SUPREME COURT INVENTED NEW CONCEPT -- MIRIAM
Manila, March 6, 2001 - Sen. Miram Defensor-Santoago yesterday charged the Supreme Court (SC) with grave abuse of discretion as she accused the high court of misreading the Constitution.
"I respectfully submit that it was grave abuse of discretion for the SC to invent a completely new concept, what I would call the hitherto unheard-of concept of constructive resignation," Santiago, a noted constitutionalist, said yesterday as she berated last Friday's ruling by the high tribunal upholding by a 13-0 verdict the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency.
She said the ruling, which dismissed a petition of deposed President Joseph Estrada asking the SC to declare Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as acting President because he had not resigned, has "scant constitutional basis."
Voting 9-4, the high tribunal also ruled that Estrada lost his immunity from prosecution on criminal charges when he resigned.
But the ousted chief executive on Monday won a new 17-day stay from prosecution despite loss of immunity. Ombudsman Aniano Desierto said the SC issued a "status quo" ruling that prevents the government from filing any charges against Estrada until March 22.
The high court had first issued the injunction when it was studying Estrada's claim that he remained president and immune from lawsuits.
Justice Secretary Hernando Perez also yesterday said another plunder case will be filed this week against Estrada, accusing him of earning more than $3.9 million in commissions by arranging stock investments by two state-run pension agencies Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System in a company that operated the gambling game jai alai.
Santiago's view was shared by former Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara, who also yesterday said, "There is no such thing as constructive resignation."
Angara, whose published "diary" became a basis of the 13 SC justices' decision, maintained he did not even indicate in his "journal" Estrada's resignation at the height of the so-called People Power II last month that forcibly evicted Estrada from Malacañang.
The former senator also supported the ousted chief executive's contention that the diary should not have been used as a basis of the SC ruling.
Angara chided the high tribunal for saying Estrada has "effectively resigned by his acts and statements."
Santiago held the same view, pointing out that provisions under the Constitution on the matter are clear.
"It is basic that when the Constitution is clear, we should not interpret. The Charter clearly contemplates that the President's resignation should be voluntary and unequivocal. For if the resignation is involuntary, then what takes place is not resignation but a coup d'etat," she said.
According to her, "(t)he Constitution provides that the Vice President shall become the President only if the President resigns...The SC merely construed his departure from Malacañang Palace as a resignation."
"With all due respect, I submit that the court's decision has institutionalized coup d'etat as a means of installing a President. The extremely unfortunate result is that the court has legitimized a President who was never elected as President by Filipino voters," she said.
The high tribunal's validation, Santiago added, would only mean a diminution of constitutional democracy in the country.
"Contemporary moral theology teaches that so-called people power as a means of changing the country's leader can be used only against a dictatorship, not against a democratically elected President. Otherwise, people power could be used by the wealthy few to veto the will of the majority who are the poor," she said. (Tribune)
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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