By Raïssa Robles
As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether or not to allow a hero’s burial for Marcos, we have to keep in mind that the third branch of government has still not faced what it did to help legitimize the Marcos dictatorship.
In the past, I had pointed out how the High Court glossed over its shameful history during Martial Law.
After I pointed it out, the court removed the history. But it quietly posted the following on its website.
The history is still a cop-out (see those portions boldfaced in red.)
It calls the unconstitutional violation by Marcos in going beyond the Martial Law powers granted him by the 1935 Constitution as “the transition”.
It states that “This transition had implications on the Court’s composition and functions.” But it doesn’t bother to explain the implications.
It also called President Corazon Aquino’s order for the Supreme court justices to submit their letters of resignation as “unprecedented” but doesn’t bother pointing out that Marcos could dismiss any of the justices anytime. He had them by the balls.
Here is the High Court’s history as stated in its website today:
The Supreme Court Under the 1973 Constitution
The declaration of Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081 by former President Ferdinand E, Marcos in 1972 brought about the transition from the 1935 Constitution to the 1973 Constitution. This transition had implications on the Court’s composition and functions.
This period brought in many legal issues of transcendental importance and consequence. Among these were the legality of the ratification of a new Constitution, the assumption of the totality of government authority by President Marcos, the power to review the factual basis for a declaration of Martial Law by the Chief Executive. Writ large also during this period was the relationship between the Court and the Chief Executive who, under Amendment No. 6 to the 1973 Constitution, had assumed legislative powers even while an elected legislative body continued to function.
The 1973 Constitution increased the number of the members of the Supreme Court from 11 to 15, with a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices. The Justices of the Court were appointed by the President alone, without the consent, approval, or recommendation of any other body or officials.
The Supreme Court Under the Revolutionary Government
Shortly after assuming office as the seventh President of the Republic of the Philippines after the successful People Power Revolution, then President Corazon C. Aquino declared the existence of a revolutionary government under Proclamation No. 1 dated February 25, 1986. Among the more significant portions of this Proclamation was an instruction for “all appointive officials to submit their courtesy resignations beginning with the members of the Supreme Court.”The call was unprecedented, considering the separation of powers that the previous Constitutions had always ordained, but understandable considering the revolutionary nature of the post-People Power government. Heeding the call, the members of the Judiciaryâ€”from the Supreme Court to the Municipal Circuit Courtsâ€”placed their offices at the disposal of the President and submitted their resignations. President Corazon C, Aquino proceeded to reorganize the entire Court, appointing all 15 members.
On March 25, 1986, President Corazon Aquino, through Proclamation No. 3, also abolished the 1973 Constitution and put in place a Provisional “Freedom” Constitution. Under Article I, section 2 of the Freedom Constitution, the provisions of the 1973 Constitution on the judiciary were adopted insofar as they were not inconsistent with Proclamation No. 3.
Article V of Proclamation No. 3 provided for the convening of a Constitutional Commission composed of fifty appointive members to draft a new constitution; this would be implemented by Proclamation No. 9. The output of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 was submitted to the people for ratification, under Â Filipino people then ratified the Constitution submitted to them by the Constitutional Commission on February 2, 1987.
Here is an excerpt from Marcos Martial Law: Never Again which discusses how Marcos controlled the Supreme Court:
“As a lawyer, Marcos well understood the need to ground whatever he did in legality, or the semblance thereof. By holding office for two terms, Marcos was able to appoint so many justices to the Supreme Court that when he declared Martial Law in 1972, only three out of 11 justices were not his choices.102 But even before Marcos packed the High Court, it had already tended to be deferential towards executive power, something which the President used artfully.
On August 21, 1971, two grenades were hurled at a political rally in Plaza Miranda, killing nine and injuring 95.*** Marcos used the occasion to promptly suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and order the arrest of dozens of suspects. It would prove to be a trial run for the imposition of Martial Law that would follow a year later. When those arrested challenged the constitutionality of the suspension, the Supreme Court upheld the President. Marcos would cite the Court’s decision as a precedent for justifying the abusive powers he would later wield.
Throughout Martial Law, Marcos kept the judiciary intact and working because it gave a veneer of legality and legitimacy to the dictator, the unspoken threat being that he would dismiss judges and justices anytime they made a decision that did not suit him. To rub it in, he specifically wrote a decree forbidding the judicial system from ruling on the validity of any decisions he made. To its eternal disgrace the Supreme Court meekly acceded and rejected an appeal filed by former Solicitor General and opposition Senator Lorenzo Tañada to stop Marcos’ blatant attempt to use Martial Law to suspend the 1935 Constitution and turn himself into a dictator. Among Marcos’ Supreme Court appointees whom Mijares identified were Fred Ruiz Castro, Enrique Fernando, Claudio Teehankee, Felix Makasiar and Antonio Barredo.104 The judicial branch essentially became a rubber stamp, a supine entity whose servile status was best exemplified by a photo, taken several years later, of Chief Justice Enrique Fernando holding an umbrella over Imelda Marcos to protect her from the rain.
Very much in the dictator’s pocket, the lick-spittle justices and judges, by their silence, acquiescence or active participation, would enable the regime to get away with wholesale murder, torture and atrocities.”