“[T]he power of the Supreme Court, the President, and Congress all emanate from their single Boss: the people. Therefore, we should only favor and fight for the people’s interests. I swore to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. I have no intention of violating my sworn oath; I have no intention of failing the Filipino people.” Going back to his oath of office, President Aquino delivered a speech of challenge to the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice.
The occasion was apt enough: the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit held at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel. Before him were many justices, judges, and other officers of the court, including Chief Justice Renato Corona.
President Aquino alluded to various instances where the Supreme Court has acted allegedly to violate the very Constitution they are only supposed to interpret. In so doing, he has thrown down the gauntlet to the present members of the Supreme Court who are perceived as protective–if not subserviently loyal–to their appointing power, the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
To be sure, there is much controversy around the actuation of at least 8 of the justices who have a generally unified favorable opinion when matters concerning GMA is brought before the Supreme Court. The latest, of course, was their action of imposing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Department of Justice Circular No. 41. The latter was invoked by DOJ Secretary de Lima to include the former president in the Watch-List Order, effectively preventing her from leaving the country.
Later, when it was found out that the Arroyo couple did not fulfill one of the three conditions of the TRO, these majority members of the SC still insisted on the TRO. Now there is a petition questioning the joint Commission on Election-DOJ investigating panel that recommended to the Comelec en banc the filing of the case of electoral sabotage against the former president. If acted upon by the SC and found unconstitutional, the panel’s recommendation can be set aside and former president Arroyo may be freed from her present detention.
The president’s speech, in this context, is a challenge to the Supreme Court to faithfully do its duty in accordance with the higher interests of the people in mind. Implicit is the warning of his readiness to fulfill his own presidential mandate if he is convinced that the SC (or the majority thereof) does not anymore serve the people’s interests.
The most logical (and extreme) route is the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and those justices perceived as compromising the Supreme Court’s impartiality and credibility in dispensing justice in the name of the people. Of course, this course is fraught with grave peril, both political and legal. In the end, it is a process whose ultimate dispenser of justice will be the people.