Random thoughts

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 1, 2018 - 12:00am

US Chief Justice William Rehnquist famously wrote to the Court’s clerk to caution advocates against referring to him merely as Justice Rehnquist. He was, after all, the Chief Justice and entitled to be recognized accordingly. At UP Law’s Malcolm Hall, no one dared address Enrique Fernando merely as Justice unless they didn’t mind the rebuke: its Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice position is specifically recognized in our organic act. There are two constitutional duties imposed on the office holder: chair of the Judicial and Bar Council; presides over the Senate when acting as an impeachment court to Presidents. Other than that, he acts by tradition or by the Court’s internal rules, as when swearing in a President or appointing members of the HRET or SET. Congress also adds interesting responsibilities here and there, like the power to officiate at weddings.

A societal role for the Chief has evolved, transcending the sparse constitutional tasking. The Chief is, formally or informally, head of different law movements both domestic and international. Depending on the personality of the incumbent, it is he/she, and not Teddy Te, who speaks for the Judiciary.

The Chief is the CEO of an exploding Judicial Department but only in so far as he/she heads the entire court. After all, the bulk of the state’s judicial power resides in the court entire. The Chief is but one of the 15. Primus but still Pares. The constitutional qualification is the same, whether appointed Associate Justice or Chief.

Food for thought. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. were both nominated Chief Justice. What outstanding Chiefs they would have made. Miriam never got shortlisted. Gibo declined his nomination.

A giant shadow has loomed large in the last three selections, that of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio. He was bypassed – not thrice, but once! He declined the nomination the 1st time (the position went to Renato Corona) and the 3rd time (ultimately, Teresita de Castro). He contended only at Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s selection. 

President William Howard Taft, in rejecting the idea of promoting Senior Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan to Chief, groused: “I won’t make the position of Chief Justice a blue ribbon for the final years of any member of the Court.”

Interesting alternate proposals for selection of a Chief Justice: (a) succession; and (b) conclave.  The participation of the Executive and Legislative departments ends with the Justices’ elevation to the Court. Once there, the choice of who leads them is either automatic, if succession is by the most senior, or entirely up to Justices themselves.

And now, the N.ID. is near … Republic Act No. 11055, the Philippine Identification System Act comes with an implementing budget of P2 billion. The former de facto National ID system now becomes de jure. ID cards previously issued across several gov’t agencies will soon fold into one and then, after that, none. Instead, we are to be distinguished by captured physiological data: fingerprints, eye scans, facial recognition – all on a database.

The greater majority are clearly sold on the touted virtues: this database will facilitate delivery of services and law enforcement. If you’re against, as the official PNP line goes, it must be because you’re guilty. As if they needed a novel basis to ignore due process in determining guilt.

Yet, guilty or not guilty, there remains a tenacious resistance. Blame the horror stories: breaches of privacy, even in the most advanced systems abroad. The same thing happened here – remember Comelec 2016? Even the most perfect systems will not deter the determined hacker.

Also, databases for sale, harassment, surveillance.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno is one such doubting Thomas.  In the landmark Ople v Torres case, it was his pen that struck down President Fidel V. Ramos’s National Computerized Identification Reference System of 1996. The right to privacy is too crucial – only an iron clad guarantee against the possibility of abuse would be acceptable to risk diminishing privacy protections.

We are far from hitting the ground running – for sure, there will be bugs, giant ones, in the N.ID. roll out. Abuse? Inevitable. Yet here we are, as in almost every policy since 2016, blindly following the pied piper even if the road may lead to perdition.

Golden gender. Golden Girl Hidilyn Diaz and NBA demi god Jordan Clarkson dominated the headlines last week as they carried the hopes of a nation on their broad shoulders. Hidilyn can actually lift Jordan over her head without breaking a sweat. With her trademark effortless peg, she beamed as she nailed her snatch lift. She is our first Asiad gold medalist in 16 years. The last was Equestrienne Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski back at the 2002 Busan games. Clarkson and the men’s basketball team hope to improve on last Asiad’s 7th place showing. As of press time, they faced Syria for 5th place. Should they win, it would be the Phl Basketball’s best showing since Busan 2002 where we placed 4th.

This week, along with our several bronze medal efforts, we scored a silver in judo, 2 more gold medals in golf and 1 gold from street skateboarding. Like Hidilyn, our silver and gold medalists are women. Congratulations to our first ever Judoka medalist Kiyomi Watanabe; Golf’s inspiring trio of giant killers: Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go; and skateboarding sensation Margielyn Didal. 

The back stories of their journey to the Asiad and the accounts of their brilliant individual and team performances are all golden themselves. Watanabe chose her mom’s Phl over her father’s Japan. Our lady golfers rallied from desperate deficits, displayed poise and steely nerve – willed and pushed each other to defy the odds up to the last hole. Didal, her mom selling kwek-kwek and her dad, a carpenter, bested vastly better trained competition and did it with famous pizzazz! All Filipinos should be rightly proud of these modern day heroes.

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