The crucial role of language PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 May 2018 11:34

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

My professional training has been in the field of chemistry, in the bachelor’s and master’s level. Like other fields of science, the language used in chemistry is very straightforward. When I read or hear  “sodium”  I know exactly what is referred to. But this is not so in some other fields, and right now I am thinking  of the field of law.

The case of the “ousting” of Lourdes Sereno from her position in the Supreme Court is a good case in point. She was ousted but not impeached. She was removed from office through the legal move of quo warranto  filed by the country’s Solicitor General  and which was approved by 8 justices of the Supreme Court. My immediate reaction to this news report was that this could not have been correct, based on my little knowledge of our 1987 Constitution which says that the Supreme Court justices and a few others “may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution”.  My understanding of this was that the impeachable officers may be removed “only” through impeachment. However, a lawyer corrected me and said that the word “only” is not part of the line from the Constitution.

A few days later a report in a Manila newspaper quoted a congressman who said

“[Y]ou can only remove a sitting justice through an impeachment proceeding”. So, what are we to make of these two statements of a lawyer who corrected me and the congressman’s position?

Another example I would like to cite is the word “unbailable”.  I am under the impression that the word means  that someone indicted for one of a number of  crimes “cannot”  apply for bail and gain temporary freedom pending the resolution of  the case in a court of law.  Senators Juan Enrile, Jiggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla were indicted for plunder in their involvement in the Napoles scam. But Enrile amd Estrada are no longer in detention; did they post  bail? And why was this possible when they were indicted for a crime classified as “unbailable”?

Hilarion Davide, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has stated that the 8 justices who voted to remove Lourdes Sereno on the basis of the quo warranto filed by SolGen Calida may now be impeached for “culpable violation of the Constitution”. I am surprised that  the 8 anti-Sereno justices did not  know this beforehand.

Is my  difficulty in the Sereno case and the Enrile/Esrada case stemming from my imperfect understanding of the language relevant to these cases? Not being a lawyer I can say, with all humility, that the answer would be yes.

I think I will stick to chemistry.