In the aftermath of Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment, much has been said in his defense. Of course, one must observe and respect the right of his defenders to stand up and be counted, inasmuch as this is also the right of those who criticized him. Our constitution (as well as international human rights instruments) says:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” (Article III, Section 4)
However, an aspect of Corona’s defense that need a deeper scrutiny concerns the infallibility of Supreme Court decisions, which the proponents stridently argue needs to be outside of the impeachment process. Some would even take the position that the impeachment of the Chief Justice itself should not be done. Otherwise, they say, the “Rule of Law” and the “independence of the judiciary” will be at stake. They shudder, “Without ‘Rule of Law,’ there will be “rule of the mob.” It is not surprising that all of those who argue this comes from the legal community.
From the point of view of the ordinary citizen, this does not resonate. The public mood–and the public opinion–is overwhelmingly in favor of the Corona impeachment. While some take off from a conclusion that CJ Corona (or, for that matter, all the pro-Arroyo justices) should be made to pay for their alleged partisanship and corruption, others are willing to let the impeachment process prove or reject the articles of impeachment. Nowhere, I think, in all the pro-impeachment pronouncements, is there a direct attack on the institutions of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
The “Rule of Law” argument is another matter. When it is invoked to mean decisions of the Corona Supreme Court, there is already an apparent flaw in logic. Where is it? It is in the assertion that these decisions are beyond question, even if there is already the matter of arbitrary flip-flopping in “final and executory” decisions, the apparent injustices in some, and the apparent bias and partiality in others. In fact, the articles of impeachment accuse CJ Corona (and, by implication, his companions in the majority decisions) of flaunting the Constitution (and therefore the Rule of Law) when he was accused of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and graft and corruption.
Precisely, while the legal process may end with the “final and executory” Supreme Court decisions, the impeachment process can still question these decisions politically, exercising as it does its constitutional power to remove unfit justices. By opening the process to the public in a transparent manner, the full weight of public opinion is brought in and become part of the process.
There is no mob rule here, since the constitutional rule still prevails. What the impeachment process did was to lay bare and discounted the myth of judicial infallibility. Thus far, it had already achieved the feat of reminding SC justices that being in the Supreme Court does not endow in them an instant and unchecked power to mangle the Constitution and defy the political will of the people.
At present, that political will is clearly and unequivocally expressed through their election–by a landslide–of Benigno S. Aquino III as the president of the Philippines and by giving him the mandate to pursue justice in the many cases of plunder and electoral fraud by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. His very high public approval is no accident.
Corona and other Supreme Court justices do not have the benefit of papal infallibility and do not have the direct link to God. God, in this case, has already spoken. Our Constitution clearly pointed where the source of power originates in our democracy: “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” (Article II, Section 1).
Vox populi, vox dei.