No TRO

The Supreme Court today refused to grant the temporary restraining order sought by Atty. Koko Pimentel. I didn’t hear the actual announcement by the Court’s spokesman, but I was there for the entire hearing, so I can imagine why no TRO was issued.

The interpellation of Pimentel lasted more than two hours, I think. And during that time, nearly every Justice took a turn at asking questions. I can’t reproduce it all here, so I’ll try my best to summarize the major points:

First of all, it seemed to me that the Court was of the opinion that the Lagumbay v. COMELEC case that Pimentel was relying on was actually not applicable to his petition. For an old case to be applicable as a precedent in a current case, the current case must be “on all fours” with the old case – legalspeak meaning the two case have to be very similar in circumstances. The factual circumstances of Lagumbay, however – and Pimentel admitted it anyway – do not match the circumstances surrounding the present petition.

Pimentel argued that he only cited Lagumbay on the aspect of “statistical improbability” being a justification for excluding the results from certain areas. Two Justices took him up on that. Justice Presbiterio Velasco pointed out that in Lagumbay, the Court did not actually order the exclusion of the results from certain precincts; the Court only upheld the Commission’s exercise of its right to order the exclusion of questioned results; Justice Antonio Nachura pointed out that the Court has been very strict in the application of the doctrine of statistical improbability and that even the slightest deviation from the factual circumstances in Lagumbay has led the Court to refusing to apply the doctrine. Justice Nachura even went so far as to say that the COMELEC was mistaken in citing statistical improbability as a ground for setting aside the canvass results from Maguindanao in the first place.

Second, from all the quizzing that he received, it appeared that Pimentel didn’t have any positive proof that the MCOCs were manufactured or spurious. As Justice Garcia said: “It’s a tall assumption to say that all the documents are fraudulent” without proof. This was the subject of several rounds of questions. Justice Carpio also took pains to point out that remedies were still available to Pimentel, other than the TRO.

Underlying all these arguments  was the sense that the Court was not willing to disenfranchise the thousands of Maguindanao voters. As Justice Garcia said, if the injunction were granted, then the votes of Maguindanao would be lost forever; whereas if the votes were counted, and anyone felt aggrieved at the result, there was still the Senate Electoral Tribunal to give satisfaction.

And third, Pimentel harped on how it was wrong for the COMELEC to take “unprecedented measures” in trying to resolve the Maguindanao issue. Several Justices took him to task for this, in effect saying that the COMELEC was faced with unprecedented circumstances and was therefore justified in taking unprecedented measures to solve the problem.

Justice Garcia laid out very simply: It’s part of the COMELEC’s job to make sure the results are reported. It called for the MCOCs and none were presented to it in Manila so Commissioners went to Maguindanao to get the documents themselves! Then he rounded that out with “What’s the hulabaloo? The COMELEC should even be commended for going out of its way to do its job.”

So, like I said, I can probably guess why, in the end, the Court finally decided not to issue a temporary restraining order.

ps

“What’s next?” some reporter asked me. I had to fight an urge to say  “Tomorrow, expect a whole lot of love to be thrown at the SC.” My nosebleed would have given the joke away anyway.

But just so I get to have i-told-you-so rights after tomorrow, let me say that I totally expect all sorts of criticisms to be leveled at the SC as a result of this decision.

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