Supreme Court warns its critics not to go overboard

By DateLine Philippines

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez warned individuals and groups not to go overboard in criticizing the Supreme Court (SC) decision that upheld the authority of President Arroyo to appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno who is set to retire on May 17.

At a press briefing, Marquez reminded that although the Constitution guarantees the rights of a person to express his or her opinion on various issues, such rights and freedom have limitations.

He said authorities should be ready to apprehend those who will resort to violence, conduct an investigation and file appropriate charges as he hinted that politics could have motivated some groups to cast doubts on the integrity of the Court.

“They can protest as much as they want provided that they keep their protest orderly and they do not violate existing laws.

“If you want to criticize the decision of the Court it’s okay but once you incite the people to go beyond that and say that we should not believe this Court, we should do something, then that is another thing. That is to my mind going beyond the right to assemble, the right to express one’s self freely, because all rights and freedom as we all know have limitations,” Marquez added.

The Court spokesman made the comments in response to alleged plans of some sectors to intensify protest actions to show their disgust over the Court’s decision directing the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit its shortlist of nominees to the President as it held that the constitutional ban on midnight appointments does not cover the chief justice and associate justice post in the SC.

Marquez also dismissed the claim of presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III that the recent ruling of the Court involving the chief justice post has eroded the credibility of the Court.

He reminded that although there are legal experts who have adverse opinion on the ruling, there are other legal luminaries who have also expressed support with the Court’s ruling such as former constitutional commissioners Regalado Maambong and former SC associate justice Florence Regalado.

“We’ve also been hearing that there are some sectors really trying to undermine the credibility of the Court, trying to discredit the Court, my answer there is to read the decision of the Court, and perhaps, let us not look at the personalities involved but focus more on the constitutional provisions invoked by the Court. Perhaps we could do away with these other factors that are really trying to discredit the Court,” he added.

He also reminded the concerned parties to wait for the finality of the Court’s ruling before issuing harsh statements or resorting to protest actions.

“We are not yet even through with the 15-day period to file the motions for reconsideration and I expect a number of motions of reconsideration to be filed until April 2. So lets wait for these motions for reconsideration, lets wait for the decision of the Court with finality, and after the Court has come up with the decision with finality lets go over these decisions and let’s see, lets try to understand before we do anything,” he added.

The Court is set to tackle the motions for reconsideration when it resumes session on April 6 in Baguio City.

Meanwhile, Marquez laughed off reports that Marites Danguilan-Vitug, author of the controversial book about the judiciary, Shadow of Doubt, has been receiving death threats following the book’s release last week.

Marquez admitted he found Vitug’s claim as “funny” and “ridiculous.”

“She’s ascribing that justices of the Court are going to make death threats. Don’t you think its ridiculous? I don’t know, I hope it’s not a statement to generate more interest in the book so that sales can be better. Let’s try to stop using the Court for some purposes which are not really right,” Marquez appealed.

He confessed, however, that he has not read Danguilan-Vitug’s book, which touches on various issues pertaining to the judiciary.

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