Statement of Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima on the Supreme Court ruling against the Truth Commission

Statement of Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima:

Equal protection is protecting the many from the abuses of the few

[December 8, 2010]

Equal protection applies within a class, not between a few who stole and abused, and the many from whom they stole and whom they abused. The violation in equal protection is not when a Truth Commission is established to deliver justice. The violation in equal protection is when the privileged few are effectively exempted from investigation, prosecution, and punishment, while the great majority of the people continue to wallow in the murk of their crimes.

The decision of the Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the creation of the Truth Commission under Executive Order No. 1 is a setback in the campaign against graft and corruption. It deals a great blow on transparency and accountability in government which is one of the bedrocks of democracies all over the world. It is very unfortunate that a landmark case on government accountability is decided, once again, along predictable trends of voting which characterize decisions of the Court on contested executive acts of the Aquino Administration.

The decision on the Truth Commission shows characteristics of a political decision. A significant number of dissenting opinions on an issue that is largely political in nature reveal this nature of the decision. The voting by the members of the Court on political questions, namely, on actions of the Aquino Administration against the past administration, readily shows that the lines which now divide decision-making in the Court are principally political and no longer doctrinal. This is unfortunate. Judges and Justices are always called upon to be the independent arbiter of conflicting interests, and that they resolve said conflicts without regard to the interests of their appointing authority. We still fervently hope, however, that this was not the primary consideration in this decision of the Court, and that the considerations were always legal and constitutional, as they should be.

The Constitution intended to prevent a single president from packing the highest Court of the land with his or her appointees. Unfortunately, the loophole in the Constitution prevailed when former President Arroyo appointed the majority of the present Court, including the position of Chief Justice despite the ban on appointments, itself also declared legal along the same familiar lines of voting which have now become only all too familiar. This is the evil which the Constitution intended to avoid, but which now appears to be rearing its head at the cost of frustrating the administration of justice on the abuses of the past.

There is therefore basis for the speculation that the investment of the past administration in the Office of the Ombudsman and the High Court are now paying off, as present executive actions to correct injustices and abuses of the past regime and to punish the perpetrators are frustrated at every turn, not for lack of effort on the part of the present administration, but because of wise institutional investments of the past regime. We therefore join the appeal of our people to put an end to this state of affairs, and let their hope for justice be finally answered and acted upon, supported, not hampered, by the very institutions upon which this hope is reposed.