By Ted Laguatan
If Renato Corona had been more sensitive to issues involving honor and propriety, he would have immediately declined when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) offered to midnight appoint him as Chief Justice. He knew the law and he knew that his appointment was illegal if not immoral. Instead of refraining, he accepted the offer.
Likewise, the Arroyo appointed Justices should not have engaged in the dark conspiracy to legalize Corona’s appointment. Ignoring public feelings about propriety and legality, they arrogantly and blatantly utilized their majority numbers to rule repeatedly in favor of the Arroyos and other special interests—as if saying: “We have the numbers. We own the Supreme Court. What we say is the law!”
Justices should be highly conscious that they owe their loyalty primarily to the people and not the President who appointed them. If the people had not voted a candidate to become president, he or she would not have had the power to appoint Justices.
Here, it is even arguable whether or not former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) actually possessed the legitimate power to appoint Justices. Arguably, she should not even have been President. She is alleged to have resorted to election shenanigans (“Hello Garci”) and utilizing the Ampatuans and other allied warlords to engage in massive cheating on her behalf.
Having a primary sacred duty to protect the public good, Justices must use the law to serve the interest of truth and justice.
Instead, it appears that the Arroyo Justices did a “one for all and all for one” agreement conspiring to protect the interests of their patroness GMA above that of the people.
To the public, Corona appears to have shook hands with the devil. He is perceived to be GMA’s main man in the Supreme Court — that in exchange for his appointment as Chief Justice, he is expected to constantly provide the leadership for the cabal of Arroyo appointed Justices in always protecting the interests of the Arroyos. He has not disappointed.
Any person with a modicum of intelligence, who has been following the decisions of the Supreme Court on any Arroyo related matter, would not be unreasonable in concluding that the Arroyos own the Chief Justice and the other Arroyo appointed Justices.
To restore faith in the Supreme Court, is it right and proper for President Benigno Simeon Aquino and legislators to use their powers and influence to bring down erring Justices who abuse their judicial powers?
Here’s my take on this:
Most Filipinos sense that the Arroyo Justices who control decisions in the Supreme Court abuse their powers by continually, blatantly and shamelessly shoving unpalatable clearly biased pro Arroyo decisions down the people’s throats. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely — observed British historian and moralist Lord Acton.
GMA and her appointees have obviously politicized the Supreme Court. In this uncontrolled culture of judicial power tripping, in this unspoken but understood secret conspiracy — principles of truth, justice and fairness are no longer seen as primary issues but simply incidentals that can simply be given lip service but cleverly ignored.
Tyranny or abuse of power inflicted on the people by a pack of dishonest Justices is no less a tyranny than that exercised by a brutal greedy dictator. Well meaning citizens must fight against all forms of tyranny. Our well being and the well being of future generations depend so much on our commitment and courage to be true to the deepest truths within us and our willingness to resist evil.
The Supreme Court is an indispensable vital institution in a democratic society. The people need to have faith in the courts. It is belief in the honesty of the courts that prevents people from taking disputable matters into their own hands and resorting to self help frontier justice.
Unfortunately, we now have a Supreme Court which the people justifiably do not trust. If the highest court in the land cannot be trusted, trust for the lower courts will deteriorate even more.
The Arroyo Justices have not only abused the people with their consistently biased and unfair decisions but have also abused the Supreme Court as an institution. It is because of them that the people have lost faith in the Supreme Court as a true and fair arbiter of justice.
Corona and the other Arroyo Justices have done enough harm to the Supreme Court and the nation with their tyranny. They can still redeem themselves by resigning.
Corona has vowed to fight and defend himself against impeachment charges. Mistakenly, he thinks he can win this fight. What he and his few supporters fail to see is that even if assuming he is not formally impeached, he can never regain his credibility to be able to effectively function as Supreme Court Chief Justice. He cut his own throat the moment he agreed to be midnight appointed as Chief Justice. He dug an even deeper hole for himself when he repeatedly led the majority Arroyo Justices in making blatant pro Arroyo Supreme Court decisions.
In reality, the impeachment trial of Corona in the Senate is not a true trial where the outcome is based on objective evidence. Instead, it will be based along party lines. Expect also some individual Senators who acquired many concessions from GMA to act as forceful advocates for her and not as objective listening judges. We have already seen some of these goings on in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada.
There the people sensed that the majority of pro Estrada Senators were not sitting as objective Judges but were set to acquit him. As such, the people took to the streets and forced Estrada out of power. It was right and proper for the people to do so. They have a right to defend themselves against tyranny. In those historical moments, the people correctly defended themselves against the perceived corruption of the President and against the tyranny of a conspiring majority of Senators who were blind to the people’s call for justice.
Will the people again need to take to the streets for Corona’s impeachment?
In defending himself from impeachment charges, Corona gathered together some employees of the Supreme Court and essentially delivered a political speech. He attributed the impeachment case filed against him by a 2/3 majority of the House of Representatives as stemming from Aquino’s desire to be a dictator. He blames Aquino for his troubles as if this was something personal with Aquino and him. He suggests that as Chief Justice, he is in the forefront in defending the Supreme Court.
Corona: “I oppose this dictatorship that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is slowly establishing.”
Corona’s big problem is credibility. The ordinary thinking Filipino does not believe him. Most Filipinos believe that Aquino sincerely means well and is not a dishonest power hungry nor greedy egomaniac who wishes to have dictatorial powers. For sure, the humble low key Aquino does not fit that role.
Moreover, most Filipinos feel that he is perfectly justified in seeking the ouster of Arroyo appointed Justices. They even support him in fully utilizing his extensive presidential powers to impeach or cause the resignation of Corona and the Arroyo appointed Justices.
Filipinos also understand that Aquino’s intention is not to usurp the Supreme Court as an institution but seeks the ouster of these Arroyo appointed Justices because it is the correct moral thing to do and necessary. They need to be ousted for the Supreme Court’s credibility to be restored.
This is not a personal battle between Aquino and Corona. As such, the offer of a Catholic bishop to mediate and have them shake hands will not amount to much. The issue is not about a frayed personal relationship between the two men. Neither is it a battle between the Executive Branch versus the Judicial Branch.
As such, there is no Constitutional crisis here as Corona, other Arroyo supporters and mercenary journalists would have the public believe. The situation is this: The Filipino people simply want an honest and just Supreme Court that they can believe in. In order to have that kind of Supreme Court, they recognize that the Arroyo appointed Justices need to be impeached or be pressured to resign. They recognize and appreciate Aquino’s strong moral leadership in leading this sacred fight and fully support him.
It is noteworthy that Aquino who comes from a wealthy and powerful family could easily have avoided conflict by betraying the people and entering into a secret modus vivendi agreement with the wealthy and powerful Arroyos and the Arroyo Justices. So many of our leaders have betrayed us by siding with the wealthy and powerful for mutual tit for tat arrangements and personal gain.
It speaks well for Aquino that he has followed his father’s lead. Ninoy could easily have avoided imprisonment and acquired a high position in Marcos’ government. All he had to do was cooperate with Marcos’ evil and provide legitimacy to his lies. But Ninoy knew that at stake was the Filipino’s freedom and honor. By being true to his God and his conscience, he paid the ultimate price. He could not be bought nor intimidated. So he was killed.
His sacrifice brought down a brutal and greedy dictatorship which would most likely be existing today had Ninoy not been true to his deepest self.
Good versus evil. Truth versus lie. Right versus wrong.
Life is constantly about the decisions we make and which side we are on.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is honored by the California State Bar as one of only 29 U.S. lawyers officially certified continuously for over 20 years as Expert-Specialists in Immigration Law. He also does complex litigation in other areas of the law. Email firstname.lastname@example.org