Friday, 09 December 2011 11:10
Emboldened by the people’s high approval and trust ratings of him, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III struck at the Supreme Court (SC) at the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit held at the Manila Hotel last December 5, 2011. In his address to a stunned audience, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona seated just a few feet away, P-Noy recited a litany of questionable actions and decisions made by the Supreme Court in recent years including the appointment of a “midnight” chief justice.
While he clarified that he was not fighting the Supreme Court nor was he being disrespectful, he wasn’t shy showing his disdain for some of the High Court’s actions particularly those involving former President Gloria Arroyo, which he claimed were favorable to her and her family.
“Sovereignty resides in the people”
He prefaced his speech by saying, “Our gathering this morning is an opportunity to further assess the strengths and weaknesses of the present criminal justice system, and to come up with new and timely initiatives concerning the delivery of justice.” It can’t be more objective than that.
He then said, “We say timely, because of recent headlines in newspapers and on television, in which the entire country has witnessed the complexities of the duties of our clerks of court, our lawyers, and our judges. There is no doubt as to the gravity of your task.” He then cited Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, which says: “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
Martial law era
Then P-Noy grimly looked back the days of the martial law era saying, “justice was not directed toward the welfare of the people, but rather to cater to the whims of a single person: the late President Ferdinand Marcos.” He mentioned how his father was “court martialed” by magistrates, lawyers, prosecutors, and witnesses all appointed by the accuser, Marcos.
“Now, as President of this country,” he said, “I have a sworn duty: preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. And part of my mandate is making certain that what transpired during Martial Law does not happen again, and ensuring that anyone who so much as attempts to repeat the same offenses is held accountable.”
Did SC violate the Constitution?
After citing several questionable rulings by the Supreme Court, P-Noy delved into Article 7, Section 15 of the Constitution, which says: “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”
“But we all know how Mrs. Arroyo insisted on appointing the Chief Justice,” he said. “He was appointed, not two months before the election, but a week after. According to the law and one of their previous decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that the President could not appoint any official two months before an election, except for temporary appointments to the executive position. But they turned their back on their pronouncements when Mrs. Arroyo appointed the Honorable Chief Justice Renato Corona -- in a position that was not in the executive branch, but of the judiciary. The question now is: Is the Supreme Court in violation of the Constitution?”
Who is the Boss?
P-Noy said that he is respectful of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive branches. He added that he has no intention of encroaching on their duties, disregarding their rights, or tarnishing anyone’s reputation. However, he said: “But we need to remind ourselves of the bedrock principles of our democracy. We in public service owe it all to our Boss, the Filipino people. We are here only to serve the people, and to serve our fellow Filipinos with utmost industry and integrity.”
And without naming him but in obvious reference to Corona, P-Noy asked, “Now, if there is one public servant who thinks he does not owe his countrymen -- who, after all, is the wellspring of our power -- but a patron who had snuck him into position, can we reasonably expect him to look after the interests of our people?”
He concluded his speech by saying, “Allow me to reiterate what I had mentioned earlier: the power of the Supreme Court, the President, and Congress all emanate from their single Boss: the people. Therefore, we should only favor and fight for the people’s interests. I swore to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. I have no intention of violating my sworn oath; I have no intention of failing the Filipino people.
“It is my obligation -- it is everyone’s obligation -- to remain focused on a single direction, under one unifying aspiration: to serve and uphold the interests of the nation. To all those who stand shoulder to shoulder with us along this straight and righteous path, have faith: So long as we are on the side of what is right, we will not back down from any fight. And so long as the people are behind us, we will triumph. Let us not let them down. Thank you.”
Now that P-Noy has crossed the Rubicon, the die is cast – there is no turning back. He has to cut the Gordian knot that has kept the country in bondage from corruption and poverty.
In my article, “The Glory of EDSA, the EDSA of Gloria” (March 3, 2010), I wrote: “The elections on May 10 would give the people a grand opportunity to change the government and unravel the Gordian knot of corruption and poverty. What the country needs is an “Alexander” who will not be deterred by the overwhelming power of those who will defend the status quo in a land ruled too long by plutocrats and kleptocrats. What the people need is a leader who is guided by the spirit of EDSA 1 to lead a peaceful “people power” revolution to free them from the yoke of poverty. That leader would emerge if the people would flex their collective strength at the polls on May 10 to elect the candidate who will fulfill the promises of EDSA 1 and not a candidate who will make promises to fulfill his personal ambitions.”
The people did flex their collective strength and overwhelmingly voted for P-Noy whose battle cry, “Walang korap, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty), resonated well with the people. They gave him the mandate to fight corruption.
Now that P-Noy made it crystal clear to the Supreme Court that reforms are needed in the Judiciary, it is incumbent upon the magistrates, particularly the Chief Justice, to initiate reforms from within. The fact that Corona’s net approval rating is zero manifests the people’s mistrust and disapproval of his performance. The person in the position of Chief Justice should – nay, must – be beyond reproach. The people deserve no less.
But if Corona continues to do things that are construed as betrayal of public trust, then he has to answer to the people.
By Perry Diaz
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