“Separation of powers”
by Atty. Francisco D. Yap

In the August 10, 2016 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the headline is: “DU30 DEFIES SU PREME COURT.”

This is misleading. There is no defiance by President Duterte of the Supreme Court.

President Duterte, in a televised speech in Davao City, mentioned seven (7) judges involved in drug activities.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in a letter to Mr. Duterte, reminded the President that the Supreme Court was the only entity empowered to discipline members of the Judiciary. She also pointed that of the seven judges named by the President, one had been dismissed in 2007 for gross ignorance of the law or misconduct (Jorenda Mupas of Dasmarinas, Cavite province and another (Roberto Natividad of Calbayog, Samar province) was killed on January 14, 2008 at age of 69. A third judge, Rene Gonzales of Iloilo City, retired last month. During the briefing, the spokesman of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court would look into the administrative liability of the four judges in the performance of their duties.

However, it is admitted by the Supreme Court that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to act on criminal acts unless brought to the Supreme Court in a criminal case.

Hence, President Duterte is correct in cautioning Chief Justice Sereno not to interfere with the work of the President in enforcing the law. The Supreme Court has exclusive control over the administrative aspect of judges but the Executive Department or the Office of the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to conduct investigation regarding criminal activities or liabilities of judges.

To avoid conflict between two equal powers of the government each should be Supreme within their own sphere of power. Thus, the Supreme Court should have avoided issuing written statements and opinions because their junction is to decide cases, NOT TO GIVE OPINIONS that interfere with the executive.

The letter sent by Chief Justice Sereno cautioning judges not to heed the Orders of President Duterte to report to police to explain their alleged involvement in illegal drugs is indeed interference in the Executive Power of the President. Anyway, it is the right of every person under investigation for any offense to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have an independent and competent counsel. As judges they surely know their bill of rights. But as President, President Duterte has every right to expose the list of suspected judges, involved in drugs. Judges have no immunity from any comment. As public officials they should not be thin skinned. On the other hand, the President of the Philippines enjoys immunity from suit while holding office. It is only after their term of office, or when they are no longer President that they are sued.

As an update on Degamo’s case, criminal cases had been filed by the Office of the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan. Warrant of Arrests had been issued against Degamo, Reyes and Mendez, and they have to surrender for the Court to acquire jurisdiction over their persons and approve their bail bond to give them temporary liberty. Degamo, Mendez, and Reyes must have been arraigned, that is, the charges are read to them and they have pleaded not guilty. After that, the case will proceed with the trial proper.

The criminal prosecution cannot be enjoined thus it will proceed.

The administrative aspect of dismissal will likewise soon be submitted for decision by the Court of Appeals, which has enjoined the Ombudsman to temporarily enforce the dismissal. Very soon, it will likewise be resolved by the Court of Appeals and everybody should be patient because the wheels of justice grinds slowly but surely.


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