MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 December) – Expect a more heated exchange of words between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona in the days ahead. Already, Corona has portrayed Aquino as a budding dictator, and the president has countered, saying it’s the Chief Justice who is the real dictator with the Supreme Court’s changing interpretations of the law.
Corona grounded his tirade against Aquino on fears that the impeachment case would adversely impact on the relations between the Executive, Judiciary and Congress as co-equal branches of government. In a strongly-worded speech Wednesday before court employees, the Chief Justice accused the President of bullying the Judiciary.
Aquino, on the other hand, cited the Supreme Court’s attempt to stop the impeachment case against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the ambivalent decision on the sixteen newly created cities, the ruling on the case of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines “where no further pleadings shall be entertained” but which was reversed after the lawyer of the Philippine Airlines wrote a letter to the Court, and the temporary restraining order on the Justice Department’s watch list order which allowed former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country.
Aquino said the TRO was issued despite even if Arroyo had not met its conditions.
In his speech during the Administration Coalition Caucus at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday, December 13, the President expressed optimism on the outcome of the impeachment case:
“When this process is over with, I assure all of you: we will have given rise to stronger institutions—the same ones eroded by the previous administration… we will prevail—because we are doing what is right, and because we have the best interests of the Filipino people in mind.”
Other observers, however, have remained skeptical about the real motives behind the impeachment case. They said that although Aquino has always shown his personal resolve to go after the wrongdoings of Arroyo and her cohorts, the case against Corona could have actually been provoked by the Supreme Court decision awarding the 3000-hectare Cojuangco clan-owned Hacienda Luisita to its farm workers.
Aquino, who is related to the Cojuangcos on the mother side, had reportedly divested himself of shares in the hacienda. Nonetheless, as a loyal family member and as a self-avowed reformer, the court decision has probably put him in a dilemma. He could not [publicly] lash at the decision and risk losing credibility. Nor can he turn his back on his family, whose wealth and political clout has mainly come from that vast estate all these years.
Ironic that the Cojuangcos would see their wealth and power diminished at a time that a family member occupies the highest office of the land.
For his part, Aquino knew the possible implications of losing Hacienda Luisita on his clan’s political future. They will cease to enjoy the attendant benefits that feudal relations bring. This may explain why he was not so enthusiastic when the ruling came out even if, as a presidential candidate then, he had told a New York Times reporter that the farmers can have the hacienda “clear and free.”
Maybe Aquino was sincere in his desire to render justice to the tenants but that family pressure eventually forced him to betray his ideals. Or maybe, he was just feigning sadness at the loss to avoid being rebuked by his kin for failing to protect their interests.
But it would be speculative to judge his real motive at the moment. For now, we can only wait for the events to unfold. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])