By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Manila–Farmers groups led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today warned against what it said as President Benigno Aquino III’s dictatorial tendencies. In the wake of the Senate’s guilty verdict against chief justice Renato Corona, which critics say was actively campaigned for by Malacañang itself, the KMP said an Aquino-controlled judiciary and the administration’s innate inability to address the people’s economic woes “could pave the way for a dictatorship.”
“While we welcome the decision of the impeachment court as a signal to all government officials to disclose their assets, the next step should be for Aquino and his cabinet to sign their respective waivers and open their bank accounts and assets to the people’s scrutiny,” said KMP deputy secretary general Randall Echanis.
The KMP also dared the SC justices and whoever will be the next chief justice to stand firm on their recent decision ordering the total land distribution of Hacienda Luisita.
Echanis expressed apprehension that Corona’s ouster from the highest post of the judiciary would now lead to an Aquino-controlled Supreme Court. He said that given Aquino’s failure to address the worsening the economic crisis, growing landlessness, joblessness, and the people’s intensifying poverty, Aquino just might establish a dictatorship with the backing of a judiciary he holds in the palm of his hands,” he said.
No to Reversal of HLI decision
The Central Luzon-based Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita and its mother federation the farm worker-based Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura for their part pointed out that Aquino might take advantage of the Corona conviction and his removal from office to push a campaign to reverse the High Court ruling on Hacienda Luisita.
UMA secretary general Rodel Mesa said there was no denying that among Malacañang’s agenda in kicking Corona out of the SC is to overturn the recent April 24 final court decision awarding Hacienda Luisita to 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries.
“The remaining justices of the SC and and whoever will replace Corona should not reverse the ruling on Hacienda Luisita. They should pursue independence and political and moral rationality against Aquino’s master plan to control the high tribunal under de facto dictatorship,” the Luisita worker leader said.
Mesa said that based on how Aquino has previously chosen his officials, the president is apt to choose a loyal ally as the next chief justice.
“He might put someone in the SC who will protect the presidential interest in Hacienda Luisita. With this new shake up at the high court, an Aquino-led court is not far behind,” he said.
Among the president’s personal short list of the next SC chief justice are Associate Justices Lourdes Sereno and Antonio Carpio. Sereno previously asserted that the land valuation of Hacienda Luisita should be based on the year 2006 amounting for a P2.5 million ($581,395) per hectare. Carpio, on the other hand, is said to have been laying down decisions favoring the president when it comes to the Hacienda Luisita case.
Mesa said given the developments in the battle in the Supreme Court, farmers groups are even more determined to secure their rightful claim to Hacienda Luisita.
“We’re 101 percent sure that the president will exploit the situation to get that immoral P10 billion ($232,558 million) compensation claim. He obviously wants a High Court that obeys him and he will use his strengthened influence over the SC to protect his family’s indecent claim over Hacienda Luisita. We will oppose that all the way,” he insisted.
Aquino’s own accountability
Mesa said there is no doubt that Corona is guilty of corruption and should be held responsible for his protection of former president and Pampanga 2nd district representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from criminal, civil and administrative cases. “Corona obviously was among the heads of Macapagal-Arroyo’s political machinery, and even now Arroyo is still under a hospital arrest instead of spending jail time,” he said.
On the other hand, Mesa said, Aquino himself is already guilty of countless offenses.
“He is liable for gross negligence of duty by not doing anything against Macapagal-Arroyo’s crimes, cases that include the botched broadband deal with China’s ZTE; the infamous Fertilizer Fund Scam Fund; and most importantly the massive human rights violations. Aquino has been too busy giving much attention on the Hacienda Luisita case that he has essentially been ineffectual against doing anything to fix the country’s economic problems. As he raved and ranted against Corona and actively campaigned for the latter’s removal from the SC, the public continued to suffer oil price increases, rising unemployment, rising costs of education, and the decreasing real value of wages,” he said.
As the Corona trial rounds up, Mesa said their groups will exert all means to oppose and expose Aquino’s attempt to control all the branches of the government particularly the judiciary. They recently formed “Bantay Luisita” an alliance that aims to safeguard the Hacienda Luisita farm workers’ claim to the land.
“The alliance will also campaign for the rejection of the appointment of Associate Justice Sereno and Carpio if they will be among the list of the Judicial and Bar Council. They are unfit for the post and will not effectively do their duty because of their already prejudice to the president. We cannot expect them to be fair especially in the case of Hacienda Luisita now that the issue of the valuation is pending,” Mesa said.
In a separate statement, Bantay Luisita said Aquino may have succeeded in securing the votes to impeach Corona and have him convicted by the senate, “But he will not win the support of the broad masses to support his campaign against the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita.”
“If we allow Aquino to control the judiciary, there is no stopping him from doing all that is is unjust and immoral to protect his interest in Hacienda Luisita. He might also do the same to settle in his and his family’s favor all the other cases pending at the high court involving his relatives, friends and party mates. Now is the time to show this landlord and self-serving president that the people will not approve his vindictive campaign against his critics using the power of the judicial branch. We should reject and oppose all his plans to establish an Aquinp-run SC,” it said.