By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The Senate impeachment hearing has just begun and it appears that Chief Justice Renato Corona would put up a tough fight. While the Aquino government had been declaring that it is confident that it has enough evidences to support its case, this did not translate into a good showing during the first few days of the hearing. The House prosecutors appear far from being confident and battle ready. We still have to see if things would change when they begin presenting evidences.
On the other hand, Chief Justice Corona has come out with guns blazing. He still seems far from resigning, as the Aquino government had hoped he would.
So would the Aquino government succeed in removing him?
Well, first of all, the Senate impeachment hearing is mainly a political process. It is still a numbers game. Even as the Senate has taken measures to appear as a court and has adopted certain rules of court and trial procedures, at the end of the day, the senators would vote along party lines. Remember the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada? No amount of legal arguments could convince the senators to allow the opening of the envelope. Former senator Tessie Oreta was even caught on camera dancing in celebration after the Senate voted down the proposal to open the envelope.
Thus, if the Aquino government is able to play the game of politics well – the wheeling and dealing – it could get the numbers to remove Chief Justice Corona even if its case is weak. If not, then its failed attempt at removing Chief Justice Corona would be a slap on its face and the battle between the contending branches of government with the executive and legislative led by President Benigno Aquino III on one side, and the judiciary led by Chief justice Renato Corona on the other, would intensify.
In addition, a long drawn out Senate impeachment hearing might backfire on the Aquino government. If Chief Justice Renato Corona puts up a tough fight, it would be a war of attrition. The executive and the judiciary would try to outdo each other in exposing the dirt of the other and both would end up scarred and barefaced.
Would the probable removal of Chief justice Corona strengthen the system of checks and balances within the government?
It could, as justices would realize that it could be held accountable for its decisions. However, it could also weaken the system of checks and balances as the Aquino government would be sending the message that it could remove future chief justices who would not kowtow to its wishes.
But this presupposes that a system of checks and balances does exist under the current system of government in the country. Isn’t the lack of it that brought us in this situation in the first place? Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had control over the three branches of government during her rule. The ruling party always had control over Congress because of its numbers. And it is a folly to think that judges and justices are immune to the politics of self-interest.
Would it strengthen the rule of law?
The process by which Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached and brought before the Senate has created divisions not only between the Aquino and Arroyo camps. Some have been raising questions and reservations about the haphazard manner by which the impeachment was done and they do not only include those close to Arroyo. On the contrary, personalities such as Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, among others, who have been vocal critics of Arroyo, have also been raising questions.
People could not help but think that the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, which belongs to the president’s family, provoked the Aquino government to act in such haste.
Would the removal of Chief Justice Corona lead to holding former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the Filipino people?
It depends on the next moves of the Aquino government. If it reverts back to dragging its feet in the prosecution of Arroyo, then Chief justice Renato Corona and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez would appear as mere sacrificial lambs to appease the people’s hunger for justice while making Arroyo escape her accountabilities.
The only real gain the Filipino people would get from the removal of Chief justice Renato Corona is the eventual prosecution of Arroyo. If former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, including her family and cohorts, are not held liable for the plunder, injustices, and human rights violations they had committed against the Filipino people – after the removal of Chief Justice Corona – then everything would be a futile exercise and a mere telenovela.