either the 1987 Philippine constitution or the US constitution on which the former is based.

      However, ‘Vince’s’ post is only partially true in that it is out of context. ‘FallenAngel’ is correct in saying that in order to fulfill those functions of the high court which are specified, practicality requires the judiciary to interpret constitutional documents, especially when it involves the constitutionality of other legislation, treaties and international agreements, executive policies, and the protection of constitutional rights.

      Moreover, contrary to what ‘Vince’ claims, there is every reason to believe that the original framers of the US constitution had already anticipated the assumed function of judicial review prior to the adoption of the document as the law of the land. In 1803 (not 1811 as ‘Vince’ states) Chief Justice John Marshall officially confirmed this in Marbury v. Madison when he boldly asserted that the Supreme Court’s responsibility to overturn unconstitutional legislation was a necessary consequence of its sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, stating “It is emphatically the province of the judicial department to say what the law is.” However, even before 1789 (when it was agreed that government under the US Constitution would begin) state courts had already overturned legislative acts which conflicted with state constitutions. And many of America’s ‘Founding Fathers,’ such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, expected the high court to assume this role. Hamilton emphasised the importance of judicial review/interpretation, writing in the Federalist Papers that through the practice of judicial review the Court ensured that the will of the whole people, as expressed in their Constitution, would be supreme over the will of a legislature, whose statutes might express only the temporary will of part of the people. Madison argued that If every constitutional question were to be decided by public political bargaining, the Constitution would be reduced to a battleground of competing factions, political passion and partisan spirit, citing the need for an independent judiciary, exercising reasoned judgment.

      Because the (US) Constitution is worded in very general terms, it is left open to further elaboration as social/political/economic/etc. conditions change. It is this nature of the document that makes constitutional interpretation a necessary function of the Court. It was NOT a power usurped by Chief Justice Marshall as ‘Vince’ claims.

      1. Nice to know that you haven’t lost your touch, Johnny 🙂

        I was trying to think of why constitutions are worded in general terms like you said in your last paragraph. Aside from what you said, perhaps the original framers of the constitution (the US, at least) also wanted to strike a balance between defining all that needs to be defined, but avoiding having to restrict, by defining in too much detail, the rights of the people who are to be governed.

        1. Been away for too long, my friend.

          You’ve hit it on the nose there. Justice Scalia would have probably agreed.

          The fact that the (US) Constitution IS worded in very general terms demonstrates that the Framers did not indulge in the arrogant conceit of assuming that they could possibly account for every possible outcome or circumstance as you made clear in your earlier response. Instead, they intended for the Constitution to be what has come to be known as a ‘living document’ whose provisions, while establishing a permanent framework for the law, are broad enough to be adapted and applied to newer, more complicated situations.

          As a result, the high court bears a grave responsibility and requires them to exercise considerable discretion and restraint when deciding very specific cases. The consequences of the Court’s actions are far reaching and are likely to endure long after a judgment has been made. The interpretation/s are adaptable to various situations and/or crises that may emerge in the future and may even be used as the basis for new legislation.

        2. Good job writing a post that created an interesting comments section FA. As to the general wording of constitutions, I think it also boils down to it being a ‘living document’ able to grow and change with the times. Unfortunately for us in PH, this is not the case and justices are all too comfortable with sticking to old jurisprudences, lacking balls to even challenge them and preventing our consti and other laws to adapt with the legal needs of our present time. As to whether the SC is the rightful body to interpret our consti, palagay ko kahit saan natin angulo tignan ito wala din ibang dapat gumawa ng trabahong iyon e. At least they, the SC justices, have the qualifications for it, perceived or actual.

  2. *****Correction , the last sentence above should read:

    …….and it was never the intention of the writer’s of the US Constitution to have the document interpretted by the Supreme Court.

    In addition:
    Nowhere in the US Constitution is it written that it is the job of the Supreme Court to interpret the document.NOWHERE….and this guy did it in a way that was derisive & divisive, to say the least.

  3. In a true Democracy, there is a Balance of Power, between the: Executive, Legislative and Judicial parts of the government.

    What Aquino and his Liberal Party did was usurp, the Legislative and Judicial parts of the government.

    Aquino corrupted the Legislative Body, thru Pork Barrel Bribery.

    He usurped the Judicial Body, by impeaching SC Justice Renato Corona.

    He is now the Virtual Dictator of the Philippines. He wants to protect his Hacienda Luisita.

    Adolf Hitler did the same way to become the Nazi Fuhrer in Nazi Germany. Hitler even burned, the Reichstag, the Legislative body of Germany.

    Maybe, Aquino will do the same…

    1. @HT, Aquino did not usurp the judicial branch, it was all a smoke screen for the robbery that was found out about and then covered up again, THE DAP scandal. Corona suffered no loss of money, did not go to jail for deliberately fixing, at the request of the oligarch friend of Aquino that owns PAL airlines, the PAL SC decision in favor of the company after the SC had already ruled for the employee’s. A subsequent investigation revealed Corona had taken (and never gave back) a $100,000.00 bribe to fuck the PAL employee’s out of Union representation/healthcare benefits and their pensions.
      SO GET A CLUE, you appear to be a dullard when stating things like ‘Aquino vilified Corona’, its a laugher ,really. They look at you and say:”The ‘massa’ are to dumb to even realize we are friends and that we are robbing them of everything,fucking the Unions at the same time and stil they think we are enemies’, and so they will continue to give that appearence to the public, with ONE ACHILLES HEEL to the story: NO NE EVER GOES TO JAIL OR EVR GIVES BACK ANY MONEY.
      Question:WHY NOT?
      Answer: see above explanation,I wont repeat it here.

      Like it or not, you need to WAKE UP and GET A CLUE.

      1. It is a usurpation of the Judicial Branch, with Aquino, appointing his Justices. It is very clear, that Aquino wanted to protect his Hacienda Luisita.
        Aquino also removed the Judge in the Sandigan Bayan, and appointed his own.
        See how he usurped also the Legislative Branch thru Pork Barrel Bribery? How about the DAP, PDAF, etc…which he used together with the Thief, Abad, to steal taxpayers’
        money…

        Hacienda Luisita, the land the Aquinos scammed from the Philippine government, is the root of the greed of Aquino for power. It is clear, as a sunny day, that he wanted to protect his ownership of this scammed land. He shelved the Land Reform Program.

      2. Still dredging this up after three years?

        The bribery incident involved Justice Corona allegedly receiving a ‘platinum card’ from Philippine Airlines that afforded him several perks. Among these was free first class travel for Corona and his wife. The government charges that he reversed the Supreme Court decision in favour of the FASAP union because of this.

        During the impeachment trial, Senator Enrile refused to allow this to be heard as part of the government’s case. The reason? The impeachment complaint DID NOT SPECIFY BRIBERY. Article 3 of the complaint specifies ‘betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.’ While it is an impeachable offence, government prosecutors did not charge Corona with ‘bribery.’

        The ACTUAL events are as follows…

        The impeachment complaint against Corona alleges that he allowed the Supreme Court to act on a letter from PAL’s counsel in FASAP v. PAL, which resulted in the high court flip-flopping in that case.

        It was also alleged that “the Court did not even require FASAP to comment on those letters of PAL’s counsel, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, betraying Corona’s lack of ethical principles and disdain for fairness.” It’s an insinuation that the letters were kept from FASAP and that they were prevented from responding to them.

        In FASAP v. PAL, a Special Division of the Supreme Court found PAL guilty of illegal dismissal and ordered them to reinstate 1,423 employees. On 07 September 2011, the Court’s Second Division denied PAL’s motion for reconsideration and ordered that no further pleadings will be entertained.

        However, on 04 October 2011, the Court en banc issued ‘A.M. No. 11-10-1-SC’ recalling the 07 September resolution. This was in response to a letter sent by PAL lawyer Estelito Mendoza pointing out a procedural error. The first resolution was issued by the Second Division, when it should have been resolved by the Special Division that rendered the original decision to reinstate the FASAP employees.

        In typical hyperbolic Pinoy fashion, the media got wind of the recall, twisted it, and portrayed it to be a reversal of the original ruling in favor of the employees.

        During the impeachment, Corona’s defense offered this explanation: “Lawyers and litigants often write the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice regarding their cases. The Supreme Court uniformly treats all such letters as official communications that it must act on when warranted.”

        They went on to state “the practice is that all letters are endorsed to the proper division or the Supreme Court en banc in which their subject matters are pending. No letter to the Supreme Court is treated in secret.”

        ‘A.M. No. 11-10-1-SC’ DID NOT REVERSE THE RULING AGAINST PAL. Instead, it merely recalled the original decision so that it can be heard by the proper division of the Supreme Court. During the impeachment trial, the case was still in judicial ‘limbo’ while waiting for the Special Division to render a final resolution. In July 2013, the Court of Appeals cleared Philippine Airlines (PAL) of allegations of unfair labour practice in connection with the airline’s rehabilitation efforts in 2008.

        It should be noted that since 2008, Renato Corona had inhibited himself from FASAP v. PAL. There was NEVER any mention of a US$100,000.00 bribe in the impeachment. Nor has there been definitive proof for the bribery aside from a lot of screaming that everyone in government is a ‘crook.’

      3. It should be remembered that the ONLY charge for which Justice Corona was found guilty was the second article in the impeachment — a failure to “disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth” (SALN). It should also be noted that the reason he was convicted of that charge was the blatant lie told by Ombudsman Conchita Morales regarding his supposed ‘unexplained wealth’ amounting to US$12 million as well as the ownership of several mansions and condominium units. In fact, ALL of the charges against Renato Corona were effectively proven to be factually wrong or based on false testimony.

        1. How about the Pork Barrel Bribery on Senators and Congressmen done by Aquino? How about Aquino and Abad stealing taxpayers’ money thru DAP, PDAF, etc…

          Aquino should be Impeached and jailed ,also…but he usurped already the legislative and judicial branches of the government.

          SCJustice Corona is just a small case. Compared to scams of Aquino: Hacienda Luisita ownership scam; Pork Barrel Bribery; PDAF; DAP; etc…Aquino is a thief on a tremendous scale. Worse than Marcos…

        2. HydenToro,

          Throughout your career posting comments on GRP, there is no question that you have an unhealthy obsession with the Aquinos and have taken every opportunity possible to vilify them. Even to the point of regurgitating unsubstantiated rumour and outlandish gossip.

          ‘JOEY-SAN’s’ comment makes mention of the lies that paint Justice Corona as having been bribed by PAL. Allegations which were never proven (and therefore never included in the impeachment) but nonetheless serve as fodder for the anti-government/anti-elite/anti-reason crowd. The lie has been refuted and no amount of ranting by ‘JOEY-SAN’ and his ilk will turn a lie into truth.

          You are merely confusing the discussion by veering off on another tangent to rant about how much you despise the Aquinos. It’s getting very tiresome.

    1. @Johnny Saint:

      If you are obssesed in protecting the Aquinos. Then, so be it. I will continue to attack the Aquinos, from time to time. They are the causes of the dismal situations of our country.

      If you believe what I write, then, believe it. If not, then it is your choice. I’m not forcing you to believe me …

      Is Hacienda Luisita scam, not true? Are DAP, PDAF, Pork Barrel Bribery , not true? Is their support of the NPA, not true? Just look at the NPA people in Morong, Rizal , he released. The Typhoon Yolanda Relief funds are missing…Relief goods rotting in warehouses. Aquino and Mar Roxas are irresponsible…Aquino has depression and paranoia…this is the truth. Aquino is mentally retarded, this is the truth…Aquino and Abad are liars and thieves. This is the truth.

      A Yellowtard will ask for proof. look at the situation of our country. Look at what, he has done to the country. Are you blind?

    2. @Johnny Saint:

      It is your choice, if you believe me or not. I am not forcing you to believe, what I write.

      Just look at the condition of our country…are you blind. See what Aquino has done in his term. Are you blind and deaf?

      1. What I am is someone who is not blinded by an irrational obsession with a balding, socially inept, incompetent boob and his ilk. I am someone who will not reduce each and every last unpopular or unfortunate circumstance in life to the machinations of a single person or their clan.

        1. @Johnny Saint:

          I am not forcing you to read my blogs. And, I am not forcing you to behave, in anyway, you want me to behave.

          If you don’t like my blogs, simply don’t read them. It seems you are hurt by my attacks…What is your business in defending the Aquinos, anyway? Are you their paid troll?

          And by the way, Aquino’s Hackers , are very frustrated in hacking my computer and stopping my blogs…

        2. And there it is! Again.

          This is precisely what saddens me most.

          The slightest disagreement with your rhetoric and you automatically accuse the dissenter of being a paid Aquino lackey without considering the merits of the opinion offered or providing reasoned arguments. That’s irrational. And the assumption that Aquino fanatics are out to get you is beginning to sound like paranoia that is almost comical.

          Frank dissent doesn’t mean we all have to agree to loathe the Aquinos the way you do.

  4. AND WHAT CLUE DO THE FAILIPINO’s NEED TO GET,JOEY-SAN?’
    ‘That the elites in the country need to be eradicated, done away with, exterminated like the vermin they are….’

    OK? GET THE PICTURE? IS THAT CLEAR ENOUGH?
    If not, NOT ONE SINGLE THING WILL CHANGE, NOT ONE !!!

  5. Many people here in the US believe he was murdered for standing up to the growing Marxist influence in the US. He had no known health problems. And despite that, they refuse to even perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. It seems rather peculiar that he would die just a few days after Ash Wednesday and just months before the US Presidential election.

    1. So now it’s a CONSPIRACY THEORY?

      Why?

      Is it because Justice Scalia did not disclose the intimate details of his life on social media? Contrary to popular belief, while Supreme Court members are public officials, they are not required to reveal information about their health.

      The judge’s physician acknowledges he was suffering from chronic heart troubles and high blood pressure. The judge was not allowed to undergo surgery to treat a shoulder injury because his body was too weak. It isn’t unusual for someone in failing health to suddenly stop breathing.

      The insinuation that Justice Scalia’s death was not quite so straightforward because a justice of the peace stated it was due to ‘natural causes’ is ludicrous. ‘Death by natural causes’ is a legal distinction. It means nothing more than that when the judge was found, there was no evidence of active intervention by some external (unnatural) cause that may have caused his death.

      1. The same people who entertain these conspiracy theories are probably the same ones who assume the Illuminati and the Rothschilds are behind everything, and every world event is fake and a stage show. LOL

        For me, the guy’s just old, and people die when their time is up, that’s all. Are there people who believe that death isn’t real and people are simply spirited away to some place where they actually live forever (like Elvis, Manilyn Monroe, Adolf Hitler, and lately, Michael Jackson)? (Laughing again)

        1. ChinoF,

          Clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about. Justice Scalia’s murder (if it does turn out to be murder) was obviously ordered by a group headed Leonard Nimoy (who faked his death a year ago) in order to remove impediments Barack Obama’s liberal agenda and to stifle a possible Supreme Court ruling over former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email controversy.

        2. By the way, in case you haven’t heard, Leonard Nimoy is the newest leader of the Illuminati. He’d been consolidating power over liberal groups ever since he faked his death and intends to expand their control over world governments by promoting the adoption of European-style socialist policies.

          I can hear heads exploding across the Internet right about now…

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