24 March 2010
When laws are used to subvert justice, what is left for the people to do?
The decision of the Court of Appeals Special Division of Five to dismiss the Writ of Habeas Corpus petition filed on behalf of the 43 health workers violates the most fundamental tenets of even the most token democracy.
The majority opinion, with its mechanical application of existing jurisprudence, has condoned the excesses of the State. Such act is erroneously predicated on the belief that “…the subsequent filing of criminal charges against the detainees cured whatever irregularities or infirmities were attendant to their arrest, even assuming arguendo that their warrantless arrest and detention were initially illegal.”
But since when does a “cure” cause more harm than good?
In contrast, the two dissenting opinions highlight what is at stake for Philippine society, particularly the attendant abuses that will reverberate due to the violative decision.
Justice Normandie Pizarro puts it succinctly as “in a habeas corpus as the one at bench, an inquiry to the legality of the proceedings…is necessarily called for as it is crucial in safeguarding the constitutional rights of the detainees…the paramount consideration…should be the respect for the majesty of the law, springing forth from our respect in the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the people.”
Similarly, Justice Francisco Acosta waxes poetic with his ominous warning that “Allowing curative informations to justify illegal searches, arrests and detentions would definitely make every habeas corpus proceeding an exercise in futility, similar to a salt that has lost its taste. This is absolutely repugnant to the basic and primordial constitutional right to due process of law.”
Also cast into light is the abhorrent behavior of certain state prosecutors that reflect how the institution that should be a gatekeeper of justice has degenerated into the Department of Injustice under the current dispensation. Again, quoting Justice Pizarro, “Clearly, what the inquest officer should have done was to recommend to the Chief Prosecutor the immediate release of the persons who were arrested.”
Thus, it is not just a re-examination of the Ilagan doctrine that is required. We must likewise review the attitude of the courts, its officers, and the magistrates, upon whom much is expected when neither the executive nor the legislative branches of government are doing enough to protect the people.
That the Courts put more emphasis on process than on substance, on the letter of the law rather than on the spirit of the law, removes whatever real remedies are left for the people.
Worse, magistrates who perfunctorily perform their duties without weighing the issues at bar are no mere Pilates washing their hands. They become witting instruments of the fascist Arroyo regime. They perpetuate as legacy the vestiges, the abuses, and the violence of Marcos’ martial rule, all of which have been embraced by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
It is therefore now that the system, rather than just its processes, that the people must judge. It is now more than ever that the people should seek and strive for meaningful change. A system that denounces its own sanctified rights and diminishes to naught all remedial measures is a system that will fester at the expense of its people.
This cannot be allowed to continue. Together, we must reclaim this nation and attain genuine freedom and democracy. We must build a society where there is equity, where rights are enjoyed, and where laws serve the rendering of justice.
We must begin now. Free the 43 health workers! (Bulatlat.com)
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos
Dr. Darby S. Santiago