SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2021 - 12:00am

G-7 pillars Germany and Japan have been world leaders in the pushback against the pandemic. But they are not in the list of nations that have led in the vaccination program rollouts. Germany had inoculated as few as 6 percent of its 83 million population as of last week. Japan started only in the 3rd week of February.

Their delay is indicative of the heightened challenge embedded in the global vaccination program and how it affects countries, rich or poor, equally.

For us and most of the developing world, the program takes off 3rd quarter. Our orders start arriving in the latter part of the 2nd quarter, in theory. So far, we are only distributing the 1,125,600 million donated from China (Sinovac) and Covax (AstraZeneca). April and May are earmarked for the health worker sector – A1.

The follow up Sinovac donation of 400,000 doses, as well as the initial 1 million on order, are expected this March 21. Pfizer touches down in April, beginning with an initial delivery of 117,000 doses. Gamaleya could be here also in April but the Emergency Use Authorization will take another week, at best. According to vaccine czar Gen. Carlito Galvez, we can expect 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca per month from April until May. Moderna is expected to come May or June. Deals are being finalized with Novavax and Covaxin of India.

Turbo time. We are still finding our sea legs. As of Wednesday (10 days into the program), only 114,615 doses have been administered as we are still on ceremonial mode. But given our target of 70 percent of the population (77 million) for herd immunity, that 114,615 figure should be ramped up.

Instead of a 11,461.5 daily average, how about 114,615 a day to be doubled up when the vaccines come? The priority health worker sector is composed of 1.7 million. Given the present surge in cases, the faster deployment of the vaccines will reflect a deeper sense of urgency to protect them in their heroic efforts.

Testing czar Vince Dizon admits that we would need 250,000 to 300,000 vaccinations daily if we are to manage vaccinating up to 50 percent of our population (55 million) by the end of the year. Let’s hope we manage that better than our testing and contact tracing performances.

Rigodon epidemic. On March 27, 2021 Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta retires. We will be seeing the 4th Chief Justice appointed under the administration of President Duterte. The appointment will match the record of President Corazon C. Aquino of 4 Chiefs appointed. President Ferdinand E. Marcos appointed 6 Chief Justices during his 20-year tenure.

Yesterday, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) conducted its panel interviews of Senior Associate Justice Estella Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ramon Paul Hernando, the three automatically short-listed candidates to succeed the Chief Justice.

The litmus tests for appointment to the high court are constitutionally entrenched: 1. competence; 2. integrity; 3. probity; and 4. independence. All three candidates are already on the bench. Unless they suddenly forget their law, or figure in a scandal, any assertion that they now do not possess these qualifications will face a high bar.

The job of the JBC should be theoretically simpler. The problem is that there is no additional constitutional qualification for the position of Chief Justice.

Primus inter pares. America’s most famous Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, facetiously described the ideal jurist as “a combination of Justinian, Jesus Christ and John Marshall.” US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Irving Kaufman translates this into “a paragon of virtue, an intellectual titan and an administrative wizard.”

Speaking of administrative capacity, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban tags it, together with the intangible quality of leadership and ability to build consensus, as hallmark of a good chief. Chief Justice Earl Warren famously marshalled a consensus in Brown v, Board of Education (ending segregation in educational institutions). The united front of a 9-0 decision watered down the acrimony wrought by the landmark decision.

Charles Evans Hughes, also a former US Chief Justice, knew whereof he spoke when sharing this valuable insight on being Chief: “The Chief Justice as the head of the Court has an outstanding position, but in a small body of able men with equal authority in the making of decisions, it is evident that his actual influence will depend on the strength of his character and the demonstration of his ability in the intimate relations of the Judges.”

Divining divinity. Yesterday, the panel members did not limit themselves to formulaic questions but rather engaged the nominees in probing, in-depth exchanges on a spectrum of issues, including the mainstay subject of judicial restraint, requirement of SALN and the timely topic of search warrants. If the JBC should prefer one over the others, it would be keeping with the value of transparency that they inform the public of how that one came to be more “chiefable.”

The last survey on the top criteria for selecting a chief justice was by SWS in 2005. It showed knowledge of the law, respect for human rights and sensitivity to the needs of the poor as the top 3.

A man for all seasons. The Ateneo community leads the nation in celebrating the life of an illustrious Filipino, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ. For Ateneans, Fr. B was revered university president, dean emeritus of the Law School, professor and mentor to generations of lawyers. His prodigious intellect, scholarly thought, devotion to justice and love of teaching combined to transcend alma mater and legal academe, cementing his place as the great constitutionalist of his time.

Legendary to those who knew of him, Fr. B was a rock star to those who knew him. The man was humble, intellectually accessible and invested in your story. It was a deep sense of duty to the majesty of law that fueled a life-long commitment to have it live through his teaching and breathe through his interpretation of it for just ends. On the grandest stage, he played a leading role in crafting the 1987 Constitution that has governed us for the last 34 years.

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