Friday, July 01, 2005

court of public opinion

True or otherwise, there is the ever increasing feeling that practically all government agencies have become progressively politicized. Leadership therein are perceived to be assigned to personalities more for political accommodation than professional consideration. There is also the emerging awareness that many important purely civilian offices are now headed by former military generals and/or retired PMA police authorities.

This is precisely why there appears to be the fast developing exasperation on the part of law practitioners. They feel big frustrations when they have redresses against the government, government agencies and/or government officials.

They observe some kind of an impenetrable self-walling by the government, its agencies and officials such that it has become a legal impossibility of obtaining justice therefrom. The government as a whole is seemingly becoming gradually dictatorial and persecutory, untouchable and infallible.

In the Philippine experience, when the government has become either omnipotent or amoral, when its agencies are no longer justly operational, when its officials live and act above the law, it is ultimately the sovereign people who take over and become both the prosecutor and the judge: they accuse. They decide. They act.

When the legal becomes unattainable, the extra-legal comes to play. And this can be dangerous as it is unpredictable. What is legal has its given understanding and limits. What is extra-legal in the socio-political life of a country can mean anything, could go anywhere, in anyway.

The "court of public opinion": when legal processes prove futile, when the judicial system rest immobile, the people take over the right of hearing the case, of evaluating its merits, of pronouncing judgment thereon. The well known EDSA I and EDSA II -- irrespective of its merits and/or demerits -- were both the judgments rendered by the "court of public opinion."

It is when the government, its officials and agencies appear already above the law and beyond prosecution that the sovereign will of the people comes to fore -- precisely through the "court of public opinion". And this appears to be in the offing during these critical times in the country.

+O.V. CRUZ, D.D.
1 July 2005