In 1969, my father, while working as a capataz was laid off from his job together with some 20 other “plantilla” employees when the new governor of the province of Camarines Sur took over. For more than two years my father was out of job so we have to quit school. Atty. Vicente Bonot, ex-provincial board member took the cudgels for the employees and sued the provincial government and the governor and after more than 2 years of legal battle, the dismissed employees were ordered reinstated by then Court of First Instance Judge Ulpiano Sarmiento. (Cledera vs. Sarmiento, 39 SCRA 552).
The employees were paid their back wages.
After my father got his job back, one of my brothers had refused to go back to school. I did not hesitate to go back to school. I persevered and I thought that whatever setback I have had in life, God must have willed it that way. Instead, my resolve to pursue education became more intense.
As I looked back in hindsight I could not help but ask what if at the time of my suspension from the practice of law for one year, I was still in the Philippines and my family was totally dependent on me for support? What if I did not allow my wife to work abroad and keep her around the house to attend to her children? Would my youngest girl who was in second year high school at the time of my suspension have the same mind set as my brother who refused to return to school because his classmates were gone and he would be the biggest boy in the class? I viewed this possibility with endless trepidation and I could have felt endless bitterness to see my daughter out of school because I did not have the money to send her to school. It must have been providential that we settled far and beyond the reach of the most vindictive IBP and the most corrupt Supreme Court that could financially hurt my family.
But such distance, alas, provides only a veneer protection from the venomous pillory and scurrilous libel spewed by the most high and mighty on your good name. It is still embarrassing for someone to note that he was suspended from the practice of law for technical extortion. The balm of clear conscience is not soothing enough to calm you down. While we were not financially hurt by my suspension, it has ruined my honor in the eyes of the public and I have to clear that cloud by writing this book though I do not have to write a book to claim my honor before God.
Other lawyers, judges and court employees not situated as I was, may not be able to fight back the vitriolic venom spewed by the Supreme Court on their honor least they lost their pensions and retirement benefits they may have including their license to practice law. May this book provide them some comfort and strengthen their belief that our Supreme Court could be that vicious and savage behind those immaculate judicial robes.
When my father was removed from his job, I was saddened because my brothers, sisters and I have to quit school. I did not feel any bitterness or pain. But as a teenager, I always inquire why some people have so much power that they can use to devastate others. I see no difference between the Supreme Court and the Governor of our province who dismissed my father and others from their employment in 1969. But the governor and the provincial board did not have the final say. They were censured by the trial court and ordered them to reinstate the laid off employees.
Where does one go if the Supreme Court becomes unjust? Or where its claim to institutional infallibility and sole seat of legal wisdom becomes pure arrogance and hypocrisy?
I have no answer. I have to write so I can reach the readers and tell them about the Court’s arrogance and insensitivity and corruption too. The readers are common people whose thinking is pure and unadulterated. They were not schooled in the art of “compromise”, “double-dealing” and “double-talk”, the higher forms of twisted dialectics which seem to be the hallmarks of the Supreme Court and our government leaders.
Of the three branches of government, it is the Supreme Court which is in a very enviable position of power. Unlike the President and the members of Congress who have to seek the mandate from the people every six years, four or three years, the members of the Supreme Court have a life tenure and they continue to serve as members of the Court throughout their fruitful as well as fruitless lives and even if they misbehaved while in office. The only way the people can boot out a corrupt jurist in office is if he resigns or retire from office in a huff or in a hush, or under Mr. Marcos, “arm-twist” them to resign. If you try to impeach a jurist of the Supreme Court, he would throw every bag of tricks on your way to protect his employment and sometimes he would invoke a constitutional technicality if convenient.
And despite of what Mr. Marcos had done to the country during the darkest years of his misrule, some people could not help but feel nostalgic about the initial martial law years when he had purged the misfits in the Courts and had dismantled the private armies of the provincial warlords.
I called the accusation of IBP for “technical extortion” moronic and its lawyers possessed with picayune talents and the officialdom of the IBP corrupt because I treasure my honor and consider it sacred and I do not want someone to play with it. If someone is called an “extortionist” and it is not true, one would understand the language I used in fighting off this libel. I was like a wounded dog placed at the corner and nowhere to go except to fight back and I did.
I had asked the Court to rescue me from this baseless accusation. It was strange that the Supreme Court considered it of no moment to read the records of the case in order to repute my arguments and had simply denied my motion for reconsideration in one sweep minute resolution. Then another minute resolution had denied my second motion for reconsideration.
Suddenly it dawned on me that during its “fund anomaly crisis” in 2003, which had been a subject of an impeachment proceeding in Congress against Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., himself, the IBP was one of loyal adherents which embraced the Supreme Court and tried to shield it from attacks from some idealist members of Congress.
The Court was comfortable in hiding behind the issue that “no impeachment proceedings against a member of the judiciary can be filed twice in one year” instead of accepting the challenge made by its accusers and prove them wrong. It was very ironic that inasmuch as you have already been previously questioned of wrongdoing, such would provide you immunity from being questioned for another wrongdoing. While I can understand this principle if it involves ordinary mortals who could be ruined by repetitive malicious prosecutions, the Supreme Court holds an awesome power not possessed by these mortals to have seen it fit to hide behind this doctrinal coattails.
At the height of this “fund scandal” I was in America. I was not one of the apologists of the Supreme Court like the IBP. There was no rhyme or reason for the Supreme Court to rescue me and trash the IBP.
Again, the Supreme Court was playing true to form: “returning someone a favor at the expense of the truth.”