‘You’re judge and jury’

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

The phrase, “Let the people decide,” is nothing new. This was the description of the position taken by someone thousands of years ago when he couldn’t make a decision amidst pressure around him.

In the Bible, Mathew 27: 24-26 says: “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere … he took a basin of water and washed his hands saying, “I’m washing my hands of responsibility for this man’s death. From now on, it’s in your hands. You’re judge and jury.”

The crowd then answered, “We’ll take the blame.” Pilate pardoned Barabas, and hence had Jesus whipped and handed over for crucifixion.”

Easy way out

The position taken by Pilate is perceived as the easy way out of a dilemma, the image of a public official not willing to make a decision, washing his hands of responsibility, and passing the burden to a noisy crowd.

Pilate’s stance, however, has been adopted by many government officials and politicians over the years. It is a position that avoids conflict among colleagues and eliminates any stigma of erroneous judgment. Let the people decide and have them take the blame if anything goes wrong.

Modern day Philippine politics

Fast forward to modern day Philippine politics. Pilate’s position of “let the people decide” has been taken by prominent individuals like former chief justice Artemio Panganiban and former president Fidel Ramos on issues related to pending cases at the Comelec and the Supreme Court.

Apparently, both are effectively saying that since members of these entities have conflicting views on interpreting the Constitution and laws, they might as well turn over the responsibility of making a decision to the people and letting the people be judge and juror – and consequently, have the people take the glory or the blame.

On the issue of qualification of aspirants, for instance, one jurist was reported as saying the expressed provision of the Constitution on qualification should be disregarded and issued to electorates.

On the other hand, there are those who steadfastly claim the provision of the Constitution and applicable laws should be enforced as “no one is above the law.”

What a dilemma! Is there an easy way out?

Voice of the people

Former chief justice Panganiban and former president Ramos are not alone in advocating the voice of the people as the best approach in resolving these pending issues. There are those who believe the people should be trusted to make a good decision, and that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

But history has also shown that people make decisions that are wrong, and oftentimes with disastrous results. Allow me to quote Alexander Hamilton: “The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true to fact. The people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right.”

Reminds me of the biblical verse earlier stated.

Comelec’s failure

A lawyer friend and avid reader of this column sent me a note to add his “two-cents worth” comments on the ongoing debates. He requested anonynmity as he has friends on both sides.

He said the issue of barring aspirant Grace Poe from seeking and holding any public office is not of recent provenance. “To be sure, it was there, at least insofar as the citizenship issue is concerned, when she filled up and filed her Certificate of Candidacy for a Senate seat in 2003.

“And yet, for reasons known only to it, the Comelec then was not circumspect nor vigilant enough to transcend and go beyond said COC and determine the veracity of the particulars reflected therein, including of course, her being a natural born citizen – or not.

“It must be remembered that the duty and function of the Comelec vis-à-vis the approval or rejection of Certificate(s) of Candidacy is never ministerial; otherwise nuisance candidates will never be flushed out, and there will be as many candidates as there are COCs filed. Chaos, then, can never be far behind.

“True that there was no question or complaint brought forth at that time, but in much the same way that ignorance of the law is no excuse, such absence should not have the effect of relieving the Comelec of a primary duty.

“The Comelec had every opportunity in 2013 to have resolved this pressing issue once and for all. If it had, we would not be where we are now – at the brink of uncertainty and instability.”

Preparing for May 9

It will indeed be an interesting, to say the least, race for the presidential elections this May 9. Even as the countdown has started, not only does the Comelec’s hand appears to have a bearing on the final race results, and could ultimately be something else.

The current ruling party, with the participation of course of the present administration, would want to narrow down the presidential race to as few as possible to strengthen its candidates. As such, it must prepare for all possible moves – defensively and offensively.

Consequently, some of the other non-administration bets are well aware of how fragile their situations are, given the options their rivals have on hand. And for sure too, they will not take things sitting pretty and still.

What can we do? With more than four months to go, getting to know our candidates – whether or not they make it to the final stretch – could be our best recourse. Let’s learn and debate so that we may make it a wise decision.

While election surveys give us a glimmer of truth, let it not affect us in the way we use our reasoning and wisdom, especially at this early stage. Like most ball games, there is still so much time left, such that anything can still happen in the last three minutes.

Of course, this goes without saying that we need to make sure that our votes get counted. Let us check early if our names are included in the registry. Let us familiarize ourselves with the voting procedure. Lastly, let us volunteer to guard our votes.

Who knows? The judge and jury may still be the people, and hopefully, its vote would be for the best.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us at www.facebook.com and follow us at www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at [email protected]. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.


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