By Ted Laguatan
In their minds, many Filipinos have already provided him a proper hearing. They read newspapers, watch TV, listen to the radio and engage in discussions. They know that Corona and the other Arroyo appointed Justices have repeatedly and blatantly conspired to protect the interests of the Arroyos as against those of the people – as indicated by their decisions. They don’t need the Senator-Judges to tell them basic facts that everybody knows.
Also, from their own or relatives’ and friends’ court experiences – they are deeply aware of how the “utang na loob”, “lagayan”, “pakikisama” and “tayo-tayo” cultural traits are widely ingrained in the judicial system – which coupled with plain greed – translate into corruption and all kinds of injustices.
The first three traits are self explanatory. “Tayo-tayo” stems from familial, political, school, fraternity or sorority ties.
(Perhaps more than anyone else, Filipino lawyers who engage in litigation wish that these distortions in the justice system were not so – but many are resigned to realities of which they believe they have no control. To win their cases, even if unwilling they must play according to rules to which they are hostage.
Some honest judges feel the same disgust over judicial corruption. Even if they know some colleagues are rotten as hell, they prefer to keep silent to avoid complications or even dangers to their comfortable lives. Group mentality “pakikisama”and “tayo-tayo” also pressure them to be blind, deaf and mute.)
Understanding what goes on behind close court doors, most Filipinos have already condemned Corona and the Arroyo appointed Justices in their minds and hearts. Try asking barbers, taxi drivers, waiters or bus, jitney or LRT commuters the question – in the local dialect of course: ”Why have Corona and the Arroyo appointed Justices repeatedly and blatantly ruled in favor of the Arroyos?”
More likely than not, the answer you will get: “Dahil iyan sa ‘utang na loob’ kay GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) na nag-apoynt sa kanila.” (It’s because of ‘utang na loob’ to GMA who appointed them.”)
Some jaundiced souls will also add the conjecture: “Siyempre, katakut takut na tuloy na lagayan din ang nangyayari diyan.” (“Of course, a lot of continuous bribery is also happening.”)
Filipinos know that the entire government system reek with rottenness – whether it is the Judicial, Executive or Legislative Branch. This is an overwhelming problem which victimizes all of us. We wish there was some way to clean up this mess.
President Simeon Benigno Aquino may be honest and sincere in trying to eradicate mass corruption through repeated pronouncements of good intentions and cracking down on some corrupt officials – but we sense that this is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. He needs to do more. The people have to help and be involved in this sacred effort to rid the country of corruption in order to create a better Philippines.
And what happens when Aquino’s term ends and he is replaced by another GMA or Estrada or Marcos like president? Real changes have to be institutionalized in order to have lasting effects.
Many of our Asian neighbors have overtaken us economically and in so many other ways. The country manages to float only because of the heroic contributions of overseas Filipinos. We are referred to by our neighbors as “the sick man of Asia” or as “a basket case” because of corruption or inefficiency in government.
We want a better life for our people. We want to eliminate mass poverty and suffering by having a more efficient and honest government. We want more respect in the global community. This wish and hope for a good government resulted in a tremendous victory for Aquino in the last elections as he was perceived as more honest than the other candidates.
Consider the feelings of Filipinos. They are heavily taxed: income tax, property tax, sales tax, inheritance tax, excise tax….So much money taken from them by government which should rightfully be returned to them in the form of optimum health care, better roads and bridges, quality education, peace and order and other government provided services and infrastructures.
Instead, billions of these tax moneys fall through the cracks and wind up in the pockets of corrupt officials including judges – resulting in national frustration and anger. The people have a right to demand an end to all of these dishonesty in government.
The intense interest in this impeachment trial is fueled by the people’s desire to have a cleaner government. They hope that by getting Chief Justice Corona impeached – it will help the country move along the right track.
Aside from Corona, the Senators acting as judges will also be under heavy public scrutiny in this trial. They will be seen as bad guys or good guys. People’s memories are still fresh in seeing a majority of seemingly intellectually dishonest Senators side with Estrada acting more like defense attorneys than judges in keeping Estrada from being impeached. They proved to be no match for the people who brought Estrada down.
What is really the main issue in this impeachment trial as far as most Filipinos are concerned?
Here’s my take on this:
As far as the culpability of Corona is concerned, an overwhelming majority of the people have already concluded that he ought to be impeached.
They do not believe his assertions that this impeachment proceeding is the result of a vendetta move against him by Malacanang as a result of the Supreme Court decision on the Hacienda Luisita case. Neither do they believe his claim that President Aquino is targeting him because of ambitions to become a dictator.
In fact, they believe that Aquino is perfectly justified in ousting him from the Supreme Court on behalf of the people. The public sentiment appears to be: Removal of Corona and the rest of the Arroyo Justices is necessary to restore the credibility of the Supreme Court which they have destroyed.
The main issue for them in this impeachment trial is: Will the Senator-Judges do the right thing by affirming Corona’s impeachment?
This is not too different from how the majority of the people felt during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. They went ballistics when they sensed that the pro Estrada Senator-Judges were treating the people like fools.
Unlike many lawyers, the ordinary citizen’s mind is not cluttered and convoluted with the niceties of the law. Legal procedures, admissibility or non-admissibility of evidence, various legal principles and technicalities together with all that fancy Latin jargon often entangle many lawyers’ minds blinding them from seeing the truth.
The truth as far as ordinary citizens are concerned: ”Corona is a midnight appointee of GMA. Like the other Arroyo appointed Justices, he has abused his position of trust by repeatedly protecting the interest of the Arroyos above that of the people. This is wrong. He should properly be impeached.
“Further, allowing him and the Arroyo Justices to continue with their judicial tyranny sets a bad precedent for future Supreme Courts and Justices. This evil then becomes accepted and tolerated as an inevitable part of judicial culture. We know right from wrong, good from evil. This is our country and we have a right to express what is right and good.”
Thank God for ordinary citizens with pure hearts and clear minds.
Note: San Francisco area based Atty. Ted Laguatan is honored by the California State Bar as one of only 29 US lawyers officially certified continuously for more than 20 years as an Expert-Specialist in Immigration Law. He also does human rights cases and complex litigation.