Manila, June 2, 2003 -- Editor's note: The legal paper entitled 
"Legitimizing the Illegitimate," a brilliant legal dissertation on the 
violations committed by the justices of the Supreme Court in their actions 
and decisions from the impeachment trial to the Edsa II swearing-in and to 
the SC decision in the Estrada vs Macapagal-Arroyo, is authored by three 
new graduates from the University of the Philippines College of Law who are 
now reviewing for the Bar examinations. The Tribune offers a condensed 
version in serialized form.

In order to have a good understanding of the basis of criticism of the 
Estrada decision, a brief discussion on the Rule of Law is necessary.

The Rule of Law

There is no specific definition of the "rule of law," in much the same way 
as there is no single meaning attributed to "law." The rule of law 
maintains society's stability by preventing arbitrariness.

It is the rule of law which enables the state to exercise political control 
through principles of conduct. It consists of legal principles, standards 
and rules, which are enforced by civil or criminal sanctions.

Traditionally, the rule of law is defined as the principle "that no man is 
punishable or can be lawfully made to suffer in body or goods except for a 
distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the 
ordinary courts of the land.
In this sense the rule of law is contrasted with every system of government 
based on the exercise by persons in authority of wide, arbitrary or 
discretionary powers of constraint"

Thus, rule of law may be understood as the absolute supremacy or 
predominance of law as against arbitrary powers. In this sense, 
arbitrariness, prerogative, or even the exercise of wide discretionary 
powers on the part of the government is excluded.

The supremacy of the Constitution

Let justice be done though the heavens may fall. The rule of law is 
primarily characterized by the supremacy of the Constitution. According to 
the principle of constitutional supremacy, any act that violates the 
Constitution shall have no legal effect.
Under the rule of law, therefore, every governmental act must follow the 
letter of the Constitution and any derogation therefrom is consequently 
unconstitutional and violative of the rule of law.

The Constitution is the basic and paramount law to which all other laws 
must conform and to which all persons, including the highest officials of 
the land, must defer. No act shall be valid, however noble its intentions, 
if it conflicts with the Constitution.
Expediency must not be allowed to sap its strength nor greed for power 
debase its rectitude. Right or wrong, the Constitution must be upheld as 
long as it has not been changed by the sovereign people lest its disregard 
result in the usurpation of the majesty of law by the pretenders to 
illegitimate power.

Democracy and sovereignty

"The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty resides 
in the people and all government authority emanates from them."

A government, republican in form, is one where sovereignty resides in the 
people and where all government authority emanates from the people.

A democracy, on the other hand, is a government where the sovereign power 
resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens, as 
distinguished from monarchy, anarchy and oligarchy.

In a democracy, every person is presumed equal before the law. This 
presumption is concretized in the due process and equal protection clauses 
where each person is presumed to have the same rights and duties as the rest.

In a democracy, the vote of one person for instance, carries the same 
weight and value as the vote of any other person, regardless of the wealth, 
education or other personal circumstances of each.

The rule of the people is equated with the rule of the majority because of 
the presumption of equality of persons, and the will of the majority of 
them shall be presumed the will of the people.

Under the rule of law, the people rule, but they rule according to law. The 
Supreme Court had underscored the importance of the rule of law in a 

"It is said that in a democracy the will of the people is the supreme law. 
Indeed, the people are sovereign, but the will of the people must be 
expressed in a manner as the law and the demands of a well-ordered society 
require. The rule of law must prevail even over the apparent will of the 
majority of the people, if that will had not been expressed or obtained, in 
accordance with the law. Under the rule of law, public questions must be 
decided in accordance with the Constitution and the law."

It is thus unacceptable for the people to exercise their sovereignty in any 
manner outside the parameters of the Constitution. Hence, the term 
"sovereignty resides in the people," according to constitutionalist Joaquin 
Bernas, is principally expressed in the election process and in the 
referendum and plebiscite processes as provided by the Constitution.
(By Sabrina M. Querubim, Ana Rhia T. Muhi and Charisse F. Gonzales-Olalia)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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