Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Noynoy vs. the Supreme Court (FilAm Star, December 23, 2011)

Before his appointment to the Philippine Supreme Court in 2010, more Filipinos than not outside of governmental and legal circles had not heard much about Renato Corona until former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo selected him to be her last-minute, “midnight” nominee for the Supreme Court. Now everyone in the Philippines is talking about Corona as he suffers the carefully-worded, in-person public rebuffs of President Noynoy Aquino.

Arroyo’s opponents, despite her attempts to bury charges of political malfeasance in apportionments of plausible deniability, declare that Corona’s appointment was unconstitutional—the Philippine Constitution unambiguously states that “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his [or her] 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.”—and as columnist Randy David read it, “an incredible act of political brazenness.”

It didn’t take a rigorous analysis to figure that Corona’s controversial ascendancy to the highest court in the land was part of Arroyo’s scheme to pad the Supreme Court with what would be beholden confederates so as to safeguard herself against future prosecution for graft, corruption, and electoral fraud in her post-presidential life. She succeeded to the point where the Supreme Court as it now stands is widely-derided as the “Arroyo Court”.

In a more or less perfect democratic system, the executive and judicial branches are coequal, collaborative, and independent governmental institutions. In the Philippines, the two branches are coldly at odds with each other in what amounts to a power struggle. It is a power struggle that, without going to extremes, does not bode well for Corona, Arroyo, and the rest of the Supreme Court given the extensive power of the chief executive.

President Aquino has made a number of statements that have been overtly suggestive in questioning the legitimacy of Corona as chief justice, and subsequently, that of the rest of the “Arroyo Court”. You can complain all you want about the manner in which Aquino has blemished the presumed purity of the Court. But in turning on the court, Aquino has denoted what everyone in the Philippines already knows: that the moral authority and judicial objectiveness of the highest judiciary, rigged as it was by Arroyo, has been rendered null and void until any illegally-appointed judges, Corona most of all, are purged.

Before anyone raises the specter of chaos and anarchy because of Aquino’s contentions, we should be reminded that illegally-appointed judges must be purged in strict accordance with the law. I believe that this is Aquino’s intention. He is hardly calling for a revolution or for people to storm the Supreme Court and lynch the Arroyoists that sit in it. In the First National Criminal Justice Summit speech in which he conveyed his view of the court, Aquino said that “[Filipinos] have to go back to the main principle of our democracy. Those of us who took an oath to serve only owe it to one: you who are our boss, the Filipino people.” To interpret that Aquino statement and other similar ones he has made regarding the court as an invitation to anarchy and mob rule is a wild stretch of the imagination.

Aquino knows that he doesn’t need to resort to extraconstitutional measures to achieve genuine justice as it should be applied to the Supreme Court. There is due process of law, and Aquino has said nothing that indicates he would subvert it despite those who in their unfounded apprehension put a higher premium on a convenient understanding of social order than on a profound implementation of moral justice.

What they forget is that without justice, there can be no order. Dictators have kept their regimes going by getting the message out that justice must make way for order, otherwise there will be mayhem and turmoil. Marcos tortured and murdered on that spurious basis. Whatever so-called order that Marcos made claim to during his regime was illusory——it was his purveying of repression and injustice that caused mayhem and turmoil in the first place.

As long as he stays within the bounds of the law, Aquino is in the right in castigating and impeaching any illegally-appointed members of the Supreme Court. It’s about time that a Filipino president stopped being a slave to injustice and expediency and started being an uncompromising servant of the law of the land.


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