Law of the jungle

Now it can be said. Despite being one of the world’s mega-cities, Metro Manila appears to be governed by the law of the jungle. It is a unique jurisdiction where the police, normally tasked with implementing judicial orders, are the first to defy them. It is unique since it’s possibly the only jurisdiction where cabinet members tasked with the promotion of justice consistently advocate disobedience of judicial orders.  This is why it is also the only place on earth where a suspended Police Chief can take orders from no less than the President himself.

What kind of insanity has come to our land?

I’m not at all familiar with the details of the suspension of Mayor Jun-Jun Binay. My knowledge of the incident is limited to what we read in the newspapers. I know that the Ombudsman recently decided to initiate preliminary investigation for plunder against the Mayor for the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Annex. This means that the Ombudsman HAS ONLY STARTED the process of finding if there is probable cause against the Mayor. Ergo, he remains absolutely innocent of the allegations against him and not just presumed to be innocent.

I also read that in connection with the administrative complaint against him filed together with the criminal complaint; the Ombudsman ordered the six-month temporary suspension of Mayor Binay. Here, the suspension is not by way of a penalty since the investigation process has only begun, but intended only to prevent the respondent from tampering with evidence. But like all orders, such suspension can only take effect if served on the respondent. Because this is an Order that affects the exercise of a popular mandate, the Mayor being an elective post, this Order must be served personally on the Mayor. This, I believe was never done partly because the process server of the Ombudsman could not penetrate the mass of people that gathered in City Hall who protested the temporary ouster. In lieu of personal service of the Order, the same was “posted” in the vicinity of the City Hall.

Again, while being a lawyer, I cannot claim to be an expert on all fields of law. Nonetheless, my knowledge of service of summons and notices, and more so, orders of suspension, is that they should be served personally on the respondent. The only instances where notice other than personal service is allowed is in actions against real property, so-called actions in rem, where the proceeding is against realty such as foreclosure of mortgages. Here, posting of notices in the property itself or summons by publication is allowed. The only other exception to personal service is in personal actions affecting persons and family relations where the respondent is outside of the country. In which case, summons to his last known address and summons by publication is allowed. I am not aware that an Order that would subvert the will of the sovereign people could be served by mere “posting”.

In any case, I also know as a lawyer that regardless of the merits of the case against Mayor Binay, the fact is the Court of Appeals, as part of the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government, issues an Order temporarily restraining the suspension of the Mayor, the co-equal Executive branch of government must not only comply with the Order but must also implement it. While the Courts have sheriffs to serve its Orders, the Courts nonetheless rely on the Executive, the latter mandated by the Constitution to implement our laws, to enforce its lawful orders. This is because while the Courts can issue Orders, it does not have a police force to implement its orders.

But in this megacity, the police apparently are the first to defy court orders. That is why without a doubt; this megacity is governed by the law of the jungle.

The Executive branch better think twice about the repercussion of its decision to defy the lawful Order of the Court of Appeals. Law forms part of a normative system because we want disputes settled peacefully and pursuant to the rule of law. We may not agree with Court Orders, but we should never openly defy them. The remedy for government is to question the TRO in the proper forum: in the CA itself or in the Supreme Court. It does not bode well that those tasked with the implementation of Court orders are the first to defy them.

Ironically, this is why the Philippines resorted to the rule of law in settling its dispute over the West Philippines Sea with the super-power China. We did so after mature contemplation that we are not in a position to resolve it using the law of the jungle: the sheer use of force. But when the same members of the Executive Branch resort to this same rule of the jungle domestically, not only do we send the message to our people that it is all right to take the law into their own hands. We also send the message to countries like China that we do not adhere to the rule of law, debunking the high moral grounds that we have taken in resolving our dispute in the West Philippines Sea.

Goodness gracious! Lets round up these beasts and lock them in cages come 2016!

This post first appeared on


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