By BENJIE OLIVEROS
It took more than a year before the Aquino administration filed a case against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This despite demands from various sectors to hold the former president to account for her numerous crimes against the Filipino people and the preponderance of evidence gathered by the different Congressional investigations. It took an attempt to go abroad by the former president before the current administration filed the case of electoral sabotage.
The Aquino government reasoned that it wants its case to be airtight, thus, the delays in the filing of cases. When former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned in April 2011 after being impeached by the House of Representatives a month before, the people were waiting for the filing of cases against Arroyo since the official considered to be the biggest stumbling block to holding Arroyo to account had been removed. But still, it took another seven months before the electoral sabotage charge was filed.
However, in the case of Chief Justice Renato Corona, it took only a day for the impeachment complaint to be filed and passed by the House of Representatives. The majority bloc in the Lower House admitted that the complaint was prepared just the weekend before. The impeachment also came barely two weeks after President Benigno Aquino III fired his opening salvo against Chief Justice Corona.
President Aquino’s tirades against Chief Corona, in turn, began two weeks after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the hold departure order on Arroyo, and a little more than a week after it ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farm workers. So it could be concluded that the plans for the impeachment of the chief justice could have been drawn up no more than a month ago.
What is the real reason behind the sudden surge of political will on the part of the Aquino administration to “dismantle the Arroyo apparatus”? Why did it act in haste now when it had appeared to be dilly-dallying and overcautious in filing cases against Arroyo before?
There is no doubt that Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the majority in the High Court for that matter, had issued decisions favoring Arroyo. It could even be said that it had issued questionable decisions such as the sudden reversal of its decision ordering the reinstatement of illegally dismissed flight stewards and attendants of Philippine Airlines.
However, as Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios has pointed out, the complaint stands on legally tenuous grounds. The main bases of the complaint are the decisions of the Supreme Court itself and the fact that the chief justice did not issue a statement of assets and liabilities.
By putting as basis the decisions of the entire Supreme Court, and not Corona’s alone, the complaint practically puts into question the integrity of the High Court. Also, by impeaching Corona on this basis, Libarios added, the House of Representatives “arrogated the power to interpret the law to themselves.”
To extend this argument further, if the Aquino administration succeeds in removing Chief Justice Corona on the basis of the decisions of the Supreme Court, it practically gives Congress, and the executive, the power to review the decisions of the highest court in the land and to punish justices for decisions that are not in accordance with their own interpretation of the law and the Constitution.
Politically, the removal of Chief Justice Corona is the right thing to do. Likewise, the dismantling of the Arroyo apparatus and making Arroyo face justice are long overdue. In fact, Arroyo and her cohorts should be made to account for the numerous human rights violations committed during her regime in order to begin putting a stop to impunity.
But what really irked President Benigno Aquino III so much that he suddenly acted with urgency and fury? The series of scathing speeches by President Aquino against Chief Justice Corona and the sudden haste by which the impeachment was done raise more questions than answers. And one could not help but think whether the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita has something to do with this as the decision hit the Cojuangco-Aquino clan where it hurts most, the purse.