There are no shortcuts when it comes to protecting the civil liberties and rights of peoples under a country’s constitution. Enforcing the people’s constitutional rights is no small matter and is of paramount importance, a particularly daunting task that rests squarely on the shoulders of the members of the country’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court.
First established in June 1901, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has since become an integral part of the country’s democratic infrastructure, working alongside the two other branches of government in a co-equal and independent manner. Led by the chief justice, who is the highest magistrate of the land, the Supreme Court includes 13 other associate justices who serve until the age of 70. Currently, the honor and burden of leading the Supreme Court is held by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, who was appointed as the 27th head of the country’s Judiciary on April 5, 2021 by President Duterte.
In celebration of its 120th anniversary, the Supreme Court of the Philippines chose to give back by donating produce to various community pantries all over the country on June 10, 2021. More than 14 tons of vegetables were bought from Luzon farmers by the 14 Supreme Court justices using their personal resources, following this year’s anniversary theme of “Pagkalinga sa Kapwa: Higit Labing Apat Mula sa Labing Apat #120Years” (Caring for Others: More than 14 from the 14).
While it was a great gesture of care and concern, it was also a symbolic one. The exercise was a reminder of how the Supreme Court justices are not figures that exist above the cares of the common folk. They are very much aware of the people’s plight, many of which have been exacerbated by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In giving from their own pockets, the justices have made their concern more personal, more meaningful to a certain sense.
Still, some might ask: Why vegetables? What does this have to do with the duties of the Supreme Court? A quick answer would be: None. A bit of an effort to look beyond the obvious, however, might just reveal something crucial. By choosing to donate to community pantries—a phenomenon that took the country by storm as a response to the needs of a people suffering from a pandemic—the Supreme Court justices have effectively acknowledged the “vox populi,” the voice of the people crying out in these challenging times.