Press Release
March 29, 2006


I am on medical leave because of heart disease, but I have grown even more heartsick by news that certain administration officials will try to convince the Supreme Court to overrule the decision in the 1997 cha-cha peoples initiative called Defensor Santiago v. Comelec.

In that case, I was not only the main petitioner, but I also orally argued the case in the Supreme Court. It was a hard-won victory, because I was arguing with the man who cheated me of the 1992 presidency, Fidel Ramos. Not content with stealing the elections, Ramos wanted to run for a second term through a peoples initiative that he obviously planned to manipulate. Fortunately, a sober Supreme Court decided to stand up to the President.

The doctrine involved says in Latin: stare decisis et non quieta movere. It means that justices should adhere to precedence, and not unsettle things that are already established. The doctrine, called stare decisis for short, means that rules or principles of law on which a court rested a previous decision are authoritative on all future cases in which the facts are substantially the same.

In 1997, there was no law providing for the procedure to change the Charter by means of a peoples initiative. Up to now, there is no such law. Therefore, since the facts in 1997 and 2006 are substantially the same, then under the stare decisis doctrine, the Supreme Court is obliged to follow the ruling in Defensor Santiago v. Comelec.

Stare decisis is a principle of great importance, because it is absolutely necessary to the permanence of the rule of law. Without stare decisis, there is no law. For law is a fixed and established rule that should not depend on the personal attitudes of individual justices.

The exceptions to stare decisis, which are absent today, are the following:

  • When the prior decision is absurd.

  • When the prior decision proved to be mischievous in practice.

  • When the prior decision was inconsistent with earlier decisions.

In our judicial system, the courts are bound to execute the stare decisis doctrine and not to execute so-called higher law. If the Supreme Court resorts to a so-called higher law, it would erode its own credibility. All lawyers know that so-called higher law is manufactured for each special occasion out of the private feelings and opinions of the individual justices.

The weight attached to precedence is the best thing in our whole system of law, according to U.S. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., one of the most quoted justices in the Western legal system. If the Supreme Court overturns Defensor Santiago v. Comelec, it will diminish the weight of precedence with our courts.

The value of stare decisis is that it promotes certainty and uniformity in the legal system. It is the wiser policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right, according to Justice Louis Brandeis, also considered a classic legal authority.

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