Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Column: Journalistic judgment and Obama’s speech

With links to three previous posts. Published on September 11, 2012.

It is already conventional wisdom to say that Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, fell flat—especially when compared to his wife Michelle’s stirring speech on the first day of the convention, or to the master class ex-President Bill Clinton gave on the second day, or to his own soaring words when he accepted the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in Denver, Colorado, in 2008. Okay, maybe, but flat according to whom?

I have been worrying this question since I read Molly Ball’s assessment of Obama’s anticlimactic, “perplexingly lifeless” address in the Atlantic Monthly. I thought his acceptance speech was solid, substantial, not so much sober as sobering. But Ball, whom I read regularly, thought otherwise (and so did many others). Continue reading

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Column: Chief Justice of the Philippines? No such thing

Published on August 7, 2012.

The Judicial and Bar Council, meeting this week to agree on a short list of candidates for chief justice, would do well to remember one specific untruth Renato Corona said at his impeachment trial. He infamously began his premeditated walkout from the Senate trial by intoning the words, “The Chief Justice of the Philippines wishes to be excused.” But in fact, there is no such office, and therefore no such official.* Continue reading

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Column: “Shadow of Doubt”: Concurring opinion

The second of a two-part review of the must-read book of the year. Published April 6, 2010.

Last week, I outlined some of my reserv-ations about the must-read book of 2010, Marites Vitug’s “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court.” My attempt to sketch a fuller picture was part of a two-step process. “I thought, borrowing the conceit of legal language, I might devote much of today’s column to a dissenting opinion, as it were,” I wrote then. “Next week, the concurring opinion follows.”

Herewith, the second step. Continue reading

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Column: “Shadow of Doubt”: Dissenting opinion

The first of a two-part review of the must-read book of the year. Published on March 30, 2010.

On the copyright page of “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court,” Marites Vitug’s must-read book-length investigation of the Supreme Court, we find an inadvertent change in the subtitle. SHADOW OF DOUBT, we read, and underneath it: PROVING THE SUPREME COURT.

I think the case can be made that typographical errors are publishing’s equivalent of movie-making’s continuity gaffes, which Graham Greene, in a previous incarnation as film critic, and channelling Jean Renoir (I think it was), referred to as part of the unconscious poetry of films. I certainly like the accidental, new subtitle. It tells us what we need to know about the book: it “proves” the Court, in the sense of trying and testing it. Continue reading

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Column: Bias in surveys, etc.

A manufactured crisis; the conventions of opinion writing; coping mechanisms for survey laggards. Published on January 12, 2010.

Yesterday’s editorial piqued my curiosity. “Not least, the history of the Court itself belies [Rep. Matias] Defensor’s contention that the office of Chief Justice had never been vacant, not even for a day.” Good thing the Supreme Court maintains one of the better government websites.

On sc.judiciary.gov.ph, we can find a list of the country’s chief justices, going all the way back to Cayetano Arellano. There are a few mistakes on the list that even a non-lawyer can spot and which can easily be remedied, such as Manuel Moran’s date of retirement (May 29, 1951, not 1966) or the order of Roberto Concepcion’s successors (Querube Makalintal came before Fred Ruiz Castro). But in it too, Defensor can find the perfect rebuttal to his arguments. Continue reading

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Column: The diminishing of Alex Magno

Blair compared; St. Paul dissed (sort of); Alex Magno deconstructed. Published on March 31, 2009 (with the print version hiding a head-slapping typo–”stringest,” instead of “stringent”–that makes me cringe. I am reminded of my five-year-old son quoting from his favorite cartoon show: “I … was weak.”)

One more word about the Tony Blair speaking tour. It may have been the most complete triumph by a British dignitary on Philippine soil since, well, Brig. Gen. William Draper landed unopposed, somewhere in Malate, in 1762. Of course, two and a half centuries ago, the British easily conquered the capital but faced great difficulty in the periphery. Continue reading

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Column: Legal ‘barok’

Published on February 3, 2009

Of the many basketball teams I have rooted for, perhaps my sentimental favorite is the Magnolia team of the 1985 Open Conference. Carrying the colors of the San Miguel franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (at that time, there was only one), the team was probably the weakest ever on paper. Aside from playing coach and import Norman Black and Marte Saldana, once a Rookie of the Year, there were no other top-tier players (or at least none that I can remember). Oh, there was the hard-working Gerry Samlani, who flustered history one unforgettable night when he converted a rebound into two points—-in the opposing team’s goal.

And yet the team ended up dueling with the impossibly talented Great Taste team (coached by Baby Dalupan, led by sweet-shooting MVP Ricky Brown, backstopped by All-Defensive stalwart Abe King) for the conference championship. Great Taste, with its superior firepower, won in six games; Magnolia finally surrendered after Dalupan launched yet another new weapon: Jimmy Manansala’s three-pointers from nowhere. But what a ride for a team with no prospects. As a team, Black’s warriors weren’t destined for anything; they created their own fate.

I was (improbably) reminded of the team after watching the great Roger Federer lose to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open finals the other night. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps something to do with the difference between destiny and fate. Continue reading

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