Being romantic
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2020 - 12:00am

O conference committee, what crimes are committed in thy name! Sen. Panfilo Lacson has been howling at the pre-bicam errata that the House has been inserting post 3rd reading. Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, would generously concede them the “presumption of regularity.”

It has come to this: constitutional safeguards are really just directory prescriptions. If you believe otherwise, then you’re being romantic.

Democracy used to mean more. However overriding the majoritarian principle was, even if it would render nugatory a chamber’s own rules, it didn’t amount to a disregard of constitutionally carved protections. Like Article VI, Sec. 26 (2), the rule disallowing amendments after 3rd and final reading.

The last High Noon. We met this existential challenge to congressional power in the VAT case of Tolentino v Secretary of Finance, 1995. Back then, the Supreme Court was fired up enough to consider testing the extent of their expanded power of judicial review against their giant neighbor. Though the Court ultimately stood aside, it did not go gentle into that good night.

The Court included men and women who took a dutiful view of their roles as guardians of the Constitution. If the Legislature’s peg is that they most closely represent the popular will, the Judiciary’s role is to protect the Constitution, itself the highest expression of the people’s will.

The mettle of a Court is ultimately measured by the mettle of its individual members. One important metric is in how they stand up to the Executive and Legislative departments. The powers that the Constitution separated were supposed to ensure that the political departments were checked by an apolitical Judiciary. But the justices are their own potential worst antagonists when challenges to the rule of law and time-honored constitutional principles call for bringing out the big stick.

Getting away with murder. The bicameral conference committee continues to exercise ex post veto power in the dishonor of the rule that only disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions be settled. Everyone knows that bicams can and often produce entirely new, barely germane substitute bills.

This war against the anti-democratic excesses of the bicam has been waged on several fronts and in many court battles. The arguments pro and con are highly persuasive. In Tolentino, Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza masterfully wrote for the majority to give the bicam wide berth, while then Associate Justice Reynato Puno magisterially picked the pro-arguments apart. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Tolentino.

“It is time that we correct the mindset of the so-called representatives of the people in this regard.” This is Sen. Lacson’s battlecry against his institution’s own interest. This enduring grievance against bicam legislation may just be that test of mettle for our new generation of constitutional guardians. Many are young and will be serving out long years on the Court. The doctrine is ripe for revisit. This is exactly the sort of crucible they could use to grow into their roles.

Civil unrest. America is preparing for the worst. Businesses are entertaining no illusions. Given the polarization, all sectors are building scenarios. President Trump’s Conservative militias are on standby while the anti-Trumps (this election is really a referendum) are themselves on edge.

The hallmark of American-style elections is that you know instantly who wins. Projections of media organizations are accepted without question. Some losers even define their stories by the way they concede – the master classes in delicadeza.

That’s not happening this time. In person votes will be counted before the mailed in votes. Certain states will accept even those mailed in on election day. They’ll be received afterwards, meaning they’ll be counted afterwards – up to as long as three days. If President Trump gets a lead at any time, fatalists are not ruling out a premature announcement of victory. Should that lead be overtaken later, then heaven help them all. No one is betting on a peaceful Obama-style turnover.

This has been the crux of a battle waged at the highest level. In October, because of a Supreme Court 4-4 vote, a Pennsylvania state law which extended the deadline for mailed-in ballots (anticipating pandemic related delays) was upheld. The expected result was 5-3 strike down of the state law. But the nominally conservative CJ Roberts voted centripetally as he does when the Court’s independence is challenged.

With Justice Amy Coney Barrett now on the Court, any similar challenge is expected to have at least a solid 5-4 result the other way. Justices define constitutional law, with ripples from the US Court reaching as far as our shores. The liberal ethos that has been this generation’s reality is now swinging back to the more conservative outlook that rejects a policy role for the Court.

The Boys in Blue. He pulled his left hamstring and banged up his right knee. League MVP Kirk Gibson wasn’t even in the line-up for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. But with his team 1 run down in the 9th inning and with 2 outs, he was called to pinch hit.  The count went full, 3 balls and 2 strikes. And then he struck that dramatic 2-run game winner. Gibson hobbling around the bases was raw emotion. To date, it is considered as among the top 3 greatest walk-off homeruns of all time. The Dodgers went on to win the Series, the last time they owned America’s most famous pastime. Until this Wednesday.

After a drought of 32 years and having defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers are champions again. This is the team of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Hideo Nomo, among others. Of course, the most famous Dodger of all was Jackie Robinson, who starred for them when the franchise was still in Brooklyn. My grandmother Corazon Madarang Maceda must be beaming in heaven. This was her team and Fernando Valenzuela was her favorite player.

Being romantic.

CRIME PANFILO LACSON
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