I meant to post this last month when the Philippine Supreme Court issue its ruling on contraceptives, but better late than never. Here’s an article in Foreign Policy about the case and its importance.
Category Archives: Philippines
When comparing the Philippine Supreme Court’s activism with that of the U.S., one of the biggest differences is that the Philippine court has not ventured deeply into the realm of reproductive rights. Now, the Aquino administration’s new Reproductive Health law might have given the court’s its own Griswold v. Connecticut. Among other things, the law would provide public funds to provide contraceptives (for more about the law and commentary, check out this IRIN article).
Catholic groups have challenged the law as potentially undermining the constitutional principle that the family is the fundamental social unit. The court has issued a temporary restraining order against the law until it hears oral arguments in June. Human rights groups have criticized the delay as risking women’s health during the intervening four months.
Thus far, I haven’t seen any attempts to “count” the likely votes of the justices. According to The Manila Times, 10 justices joined the TRO while 5 dissented. However, it’s certainly not impossibly that three of the justices who signed the TRO would vote to uphold the law after oral arguments. The TRO is after all temporary and simply designed to allow the court to hear such a momentous case.
The case will also be a rest of Chief Justice Sereno’s leadership. Sereno, an Aquino appointee, was one of the five justices to dissent. There is still little research about how the chief justiceship influences the votes of the other justices, but the Philippine Supreme Court chief justiceship is relatively strong and the justice has control over judicial budgets. Can she corral a majority on the court?
Marites Vitug is one of the more prominent critics of corruption and nepotism in the Philippine Supreme Court. However, in this book, she focuses on landmark rights cases from the Supreme Court. These are essentially the Philippine equivalents of Brown v. Board, Roe v. Wade, etc. Admittedly, not all of these cases result in victories for rights activists, but they are crucial to understanding Philippine jurisprudence. Vitug and Yabes provide a short overview of the case, but they really focus on the individuals and personalities involved. This is great for foreigners who can access the official judicial opinions easily enough on the Supreme Court’s website but might not appreciate the context surrounding the case. It’s particularly revealing to see some of the behind-the-scenes influence in some cases – the sort of personal touches that never make it into the written opinion. For example, in one of the mining cases, a former Supreme Court justice was a lawyer for one of the parties! In another case, Vitug and Yabes recount the scathing skepticism of the justices during oral argument. As with Vitug’s Shadow of Doubt, this book is essentially reading for anybody interested in the modern Philippine judicial system.
Just under a year ago, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a TRO preventing authorities from detaining former president Arroyo. Now, Arroyo stands accused of plunder along with 9 other defendants in a trial before the Sandiganbayan (anticorruption court). Arroyo and her co-defendants are accused of misusing funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Of course, given the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato last year, it’s hard to believe that a TRO against the Arroyo corruption trial won’t produce a backlash. However, the Aquino administration seems less confrontational – at least at this point. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda even reacted to the bizarre news by stating, “Well, we respect, again, that is a decision coming from the Supreme Court and as always we respect the jurisdiction of the SC.”
The Philippine Supreme Court accepted a petition to strip Congress of one of its votes in the Judicial and Bar Council. Article VIII Section 8 (1) of the Constitution gives Congress “a” representative, not one for each chamber.
This comes ahead of an expected vote for a new chief justice following the impeachment of Renato Corona earlier this year. It is a bit surprising and possibly not a coincidence that the Supreme Court changed the voting rule after having two representatives since 2001. Perhaps the court thought that given Congress’ vote to impeach Corona, they might disagree over judicial candidates.
Full article from PhilStar here.