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Tipping Point

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I’m glad that former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio has put his money where his mouth was.

For the longest time, Carpio has been an unfazed gadfly of the President, especially in his half-hearted handling of the country’s territorial claim in the West Philippines Sea and his soft, albeit weak, stance before China’s bullying tactic in the area.

He’s also among the leading legal luminaries in the country who have assailed the anti-terror law for being flagrantly violative of the Philippine Constitution.

He, along with another former Supreme Court justice, erstwhile Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and other prominent legal personalities, have recently filed the 11th petition before the High Court essentially asking it to junk the ATL.

It might have come at the 11th hour. The High Tribunal is probably ready to hand down  a ruling on previous petitions which, according to a former chief justice, should have been dismissed outright for procedural lapses. The law, according to this opinion, was legally non existent yet when the petitions were filed although Duterte has already signed the bill at the time.

Carpio et al probably were aware of that, which explains the timing, however perceived as late, of the Carpio group’s petition. Now, this an entirely different ballgame. The High Tribunal has to break a sweat, in a manner of speaking.

It could be the tipping point.

At the moment, the predominant apprehension is that the High Court will give in to the argument of the ATL authors and supporters in both House and the Senate that it’s critical to fighting terrorists in the country.

The isssue writ larger, however, is their willingness to compromise basic human rights to achieve the ATL’s objective, a clear give-away on the Machiavellian streak of the law where the end justifies the means.  It’s obviously authoritarian, the sliding slope upon which the country’s leadership is taking this nation nonchalantly downward. As usual, lack of vision gives way to misdirection, mistaking downward for forward.

I understand that Carpio’s petition not only  prayed for the junking of the ATL en toto but asked for an oral argument. This  should separate the men from the boys.

Senate President Tito Sotto, who has dared more anti ATL to go to the SC, as in the more the merrier, and Sen. Ping Lacson should participate in the oral argument to defend their  position and see if Sotto’s  hubristic, if put-down, cocky  response, to critics really has any basis at all.

They should stop hiding behind the hems  of their hired lawyers and  flail their logic and passion before the magistrates as the real and true defenders, not the enemies, of the people. They, not their lawyers, were the ones elected, after all.   This is their moment.

Hopefully, Carpio’s joining the legal fray about the ATL should tip the balance in favor of a more reasoned and acutely aware, and more historically relevant,  decision in favor of the country’s democratic ideals.  Because any decision could go either way:  further hurtling this country toward a full blown authoritarian rule or stop it in its momentum in that direction.      

At it is right now, only the High Court remains to have the semblance of independence, despite its earlier controversial decisions. The House of Alan and the Senate of Sen. Tito are perceived to be in Duterte’s pocket already.   

There is hope because there is fear.  That was made clear by the Carpio et al petition which  expressed this sentiment in no vague terms when they considered themselves potential targets or victims because they have been vocal and undeterred critics of the Administration, particularly on the WPS issue.

That fear is made worse when no less than the President of the land encourages the use of force, violence, if you will, as part of the debate or confrontation.

For instance, in his speech in Sulu before soldiers, Duterte at one point urged combatants to empty the magazine of their high-powereds firearms on the face of a fallen enemy to send a message: it’s not about life but  who wins. Darwin didn’t venture beyond the biological.     

That’s scary. And don’t forget the sustained and virus-like expletives. Come to think of it: this country would already be more than a bit better if Duterte and his minions followed  simple oral hygienic practices, like using mouthwash. It’s known to be effective against pathological microbes. Political virus, who knows?

Evidently, we are at a crossroads in history. In the last four years of Dutertissimo, our country h as gone astray from the democratic path it has been restored to  after the long and harsh  Marcos one-man rule..  How far we have gone?  Far enough to worry about  it may be harder to get back this time. But get back, we must, and soon. Time may be running out, especially with the pandemic that has changed the norms of life.  The conventional wisdom is that when the going gets tough, the toughies — yes bullies — get going.

Maxwell Gladwell, in his  best-sellling book ‘Tipping”Point’, points  out  that the power of context and the influence of a group, regardless of its size, but perhaps because of its influence and crediblity, can induce people’s inclination to a new attitude or direction.

The SC justices can and must look beyond their being the more superior lawyers but, true  to their calling, arbiters of justice, by being judges not only on the basis of jurisprudence but morals. As former U.S Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter once said, the  high court must be the conscience of society.

You don’t have to go far. Surveys after surveys have shown umistakeably where the Filipino conscience lies. Forget about their political alliances or biases.  Where the wind is blowing is not exactly where the message is, so the Old Testament tells us.  It’s that still, small voice.

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