By Bernie Lopez Advance copy, ‘eastwind journals‘ Opinyon Magazine, Dec. 18, 2011
The war is not really against the Supreme Court per se but against some justices, specifically Chief Justice Corona and the eight other GMA appointees who are being accused of trying to get GMA off the hook. But the danger is that the war may undermine the Supreme Court itself and trigger a constitutional crisis.Eight big worms started creeping out of the box as soon as it was opened by a congressional impeach-Corona decision. Things that had been hidden for so long, or ignored, or shelved have suddenly emerged. All of a sudden, the highest most prestigious court in the land, for the first time in history, is under the gun as never before. The Lower House wanted the ‘crown’ removed, the institution decapitated.
Here is an inventory of eight major accusations (there may be more) against Corona and the Supreme Court that have come out of the press right after the Lower House impeached Corona by an overwhelming 188 signatures, when only 94 or one third were needed.
First is “betraying the public trust because of a track record of bias and partiality in cases involving former President Arroyo”. Second is “culpable violation of the Constitution when he failed to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth”. Third is violation of the Charter “in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel (thereby) creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in discussing with litigants regarding cases pendind before the Supreme Court”.
Fourth is “manifesting partiality in the grant of a temporary restraining order ‘in favor’ of Mrs. Arroyo and her husband ‘to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice”. The accusation of ‘frustrating justice’ against a Justice is a very serious matter and has deep implications on the situation of our present jurisprudence.
Fifth is a graft and corruption charge of “failing and refusing to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary colletions, (using) public funds for his own personal purposes”. Sixth is the SC order “issued against the House when the latter was in the process of impeaching Gutierrez”. Seventh is reversal of “decisions on the conversion of 16 towns into cities, and Dinagat Island into a province”. Eighth is the SC “paving the way for the creation of the second district of Camarines Sur to accommodate Mrs. Arroyou’s son Dato”. (Source – Philippine Star).
Corona has several options. Option 1 is to fight it out in the Senate and in the Supreme Court itself. But if the judges are being judged, if the Justices are being accused of injustice, the Supreme Court is no longer a court but a ‘defendant’. The result of Option 1 may be more worms coming out, bigger and uglier than ever. Option 1 is actually a damage control move on the part of Corona etal, that may boomerang. In the hope of saving his name and that of the Supreme Court, Corona may lose it more.
This may force Corona to seek Option 2, which is what Guttierez took. Rather than face the snake pit of an angry Senate, Gutierrez chose to resign. It was a good move. The war was over and forgotten. Guttierez retreated, licking her wounds, but it was better than getting more wounds. Guttierez buckled down. Corona may begin counting the pros and antis in the Senate before he makes a move, but at this stage, it is better he does not. There are unpredictable things that may happen against his favor. If he takes Option 1, we may be headed for a Constitutional crisis. If Corona takes Option 2, the war is over, or oops, half over. Resignation is a cultural thing. Filipinos will fight it out to the last breath. If Corona were Japanese, he perhaps may have resigned long time ago.
The other half is the credibility of the Supreme Court itself to make future decisions. With Corona out, the other eight GMA appointees are necessarily next in line. This is an all or nothing war. No stone shall be left unturned. Those Judges who participated in decisions which are being questioned in the impeachment, if applicable to them, are culpable. It is also better they take Option 2 and resign.
It depends however, who voted for what in every accusation. It is possible that a GMA appointee did not agree with the questionable decisions of the other Judges. There has to be a meticulous investigation of questionable decisions the Supreme Court have made.
At the core of the controversy is a weakness in our jurisprudence. The executive branch must never appoint people in the judicial branch because they become beholden to the demands of the former. Even if it is more complex, the legislative branch is the better ‘appointer’ as this is a bloc rather than a person. It is harder to be beholden to a bloc than to a person. It so happened many Justices retired during GMA’s time. So there were 8 GMA appointees in the judicial branch, a very dangerous situation which has lead to the present war, which may escalate into a crisis of government, if Corona etal insist in fighting it out.
The retort of the accused and their supporters of the impeachment being a ‘destabilization’ move is being pooh-poohed by the general public which is getting angrier and angrier everyday. Lagman’s “mother of all blackmails” is empty rhetoric of a statesman if you put it side by side with the serious legal tone of accusations, for which solons say the have a ton of evidence.
The solons supporting Corona met but suddenly fizzled out. Is this because they realize they are running into a blank wall, with all the serious accusations on hand? Or are they scared of opposing public sentiments as they may dramatically lose constituents? When the chips are down, it seems Corona will be in the losing end, even if he is not impeached by the Senate. The stigma will forever be there, not only for him but for the rest of the other Justices who participated in his decisions. firstname.lastname@example.org