Posts Tagged ‘EDSA 2’

Chief prosecutor Congressman Niel Tupas, Jr. formally announced that the prosecution will not anymore pursue Articles 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8 and it will rest its case based only on Articles 2, 3, and 7. A phase has therefore ended and the next phase of the defense presentation will also be a short one. The senator-judges, I think, have already their individual decisions.

The situation is dicey, whatever the court decision will turn out to be. There are three possibilities: one, the vote is two-thirds or more for impeachment; two, the vote is less than two-thirds but still a majority for impeachment; and, three, the majority vote is against impeachment.

The first possibility will mean an outright victory for the Aquino administration and for the majority public opinion. It will start off a reform trend in the judiciary and strengthen the institution. However, it will also sharpen the infighting within the ruling coalition as all parties tries to maneuver and influence the president’s choice for the post of the Chief Justice and the direction of further changes in the Supreme Court.

The second possibility will lead to a nebulous ending that will only ignite a sharp political struggle involving the presidency, congress and the judiciary. In a sense this will be worse for it can led to a debilitating political combat that may well weaken all three branches of government and will put the 2013 elections in the context of the political combat. It may also precipitate a corresponding mobilization of the people on various sides of the conflict.

The third possibility will mean a defeat of the administration in the Senate. It will invite various opposition groups to renew their political offensives against the Aquino administration. It will also signal an end to the ruling coalition this early. The combat will be especially bitter and, inevitably, people will be drawn into it. It may be a full-blown political crisis.

The key group to watch, of course, are the senator-judges. They missed the boat once–particularly in interpreting the public mood. Many among them are keen to make sure they do not miss it again but there are others who want to fish in troubled waters.

The water is not clear in this regard. They nevertheless brought us to a political precipice.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona filed a petition for certiorari and for a temporary restraining order (TRO) before his own court against the impeachment court that currently tries him. With this, he exposed a desperation unprecedented in shamelessness. It also puts into stark relief the whole issue against him: Is he still fit to be a justice of the Supreme Court? The only logical answer that the Senate impeachment court can give is NO.

So far, despite his experienced defense lawyers, it has come out that he lied in his constitutionally-required Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), accumulated properties and bank deposits worth tens of millions of pesos during his term as associate justice, and is in no position to account for this wealth based on his and his wife’s income. In itself, this may be seen already in the eyes of ordinary people as a betrayal of public trust.

The ploy to transfer the arena from the Senate to the Supreme Court is in itself self-serving. It defies the very constitutional logic of the impeachment process and gives Corona, who had not taken a leave of absence from his position of Chief Justice, a leverage to twist the process and result of the impeachment trial to his own advantage.

There is no other recourse for the Senate but to conclude as soon as possible the impeachment court, ignore the Supreme Court decisions, if any, that attempts to stop or otherwise meddle in its processes, and render swift and fair judgment on Corona’s fitness for office.

Corona is provoking a constitutional crisis. The Senate impeachment court should not let him do it. Otherwise, the people may do it instead. Then, there may be a political crisis.

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Whatever the outcome of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, it is already evident that he is not only the one in trial. Other SC justices perceived to be with him, the institutions of the Supreme Court and the judiciary, and even the Senate and senators, will all be under the lens of the people’s scrutiny during the impeachment trial.

Of course, the focus will be on CJ Corona. However, the articles of impeachment can very well apply to the majority of the associate justices of the Supreme Court. It is in this sense that the impeachment trial may well be the trial of the institution itself.

However, the nature of an impeachment process is one of a corrective measure, targeted at those officials at the top of the power chain who otherwise cannot be removed. In this case, the cleansing of the ranks of the SC justices is being done in order to regain the trust of the people in the institution. It therefore is well within the accountability principle in a democratic governance regime.

It is not true that impeachment weakens the Supreme Court or the judiciary. Nor does it constitutes a constitutional crisis or–more far-fetched–a return to a dictatorship. Precisely, an impeachment process, as a constitutional process, is a democratic instrument that provide a check on the powers of the highest officials–including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Impeachment also provides a rare opportunity for people to really get to know the lives and behavior of these officials and decide for themselves whether they are fit or not for the powerful jobs they were elected or appointed to. The people remains the ultimate actor and judge in the process.

CJ Corona has a slim chance to survive unscathed the impeachment trial. The more probable outcome–whatever the vote of the senators–is that his credibility before the people will be damaged beyond repair and there is no choice but to leave the institution. This also goes for those justices who voted with him on crucial issues enumerated in the articles of impeachment.

The truth of the matter here is that the impeachment process is essentially a political process. Not really the partisan politics one associates with the latter but a more fundamental process associated with the exercise of people’s sovereignty in a democracy.

I think CJ Corona and his cohort in the Supreme Court are at a crossroad. They face a hostile public going into the impeachment trial and they face an uphill battle to convince the people of their fitness for their SC positions. The plunge to negative ratings (-14% in the SWS polls) seems to indicate a certain conclusion. They have one choice–to go now before an impeachment trial starts or go later because of the failure to convince the sovereign people.

Whatever, the judges will have been judged.

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The Supreme Court, in an 8-5 decision, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Department of Justice and the Commission on Immigration, on the subject of enforcing the Watch-List Order against the couple Miguel and Gloria Arroyo.  It thus precipitated a new level of political combat in the continuing saga of the Arroyo-induced crisis.

The situation now is the last act of the drama. With the Arroyo couple raring to get out of the country before any criminal case can be brought against them, there appears almost no chance of indicting them for plunder or electoral sabotage soon. It may even be possible that the Arroyo couple will sit out the entire remainder of the Aquino term or until a favorable turn of events happen.

However, they may have lost the political battle by this act. They are different from Marcos or, more recently, Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand.  The Arroyos do not have the critical political base for a drawn-out contest of power nor the capability for a quick return to power. Their allies and support within the country will be subjected to continuous pressure from the Aquino administration.

The more problematic situation for the Aquino administration is how to undertake legal and political initiatives to retrieve the ill-gotten Arroyo wealth. With the Arroyos out of reach, only the riches left in the country can be subjected to recovery. With their lawyers and friends in court, the Arroyos can be expected to put up a stiff fight.

However, the biggest gain of the Aquino government in the Arroyos’ flight is in the public opinion arena. Most will interpret the TRO as an unjust decision and will sympathize with the new administration. Arroyo SC appointees who consistently voted against the new administration have thus become fair game.

Flight will be readily interpreted as proof of guilt, both in the case of grand corruption and in the case of electoral cheating. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will have the dubious distinction of being an intruder to the presidency. First, by sly maneuverings to ensure her succession to the presidency through her own conspiracy to ease out  President Estrada. Second, by devious maneuverings to force a “convincing” win over the Fernando Poe, Jr. in the 2004 presidential elections. Her husband, Mike Arroyo, stands indicted along with her, as a co-conspirator.

Now, we witness the flight of the intruders.

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The death of former defense secretary Angelo Reyes, from an apparent suicide, has political implications far beyond its immediate impact on the ongoing corruption case against former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia. It has thrown wide open the door to more corruption investigations, confirmed the fragility of the defense of the past GMA administration, developed the political battle to a new and more dangerous level, and basically underscored the changing political climate towards a strengthened democracy.

In a sense, the apparent Reyes suicide is a political gambit to stop further inroads into his own complicity in the corruption both in the AFP and in the GMA administration. It also ended a promising lead into the political maneuvers towards accession to power and the political survival of the Arroyo family.

It remains to be seen if he left a legacy that will clear his name or else drag it further into the political wilderness. Angelo Reyes is both a victim and practitioner of the paternalistic relations that is the hall mark of traditional politics in the country. His is the dilemma of a soldier-politician who forayed into the tempting, if illusory, dark side of politics–and left with the proverbial empty bag.

Unfortunately there are more Angelo Reyeses out there. Time will tell if they come clean with their stories, fight it out in the courts, hearings or elsewhere, or as what happened to Reyes, removal from the chessboard.

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