Liberty from Arbitrariness and Prosperity from Judicial Stability under the Rule of Law

By: Ervin Fredrick H. Dy

University of the Philippines College of Law

 

Executive Summary

 

     What is Rule of Law? Rule of Law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. It is exactly this capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic manner equivalent to lack of jurisdiction which is often the subject being assailed at in numerous petitions for certiorari. Rule of Law affords people a certain expectation of fair play and not being simply left to the whims of a person, such as in the case of dictatorship, wherein the ruler is held above law. This was clearly present during the time of martial law under Former President Ferdinand Marcos, who held both executive and legislative powers. At his discretion, he would institute or promulgate numerous presidential decrees penalizing certain acts, the public having no prior notice or knowledge of such laws, in turn being arrested out of the blue for committing an act they didn’t know was illegal. Without Rule of Law, there was wide spread oppression on the part of Marcos, there being rampant summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during his regime. Thus we can say that without Rule of Law there is no liberty.

     But what kind of liberty are we exactly talking about? I respectfully propose that the Rule of Law affords liberty from arbitrariness and oppression.

     As stated earlier, Rule of Law provides people a reasonable expectation of fairness and consistency when the law is applied. When a person files a case before the courts. He would expect that the judge would apply the current existing laws correctly and not arbitrarily or be affected and persuaded to rule otherwise through bribes. The principle of stare decisis is based from this foundation. This principle espouses the doctrine of precedent, which means that if an issue has already been decided the Court should simply adopt its previous ruling. This affords litigants an idea how a case will be decided by the courts given the already long history and experiences available to the courts. Otherwise, without stare decisis, the Court could simply flip flop over and over again in utter disregard of its previous rulings, leading the party litigants to the whims of the Court. Litigation would not then be about applying and interpreting the law, but it would simply be who the judges or justices prefer more.

     Proceeding from liberty from arbitrariness, what is the next logical consequence? It is necessarily the achieving of a stable judicial system. As already pointed out before, wherein people trust the judicial system since there is consistency and whatever judgment they may be rendered with, it is based on sound legal reasoning and not caprice, hence people get what is due to them, that which is just and equitable. Having a stable legal system is a crucial aspect of attaining prosperity.

     Prosperity is the state of flourishing, thriving, good fortune or successful social status.  One way this can be achieved is through investments and ventures. As a potential investor, one would survey the countries wherein there is lesser risk of bad investments, such as when the government takes control over such assets and refuses to compensate such taking. With a stable legal system, investors would be encouraged to invest in our country because of the minimized risk of arbitrariness on the part of the government. If there is any breach of obligation, injury, or harm suffered by the investor, he is sure to be able to obtain relief and correspondingly receive what is just under a stable legal system. With more investors being enticed to invest in our country, prosperity is then a necessary consequence of the Rule of Law.


“When the Rule of Law disappears, we are ruled by the whims of men.”

Tiffany Madison

 

        What is Rule of Law? Rule of Law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. It is exactly this capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic manner equivalent to lack of jurisdiction which is often the subject being assailed at in numerous petitions for certiorari. Basically, Rule of Law affords people a certain expectation of fair play and not being simply left to the whims of a person, such as in the case of dictatorship, wherein the ruler is held above law. This was clearly present during the time of martial law under Former President Ferdinand Marcos, who held both executive and legislative powers. At his discretion, he would institute or promulgate numerous presidential decrees penalizing certain acts, the public having no prior notice or knowledge of such laws, in turn being arrested out of the blue for committing an act they didn’t know was illegal. This was exactly the subject being challenged of in the landmark case of Tañada vs. Tuvera, wherein the publication requirement for any rule was held by the Supreme Court to be mandatory, what may be provided by law was merely the number of days after publication before it takes effectivity. Without Rule of Law, there was wide spread oppression on the part of Marcos, who has already been recognized as a tyrant under our laws such as Republic Act 10368 or the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013”, wherein the State recognizes the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during his regime. Thus we can say that without Rule of Law there is no liberty.

        But what kind of liberty are we exactly talking about? Is it merely physical liberty, that is one is not incarcerated? Or does it pertain to liberty of movement, wherein one can freely move to and fro? Or is it liberty of choice, being free to choose whatever gender preference one has or the person who one wants to marry? I respectfully propose that the Rule of Law affords liberty on two fronts based on its definition: namely liberty from arbitrariness and oppression on the part of the subjects of law or the governed, and liberty from corruption on the part of the law maker or the governor.

        As stated earlier, Rule of Law provides people a reasonable expectation of fairness and consistency when the law is applied. When one person is caught for over speeding, he would not complain against the traffic enforcer arguing as to why he was singled out. He would expect that each and every violator of traffic regulations would be apprehended as well as far as practicable. The same is true when a person files a case before the courts. He would expect that the judge would apply the current existing laws correctly and not arbitrarily or be affected and persuaded to rule otherwise through bribes. The principle of stare decisis is based from this foundation. This principle espouses the doctrine of precedent, which means that if an issue has already been decided the Court should simply adopt its previous ruling. This affords litigants an idea how a case will be decided by the courts given the already long history and experiences available to the courts. Otherwise, without stare decisis, the Court could simply flip flop over and over again in utter disregard of its previous rulings, leading the party litigants to the whims of the Court. Litigation would not then be about applying and interpreting the law, but it would simply be who the judges or justices prefer more.

        Now, on the part of the law maker or governor, why is it that Rule of Law will provide liberty from corruption? To explain this, allow me to quote the motto of my beloved fraternity, the Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity, of which I am a proud member of: “We shall not be saved without wisdom, for knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.”

        Our motto starts with the phrase “We shall not be saved”, depicting the current scenario we are faced with that “We”, as humans, are in need of being saved. Are our lives in physical danger? What do we need saving from? This is answered by the following phrase of “for knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.” The fraternity recognizes the importance of knowledge in that it is a source of power. You can use such knowledge to convince other people to do things they would not normally do, either because you are incredibly convincing and credible with such knowledge, or the fact that the knowledge itself is used to coerce another person such as in the case of blackmail, wherein private information about a person is used to control his actions. Now power is merely a tool which can help a person achieve what he wants, to help him attain his goals. It can be used for good or even bad purposes, as in the case of Former President Marcos, who although is undeniably brilliant in himself, as he was a Bar Topnotcher among others, abused his power and used it for his personal gain, to the detriment of the public. As Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton said: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With unrestricted power, one can easily be corrupted by it, hence the notion that humans need saving, specifically saving from the problem of corruption of power. Now what is the answer to this problem of corruption? The motto provides it to be only wisdom. Wisdom, simply put, is the ability to discern what is right from what is wrong, and choosing to do the right thing. With wisdom, one’s use of power is tempered and no longer prone to abuse. With wisdom, one can attain liberty – liberty from corruption of power. Wisdom is the central theme of the fraternity with the end goal of attaining liberty. As applied to Rule of Law, when the public official knows and recognizes the Rule of Law, that is in order to be right his decisions must be reasonable and not arbitrary, he will not then succumb to the temptations of power and be corrupted by it.

        Proceeding from liberty from arbitrariness, what is the next logical consequence? It is necessarily the achieving of a stable judicial system. As already pointed out before, wherein people trust the judicial system since there is consistency and whatever judgment they may be rendered with, it is based on sound legal reasoning and not caprice, hence people get what is due to them, that which is just and equitable. Having a stable legal system is a crucial aspect of attaining prosperity.

        Prosperity is the state of flourishing, thriving, good fortune or successful social status.  One way this can be achieved is through investments and ventures. As a potential investor, one would survey the countries wherein there is lesser risk of bad investments, such as when the government takes control over such assets and refuses to compensate such taking. With a stable legal system, investors would be encouraged to invest in our country because of the minimized risk of arbitrariness on the part of the government. If there is any breach of obligation, injury, or harm suffered by the investor, he is sure to be able to obtain relief and correspondingly receive what is just under a stable legal system. With more investors being enticed to invest in our country, prosperity is then a necessary consequence of the Rule of Law.

        Understanding the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the Rule of Law, how can I then aim to promote this as a law student and in the future in my legal career? As a student, I am currently espousing this philosophy as a member of the Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity among others. As stated earlier, the central theme of our fraternity is wisdom with the end goal of attaining liberty. As such when looking for potential recruits to our fraternity, we orient them on our goals and how to achieve them, such essentially is an information dissemination project, better if the person is actually recruited and joins us in our worthy cause. Concurrent with recruitment as a method of disseminating our views and philosophies, the fraternity is also active in numerous projects. One of the pillars of the fraternity is academics. As explained before, the fraternity recognizes the importance of knowledge in that it is a source of power. If one has great academic standing, he tends to be more credible in the eyes of others. This in fact was true when I participated as a speaker just recently on September 15 in a talk titled “A Look into Law”, organized by the UP-NCPAG Student Council for those students interested to take up law. I was invited to give an inspirational talk to motivate the students to pursue law due to my outstanding academic background, graduating Magna Cum Laude in BS Geodetic Engineering and currently top 5 of our batch and a member of the Order of the Purple Feather, the honor society at UP College of Law. In my speech I talked about how law is merely a tool that can be used to attain a specific objective or purpose, in that we should not be corrupted by power and remember that no one is above the law, hence attain liberty from corruption. Another pillar of the fraternity is forensics and debate. Just this past three weeks, I participated and won the championship in the 29th Annual Pi Sigma Open Debate Tournament, which is the longest running open debate tournament in Southeast Asia. The debate tournament is aimed to promote awareness and critical thinking on various issues that have affected Philippine society. Participants came from different schools such as San Beda College of Law, Arellano University School of Law, Lyceum of the Philippines University. Participants from UP came from College of Engineering, School of Library and Information Studies, UP Debate Society, and College of Law. On our elimination matchup with the UP College of Engineering, the proposition was that PD 910, or the Malampaya Fund law, be amended to allow its use for biodiversity conservation. As the negative side, we argued and highlighted that no matter how good a policy is or how noble the cause of conserving the environment is, under the Rule of Law the amendment proposed must pass the test of constitutionality, otherwise, public funds will be left to the whims and unbridled discretion of the executive, such as was the case when the Supreme Court declared the phrase “as may be hereafter directed by the President” as unconstitutional in the case of Belgica vs. Ochoa or the PDAF case. The importance of Rule of Law was explained not only to the opposing side composed of engineering students, but as well as to the audience members who may not have been familiar with it. Through debate, I can not only inform other people regarding the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the Rule of Law, I can in fact convince them and help them see and realize the importance of such philosophy.

        In line with the moniker of my fraternity Alpha Phi Beta, which means “Abogado Para sa Bayan” and the fact that I am a product of the UP education system, meaning I am an iskolar ng bayan, my planned line of work is government and public service. Just last June to July I interned at the Office of the Solicitor General to have a taste of what public service is, and I am convinced that I will be pursuing my career there. From the OSG, my next track would be to shift to the Judiciary, either going to the Court of Appeals or the Sandiganbayan. While in the Judiciary, I can promote the philosophy by helping attain judicial stability under the Rule of Law in order to have prosperity. From there I can also conduct lectures, seminars, workshops, trainings, classes, and other forms of instruction to promote the philosophy.