Manila Bulletin

Tip for bar takers

- By IGNACIO R. BUNYE Note: You may email us at totingbuny­ You may also “like” us on Facebook at “Speaking Out.”

THIS early, I am willing to bet that in the forthcomin­g bar exams late this year, two very likely questions in Political Law would involve Quo Warranto and Impeachmen­t.

To be more specific, the potential questions would revolve around quo warranto against a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice (CJ) and impeachmen­t of a CJ.

If I were the Bar Examiner, I would chose these for the following reason: They would test not only a bar candidate’s knowledge of the law but, just as important, also of current political and social events.

As a potential bar question, these two issues are closely inter-related and must necessaril­y be asked together.

While there are specific legal provisions on quo warranto, there has been no prior quo warranto brought against a CJ. It is the first case of its kind. The decision of the Supreme Court could go any which way.

In the case of impeachmen­t, it will only be the second impeachmen­t case against a CJ in our legal history.

To be sure, the remaining associate justices in the SC will be reading and quoting the same exact legal provisions. They will be relying on the same rules of statutory constructi­on that have been drilled into freshman law students.

But how they individual­ly interpret the law is entirely one’s own.

Seldom is there 100 percent unanimity among the SC justices on most cases brought before the highest court. In many cases, there are dissenting opinions. There are also some so-called separate opinions.

The Supreme Court decisions form part of the law of land. Decisions today are relied upon in making decisions tomorrow. But It also sometimes happens that a dissenting opinion today becomes a majority opinion tomorrow.

I once asked a retired justice how he voted. Candidly, he described his personal formula: Law plus Circumstan­ce equals Decision. He explained that he always considered the context under which a decision is called for.

As applied to then candidate Rodrigo Duterte, there was a technical ground for disqualify­ing Duterte. But the majority justices felt that the defect in his certificat­e of candidacy was not fatal and the matter was better left for the electorate to decide.

Foregoing considered, when I am asked what the law on a particular issue is, I now give this standard reply: The law is what a majority of the Supreme Court justices says it to be.

In all likelihood, a decision on the quo warranto against CJ Sereno would be rendered very soon, certainly way before the next bar exam.

If I were the bar examiner, I would give 9 points for an answer that correctly quotes the majority decision. But I would give a 10 for an answer which discusses both the majority and the dissenting opinion. Quo warranto, court a quo, quid pro quo, status quo, quo vadis The term quo warranto is repeatedly in the news nowadays. For the benefit of the lay reader, I lifted these from Wikipedia to explain it and as well as some other terms rooted in the Latin word “quo.”

Quo warranto – literally means by what warrant or by what right. It is a legal action requiring a person to show by what right, hei s holding, claiming, or exercising an office, or franchise.

Court a quo – court from which an appeal is taken.

Judge a quo – judge of a court from which an appeal is taken.

Status quo – existing state of affairs, social structure, and values.

Quid for pro quo – literally, something for something, a favor for a favor.

Quo vadis – Where are you going?

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