Today the Supreme Court meets to tackle the biggest case in its post-Marcos history. The scuttlebutt is plentiful on what just might happen: see Ellen Tordesilla’s blog. Just how serious the situation is, is shown by the Inquirer’s headline for today: SC justices have made up their minds on Charter change. It seems one of the justices leaked to the paper that the court has made up its mind, that unless something derails the discussion, a decision has been written and would probably be released by the end of the day or tomorrow at the latest (Malaya in its story, suggests this is a probable outcome, too). And that the justice who talked to the paper is troubled by yesterday’s survey results. The Manila Times goes as far (even further than the Inquirer) in predicting the outcome of the decision: High Court ruling to favor initiative, it says:
A Court insider told The Times that the growing sentiment among the justices is to support the opinion of Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno remanding to the Comelec the petition for the initiative filed by Raul Lambino, Sigaw ng Bayan convener, and Erico Aumentado, president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.
Puno had been assigned to write the opinion on the initiative petition. The 14 other justices will vote for or against his opinion.
The Court will then meet in a special en banc session on Wednesday to deliberate on Puno’s opinion. If approved, it will be adopted as the Court’s decision.
The source said all but two or three justices have not made up their mind, but that Puno’s opinion was hard to contest, because he is the Court’s senior magistrate and considered one of its brightest members.
The insider also said several of the justices were inclined to rule that the Comelec committed “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction” when it dismissed the petition.
In effect, the Court reverses the ruling of the Comelec and will require it to verify the 6.3 million signatures the petitioners submitted.
The Manila Standard-Today story is important, I believe, because it contains precisely the arguments (according to scuttlebutt, at least) that would be incorporated in a decision favorable to the government:
In particular, the justices will decide whether a 1997 injunction that the Court imposed on the Comelec involving a previous attempt to amend the Constitution should also be applied to the Sigaw ng Bayan petition.
The Comelec refused to entertain the Sigaw ng Bayan petition in August, citing the Court’s 1997 ruling.
But Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos said the poll body would hold a plebiscite for the proposed amendments to the Constitution if the Supreme Court ordered it.
“We have no discretion because of that  injunction,” he said.
If the Court ruled in favor of Sigaw ng Bayan, the Comelec would begin verifying the certifications from local poll offices nationwide where the petitioners submitted their signatures, Abalos said.
In its petition, Sigaw ng Bayan argued that the 1997 Santiago vs Comelec case did not set a precedent for future cases.
With 6.3 million signatures of voters endorsing Charter Change, the proponents said, they had met the conditions for a people’s initiative as required by Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act.
It will be interesting to compare the above, which hints at what the Palace would want to see in a decision, with whatever ends up decided by the Supreme Court. Among the scuttlebutt is that Justice Puno, as ponente, has drafted a decision saying: 1. law is sufficient; 2. Sigaw ng Bayan has locus standi (legal personality); 3. Santiago vs. Comelec decision is not stare decisis (not precedent) being a 6-7 decision.
Malacañang admitted the consequences of the Supreme Court turning down the petition would be “too difficult and too painful” for the Arroyo administration.
ULAP officials also shared the same view, saying it would be “now or never” for the people to realize their inherent right to directly propose amendments or revision of the basic law of the land.
The Black and White Movement, in an eloquent statement, says it is in God’s hands. As for One Voice, there’s Christian Monsod’s October 19 statement. The foremost question in many minds, of course, is whether the public will accept whatever ends up being the decision of the court.
My Arab News column for this week is Something Disturbing in the Plebiscite Demand.
And Manuel Buencamino has an imaginary conversation -with me!
In the blogosphere, see Riots in Hungary and Pestiside.hu for the latest in Buda -and how the people are being pests concerning their Prime Minister. But of course as the Palace propagandists tell us, the parliamentary system guarantees an end to people power. Not!
Over in David’s space, he differentiates between the two types of tear gas used by the Hungarian police. Between the Hammer and the Anvil, and Mike’s Neighborhood and ns_kumiho are quite taken by the irony of the 1956 protests turned 18-day revolution being marked with a Soviet T-34 tank and how protesters liberated it for the 2006 protests (see video). Back in September, Pestiside.hu thought comparisons between 1956 and 2006 were unfounded.
Medvekoma recalls the 1956 Revolution with pictures and reminds us, it isn’t if the revolution succeeded or failed, but that it took place that counts. The Daily Brief and the editors at A World to Win pays homage to the Hungarian resistance as well.