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The nation waits with bated breath


It has become obvious that President Benigno S. Aquino III is hell bent on removing Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court. He has thrown caution and statesmanship to the wind, and continues to aggressively push for Corona’s impeachment.

With a few more days before the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice in the Senate, both Aquino and his spokesmen have been adamant in telling the people that Corona will be removed, apparently at all cost. Although conceding that they are not certain of having the number in the Senate to remove Corona through impeachment, a Palace spokesman said Malacanang has a Plan B to remove Corona if the impeachment fails.

In fact, the spokesmen said that Aquino is now making a list of possible replacements for Corona, making it very clear to the senators who will sit in judgment of Corona that the President wants Corona out. His spokesmen have also called Corona a “lameduck chief justice” in an effort to make him resign.

Aquino and his spokesmen obviously want Corona to resign before the impeachment trial just like Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez did. But Corona, a Batangueno, is bent on fighting back and has made it clear that he will not resign and will defend himself before the Senate.

With his aggressive actions, Aquino has put his presidency on the line. His obvious obsession to remove Corona from the helm of the Supreme Court and the judiciary has wittingly or unwittingly made Corona’s impeachment the sole basis on how he will proceed in the remaining four-and-a-half years of his presidency. In short, Corona’s impeachment can make or unmake Aquino’s presidency.

If he succeeds in ousting Corona through impeachment, it could boost his confidence as a leader and encourage him to pursue his reform program with even more vigor. On the other hand, it could also embolden him to take even more reckless actions to implement what he perceives to be in pursuit of his reform agenda, ignoring the rule of law in the process.

This early, Aquino has already insinuated that he would not hesitate to impeach other justices if they continue their bias against his administration in their decisions. Aquino, the son of democratic icon former President Cory Aquino, has virtually abrogated upon himself the duty of the Supreme Court to decide on the legality and constitutionality of legal issues raised before the tribunal. He continues to bully the justices into toeing his line.

If he fails – and this is not a remote possibility considering the independence that the Senate has shown in the past – it will severely weaken his presidency. He will be perceived as a “lameduck” president, one who cannot impose his will on either the Senate or the judiciary. Some members of the House will no longer have to cower in fear of reprisal from a weak president and he will lose his hold on members of the House, who earlier did not hesitate to sign the impeachment documents even if they had not read them. Taken aback by defeat, to which he is not accustomed, Aquino could sulk and retreat to inaction, afraid to receive another devastating setback.

On the other hand, Aquino could remain steadfast and arrogant. He could ignore the Senate’s decision and find extra-legal means to oust Corona. This would plunge the country into a deep constitutional crisis, a breakdown of the rule of law, and worse, a tyranny.

Aquino is obviously being consumed by his obsession to oust Corona. In the meantime, the nation’s economic growth is forecast to slow down further to as low as 3% this year, way below the target of 6%, the Philippine population is expected to rise to an alarming 97.6 million by the end of this year, thousands of Filipinos in Northern Mindanao are left homeless by the floods, and the promised transparency has yet to be fulfilled. The government continues to under-spend, the Reproductive Health Bill has not even been declared a priority bill, the rehabilitation of flooded areas in Mindanao awaits attention, and the proposed Freedom of Information Act has yet to be calendared in the House.

The sooner this drama between Aquino and Corona ends, the better for the nation.

The Supreme Court has been asked to decide on four petitions to declare the impeachment complaint unconstitutional, and the difficult task to make this declaration has been assigned to Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an appointee of former President Joseph Estrada who was bypassed by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she appointed Corona as chief justice.

Corona, on the other hand, has asked the Senate to dismiss the impeachment complaint outright for being unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court can end the drama right then and there by declaring the impeachment complaint unconstitutional. Or the Senate can give credence to Corona’s petition and dismiss the impeachment case without having to go to trial. But will Aquino abide by their decision?

Either way, the future of Aquino’s presidency — and more importantly, that of the nation – now rests on Justice Carpio and the other justices in his panel, and the 23 senators who will sit in judgment of Corona.

The nation waits with bated breath.

By Val G. Abelgas

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