One of the most useless public offices in the country is the position of Supreme Court (SC) spokesman. This useless office was created in 1998 when then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., a die-hard follower of ex-President Benigno Aquino III and an admirer of the Liberal Party, established the Public Information Office (PIO) of the SC.
“The SC does not need to reach out to the people. It is not an elected branch of the government.
Before 1998, the SC spoke to the public only through its promulgated decisions.
Nobody other than the SC itself is authorized to make an official interpretation of decisions of the High Tribunal. The spokesman cannot interpret the decisions of the SC because the spokesman does not participate in the deliberations of the SC in the decision-making process. Any interpretation which the spokesman makes is his own personal opinion.
Precisely because the spokesman is not authorized to interpret decisions of the SC, he cannot speak for the SC, and if the spokesman cannot speak for the SC, then there is no sense in calling him the SC spokesman. There is also no sense in creating that office in the first place.
Whenever members of the press seek out the SC spokesman for his comments on SC decisions, the spokesman avoids commenting on them. He ends up telling the reporters to just read the decision in question.
In the end, the news media cannot depend on the SC spokesman, and reporters will have to consult their own legal advisers regarding the matter. This underscores the uselessness of having a spokesman for the SC.
Atty. Ismael Khan, the SC spokesman during the time of Chief Justice Davide, once attempted to interpret a decision to accommodate queries from reporters. Khan was curtly told by a justice of the SC that since the spokesman is not a justice of the SC, he is not authorized to make official interpretations of decisions.
Another ex-SC spokesman, Atty. Theodore Te, a staunch supporter of de facto Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, once called a press conference where he ended up telling reporters that he is not authorized to interpret decisions of the SC.
The current SC spokesman, Atty. Jose Midas Marquez, once created a stir during a press conference when the microphone he was using collapsed. The incident was captured online.
Incidentally, Marquez is seeking appointment as SC justice. Why he ought not to be appointed is discussed in detail in an editorial published in this periodical last November.
It will probably be argued that the SC needs a spokesman for the purpose of reaching out to the public. That argument is specious.
To repeat, because the spokesman is not authorized to interpret decisions of the SC, he will be useless to anybody who may want to inquire about the meaning of particular SC decisions.
Next, if the public needs information about how the SC works, then that concern can be addressed online, inasmuch as the SC already maintains a website.
Finally, the SC does not need to reach out to the people. It is not an elected branch of the government and its official acts are reduced into decisions which speak for themselves.
Two other government agencies have useless spokesmen.
James Jimenez, the spokesman for the Commission on Elections, specializes in equivocal statements calculated to give the public the wrong impression about the official acts of the Commission. It is essentially a waste of time listening to him.
Jaqueline de Guia, the spokesman for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), is another.
People are under the impression that the CHR chairman, Jose Luis Gascon, designated a CHR employee to speak for him because he is afraid of being criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Last 28 January, Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin announced to the public that a certain Atty. Brian Hosaka is the new SC PIO head. Hosaka is expected to eventually replace Marquez as the SC spokesman.
Instead of appointing a new SC PIO chief or SC spokesman, Bersamin should abolish the PIO and the post of SC spokesman. That way, Bersamin can save the government from needless spending of public funds.
Bersamin has only a few months left in his tenure to institute this badly needed judicial reform.