Aquino renews clash with Judiciary

By Val G. Abelgas

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

“Your decision is difficult to understand.”

With these words, President Aquino defended his Disbursement Acceleration Program and went on to criticize the Supreme Court for its unanimous decision declaring the DAP as “unconstitutional.” He then warned the high tribunal of a possible clash with the executive branch over its decision to strike down what he calls his spending stimulus program.

“My message to the Supreme Court: we don’t want to get to a point where two co-equal branches of government would clash and where a third branch would have to mediate,” Aquino said. The President then raised an intriguing matter: “There was something that you did in the past, which you tried to do again, and there are those who are saying that [the DAP decision] is worse.”

Although Aquino did not elaborate, we can cite at least three instances when the President clashed with the Supreme Court over decisions that went against him. The first was when the SC upheld Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice. He was fuming so badly that he broke protocol and took his oath of office as president before Senior Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.

After that ruling, the peeved President earned the High Court’s ire after the Department of Budget Management rejected the magistrates’ proposed P27.1-billion budget for 2011, and allocated only P14.3 billion for the Courts, just a little more than half of what the court said the judiciary needed.

The second clash was when the High Court issued an order stopping the House of Representatives from continuing with its impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who eventually resigned.

The third clash was when the Court issued a status quo ante order stopping the implementation of Aquino’s Executive Order No. 2 which recalled and revoked the so-called midnight appointments by Arroyo, triggering an emotional outburst from Aquino, virtually assailing the High Court for its action.

Aquino told the justices to exercise judicial prudence “at a time when the Filipino people deserve confidence-building measures from all our institutions” in reaction to the status quo ante order on EO 2 granted by the High Tribunal to Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, who was among those affected by the EO 2 he issued last July. Lucman refused to vacate her post with a Cabinet rank resulting to two Cabinet members running the NCMF, formerly the Office of Muslim Affairs, the second one being the appointee of Aquino.

But there was an even more important decision that eventually led to Aquino’s displeasure over the Supreme Court and to Corona’s impeachment. In a unanimous resolution, the SC ordered the distribution of the 4,915.75-hectare Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan, to the original 6,296 farmer-beneficiaries.

Three weeks after that landmark decision, Corona’s impeachment began.

Aquino never hid his displeasure over the Supreme Court’s decisions that went against his administration. A few weeks before Corona’s impeachment, Aquino lambasted the tribunal’s decisions in front of the Chief Justice and even revived the issue of the midnight appointment of Corona even if the tribunal had already ruled on it. This occurred during a summit in 2011 between Aquino and Corona meant to forge cooperation between the executive and judicial branches.

After that tirade, Aquino received flak from various sectors, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges, notable lawyers, and members of the academe, with a constitutional expert likening him to Cuban autocrat Fidel Castro. Some of them went as far as asking him to apologize to the people for his “ill-mannered, unpresidential behavior” but he ignored them all.
Almost all the decisions questioned by Aquino, including the DAP ruling and an earlier decision declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund – a pork barrel fund also tapped by Aquino — were unanimous. And yet he said the justices – all 13 of them – failed to consider Administrative Code of 1987 – a sort of presidential decree issued by Aquino’s mother, then President Cory Aquino since it was a revolutionary government that did not have Congress yet.

“How come they were able to say that our manner of spending was unconstitutional when they did not even tackle our basis?” he asked, insisting that Section 39 of the Administrative Code “is still in effect to this day.”

This is a direct affront to the 13 highest magistrates of the land. Aquino was saying that the justices, including the four that he had appointed, did not do their homework. “How could you have missed that?” he was virtually telling the distinguished justices.

By questioning the integrity and ability of the justices in this and other decisions on primetime television, Aquino was trying to discredit and eventually control a co-equal branch of government. With Congress already under his control, he now wants the judiciary to toe his line, thereby undermining the checks-and-balance provided by the Constitution.

Like a spoiled brat, Aquino simply could not accept Supreme Court decisions that were not favorable to him.

“This is the height of President Aquino’s hubris. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he usurped the congressional power of the purse through the DAP. In so publicly and brazenly repudiating the key arguments of the ruling, he seems intent on usurping the Supreme Court’s exclusive role as final arbiter on matters of law as well,” ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said.

“Ironically, the son and heir of the icons of the anti-dictatorship struggle, Ninoy and Cory, is acting like a full-fledged tyrant, having been found to have usurped congressional power and now challenging the authority of the Supreme Court,” he added.

The unanimous rulings in the PDAF (14-0) and DAP (13-0) cases showed that the judiciary is not subservient to the executive branch and is ready to intervene when the balance of power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches is being manipulated in favor of one over the others.

The decisions also showed that democracy is alive in the Philippines, despite efforts by this son of two democratic icons – advertently or inadvertently — to destroy it.



2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Romy Monteyro says:

    Penoy keeps forgetting, deliberately of course, that decisions made by the SC, the court of last resort in a democratic nation, are all final and executory! And that whether he finds them difficult to understand and disagrees with them, there’s absolutely nothing he can do to reverse them or refuse their implementation, unless of course he declares martial law and makes himself a dictator! But he knows the Filipinos have had enough of that under Marcos, which is his biggest frustration! There’s only one reason for this tyrant-like behavior and his intense hatred of the SC, and he and all the Fipinos know that–Hacienda Luisita!

  2. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    In one of the private companies I worked for, I remember our president usually ended the meeting with his favorite assertive phrase “Don’t question my wisdom”, every time he runs out of logical reasoning that caused frustration to the managers.

    Sad to say that PNoy is similar to that president in some unethical ways with somewhat unapologetic manners, to my mind.

    Well, PNoy will definitely file an appeal on the DAP before the SC knowing that the Executive branch plus his controlled Congress have the magic numbers in his side either to pressure the SC to reverse its decision or wield his vindictive power if SC affirmed its decision.

    After reading this article, I am convinced that there is a need to amend the present constitution due to its many loopholes such as in midnight appointments and in choosing the chief justice of the SC, budget system, control system, etc.

    GMA made questionable appointment of Corona while PNoy made mistake too in selecting Sereno.

    I wish for a Parliamentary system.

    The Head of State being the State/People’s Council where the State auditors reports directly to, among others.

    The Head of State has the authority to dissolve the erring government of the President.

    The President retaining the executive functions, with lesser power this time because some powers will be delegated to the Head of State.

    The Head of State function and Executive function make a very powerful President, short of being a dictator, under the present constitution.

    What is not acceptable is if the President wields too much power but does not know how to govern. How many PHL presidents are like that in the last 50 years?

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