There has been much talk about the independence of the Supreme Court, the persuasion of the Chief Justice, the leanings of the justices. The speculations and expectations about the workings of the Supreme Court were heightened in the recent past on account of several attempts of the Executive Department to curtail human rights, to silence public officials, to protect itself from confrontation.
No less than a formal survey was even made asking respondents to rate the objectivity of the Supreme Court on the occasion of the infamous “People’s Initiative”. The result was not favorable to the court as a whole. Its subsequent decision, however, junking the alleged initiative proved the survey conclusions wrong.
Now that the incumbent Chief Justice is about to end his tenure of office, there is again much talk as to who would be his successor, who would get the blessing of the national leadership to have the office, and what would his or her leaning would be when cases against the Administration reach the Supreme Court of the land.
The Supreme Court is just that and must be that: Supreme. It is the tribunal of last recourse and must be therefore free and immune particularly from the incursions of the national leadership, especially so when these attempts to arrogate powers beyond its competence. This is in perfect accord with the principle of checks and balances in government.
That is why one wonders: why not take away from the national Executive Office the prerogative of nominating the Chief Justice? Why not give this function to the justices of the Supreme Court themselves to name the best among their peers? And why not thereafter have the Commission on Appointments do its duty as usual? This way, the national leadership would be spared of the suspicion of influence intervention in the Supreme Court. At the same time, the court would also be free of the doubt of being really supreme in making its decisions.
That is why one further wonders: why not take away too from the same national Executive Office the prerogative of nominating the justices of the Supreme Court? Why not give this role instead to the Judicial and Bar Council? And why not thereafter make the Commission on Appointments do its role as customary? This way, the national leadership is altogether out of the picture in the composition and workings of the Supreme Court as a whole.
What a truly Supreme Court would the country then have!
8 November 2006