By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The widening rift between the executive, led by President Benigno Aquino III, and the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Renato Corona, has been hogging the headlines of all the major media networks. The first salvo was fired by President Aquino during a forum sponsored by the Makati Business Club last December 1. Then the president delivered a scathing speech during the First National Criminal Justice Summit berating Chief justice Corona infront of the participants in a summit where Corona was to be one of the two leading speakers. This was followed up again just recently with the Supreme Court’s spokesperson Midas Marquez in attendance, substituting for Chief Justice Corona.
Chief Justice Corona took the president’s broadsides in stride. The Supreme Court has so far not gone beyond expressing concern over the intensifying conflict being instigated by the president’s attacks on the integrity of the highest court in the land.
The president’s men in Malacañang joined the fray with political adviser Ronald Llamas calling for an Occupy the Supreme Court movement. (Directed toward whom? I really don’t know.) Some have been calling for the impeachment of the Chief Justice.
While some in media lauded the president for saying “what had to be said,” others called it as contrary to statesmanship and unbecoming of a president.
So what do we make of this?
For sure the Supreme Court has made questionable, conservative decisions, such as reversing its earlier decision ordering the reinstatement of flight attendants and stewards dismissed by the Philippine Airlines. It has been accused of being an Arroyo court, having favored the former president in cases involving her such as the issuance of a TRO on the watchlist order and, much earlier, in striking down as unconstitutional the Aquino administration’s executive order creating the Truth Commission to investigate corruption cases of the previous administration.
But the Aquino administration unwittingly aided the Supreme Court in these decisions by issuing executive orders without sound legal basis, such as in the case of Executive Order 2, which declared as vacant positions occupied by Arroyo’s “midnight appointees.” It also dilly-dallied in filing cases against the former president and it had to do so at the last minute when Arroyo was attempting to leave the country.
The Supreme Court, on the other hand, might have done a service to the Aquino administration when it struck down Executive Order 2, which provided for the formation of the Truth Commission, because it forced the government to go directly to the courts rather than go through the circuituous route of investigating once again the corruption cases that were investigated thorougly in Senate and House inquiries before.
The only sound decision the current Supreme Court has made so far is ordering the distribution of the land covered by Hacienda Luisita to its farm workers. Even if some doubt the timing and intent of the High Court’s decision – as some claim it was done to get back at Aquino for defying the Supreme Court, and going after Arroyo – this does not reduce the soundness and justness of the decision.
Likewise, the timing and internt of the tirades of President Aquino against the Supreme Court is suspect, coming as it is a few days after the High Court issued the Hacienda Luisita decision.
What is being missed in all the commentaries and analysis on the intensifying conflict between President Aquino and the Supreme Court is that what is happening is just symptomatic of the abysmal depths the politics of this country has sunk into.
On the one hand, the country has a Supreme Court, which is supposedly the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not, what is just and what is unjust, that is being controlled by or at the minimum, sympathetic to one faction of the ruling class. It has been said that the principle of equality before the law is a falsehood because the law favors the rich and powerful – just look at where Arroyo is being detained and compare it to the plight of common prisoners, as well as political prisoners. In this case, it is even worse, the law and the final arbiter of the law is being manipulated by just one section of the rich and powerful.
On the other hand, the country has a president who was catapulted to power on a platform of change but is loud in words but soft in action – except in dispersing protest actions – and has done nothing but to whine and blame everybody else for his administration’s inability, or unwillingnes, to address the people’s issues. In its conflict with the Supreme Court, the Aquino administration has been engaging in what he promised to change, in the first place: destructive, self-serving politics. And the president is unwittingly showing to the people the rotteness and hopelessness of the country’s political system.