Back in April of this year, the Supreme Court (SC) voted 8 to 6 to value Hacienda Luisita on the basis of a 1989 assessment of Php40,000 per hectare or a total Php200 mllion compensation to the owners of the entire property when it is subject to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Newly-appointed Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno was at the time among the six justices who voted to uphold a counter-proposal she herself put forth to base the value of the property on current fair market value as of January 2006. Under Sereno’s proposal that would make Hacienda Luisita worth Php10 billion — enough money to save the Cojuangcos’ tony lifestyles.
Now that Sereno is Chief Justice, some groups have raised the possibility that she may reverse the SC’s late-2011 rulings on the subjection of Hacienda Luisita to the CARP and, in the process, possibly void the April 2012 ruling on its valuation…
In Sundayâ€™s joint statement, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said that the High Court, under Serenoâ€™s leadership, might reverse its November 22, 2011 ruling, which ordered the total distribution of the lands to farmers-beneficiaries.
But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for its part assured everyone that such a reversal is “unlikely” because the November 2011 decision to subject the property to the CARP was “unanimous, final and executory.” Then again, Sereno who reportedly scored a four on a scale of 1 to 5 (five being the lowest) in psychology tests included in the Judicial Bar Council’s process of evaluating candidates was allegedly characterised as “dramatic and emotional” according to information leaked to the media. This raises questions around the reliability of any assurances coming from her that she will be running a truly “independent” judiciary.
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So can Sereno overturn the SC’s Hacienda Luisita rulings if she decides to?
If the United States judiciary is used as a model for this thought experiment, the answer is yes. According to crowdsourced information found in Answers.com, there are two “legitimate methods” available in the US to overturn Supreme Court decisions:
(1) The US Supreme Court reverses a decision on an earlier case by making a contradictory decision on a current case.
(2) Congress and the States can overturn a decision by amending the Constitution.
That means that if over the next year or so…
(a) Sereno can find a property in similar circumstances that Hacienda Luisita was in at the time the SC issued its ruling to subject it to the CARP back in November 2011 and somehow get the SC to deliver a ruling that exempts it from the CARP (i.e. that then contradicts the precedent it set in the Hacienda Luisita case), giving it sufficient grounds to reverse its decision on the subjection of Hacienda Luisita to the CARP as well; or,
(b) Congress can approve amendments to the Philippine Constitution that will run counter to the underlying principles applied in the SC’s November 2011 ruling on Hacienda Luisita and, perhaps, its April 2012 ruling on its valuation;
…then we may find Uncle Peping laughing all the way to the bank.
This puts some interesting context behind current calls to amend the Constitution. Will Philippine Congress use these “constitutional reform” initiatives as jump-off platforms to campaign for and initiate the process of constitutional change during which it could sneak in provisions that will enable Sereno to accomplish her mission?
On that note…
Are there properties still out there with pending cases in court related to their subjection to the CARP that Sereno can tap?
Will President Benigno ‘BS’ Aquino III again issue a call to action to his minions in Congress to mount a Crusade to save the Holy Yellow Land in Tarlac?
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.