SUBIC BAY (MindaNews/20 Nov) — Like the nightmares that Martial Law left us, the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may have left unsavoury left-overs.
Certain democratic institutions are designed to ensure continuity of constitutional authority. The Supreme Court has Justices whose terms are not fixed with elected officials. As a constitutional body, a co-equal branch of government, one of its fundamental functions is to maintain the continuity of this authority.
Chief Justices Artemio Panganiban and the late Chief Justice Claudio Tehankee Sr. were called upon in two recent historical and democratic milestones to facilitate legitimate succession of power. Panganiban was called on to administer the Oath of the Presidency to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, by virtue of constitutional succession when Joseph Estrada left Malacanang in February 2001.
Tehankee, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court then, was a rare scintilla of democracy in the dark years of the dictatorship and was honored to administer the Oath of Office to Corazon Aquino in February 2006.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno, an appointee of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made some shining examples when the Supreme Court under him preserved democratic values and independence when the challenged Arroyo administration tried to tinker with civil liberties and democratic institutions.
Can the same be said of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Renato Corona who was appointed a month before Arroyo’s term expires?
President PNoy did not hide his displeasure over the midnight appointment of Corona, hence he asked Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales (now retired) to swear him in.
Many thought that a more prudent Supreme Court would not have just treated the case of Gloria as a textbook constitutional law case for it involved a former president and his gangster husband who was subject of several investigations involving hundreds of lives and billions worth of public funds. It involved the greater interests of justice and accountability.
Records are clear that the Dept. of Justice rules on HDOs or Watch-list Orders were done and remained in force when Gloria was in Malacanang. They deemed it Constitutional when convenient and questioned it when the rule of law and accountability was breathing down their necks.
Of the three co-equal branches of government, the Supreme Court is thought to be the least political. It is supposed to be the repository of civility and reason. As often said, although it neither holds the purse, as it is being held by Congress nor the sword, as it is being held by the Executive, the pen of the Judiciary holds the moral fabric of our democracy.
But can this be said of the Corona Supreme Court? If any indication, the 8-5 vote in favor of allowing the Arroyo couple to travel abroad belies the independence of the Supreme Court. It had allowed itself to make futile the democratic motions of making the former president accountable after so many successful attempts to evade from it.
The 8-5 vote in favor of the former first couple was an encore to the Arroyo administration’s diminution of democracy to mere numbers as it did in the House of Representatives in the two Impeachment cases filed against her.
The decision of the Corona to court to allow the flight of the former first couple reinforced the notion that the Corona midnight appointment is part of the elaborate scheme laid down by the past administration to frustrate efforts of exacting accountability and justice from the now decrepit couple.
And this is not the first time this suspicion has been substantiated. The Corona court did not bat an eyelash in issuing a Temporary Restraining Order on a co-equal branch when it sought to restrain Congress from pursuing Impeachment proceedings on Gloria’s Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez who was sitting on several cases of corruption involving Gloria and Mike. It is the same Corona court who struck down as unconstitutional the Truth Commission which would have investigated and facilitate the hauling to court the former president and her entourage of thieves.
It did reverse its own decision to favor Philippine Airlines in the Fasap case on a mere letter from legal eagle Estelito Mendoza, Gloria’s lawyer.
If there is any lesson to be learned of the Malacanang – Supreme Court impasse on Gloria’s attempted flight abroad, it is that the co-equal powers on the three main agencies of our democratic state: the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are not made to paralyze any of them from acting on any one’s action, rather they are made to ensure checks and balances. The politicized Corona Supreme Court simply got what it deserves, the political faculties of the Executive.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima may have earned the ire of many and maybe handed the contempt of the pen later on, but she would surely not earn the contempt of the people and the countless victims of the Arroyo regime.
Now let the wheels of justice roll in earnest even as the Corona court is left to continue proving worthy of its genuine constitutional mandate against the growing belief that it is and has been reducing itself as just a part of the elaborate defense plan left by the illegitimate past administration. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Comments can be sent to [email protected])