MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/3 January) – Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, in his reply to the impeachment complaint submitted to the Senate, makes an issue of the “blitzkrieg” fashion with which the House of Representatives mustered 188 signatures to impeach him. Curiously though, his reply, the full text of which is available online, does not cite any section of the Constitution or any law which says that an impeachment complaint may not be done in a hurried manner. He is implying it is wrong but won’t – or can’t – supply a legal basis to his argument.
CJ Corona ascribes the whole thing to President Aquino and his colleagues in the Liberal Party as the leading forces behind what he calls “a complaint born out of bias against CJ Corona and the predisposition to destroy him by associating him with the unpopular former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and by misinterpreting his concurrence to certain Supreme Court decisions as protecting former President Arroyo.”
He adds: “What we also have are the hidden forces who will be benefited by CJ Corona’s ouster and who are conspiring and causing intrigue behind the scene to ensure his removal and their reemergence into power to the detriment of the Bench, Bar and populace. Certainly, such cannot be the backdrop, purpose and consequence of impeachment.”
In his first argument, CJ Corona tries to create the impression that the short time it took the House to gather more than enough signatures was in itself suspect. He builds on this argument by citing reports of claims by some lawmakers that they and their colleagues were forced into signing the complaint upon being promised “material considerations” (read pork barrel) even without reading it. In short, Malacañang allegedly used the classic carrot-and-stick approach.
In the second, the Chief Justice warns that the impeachment is nothing more than a dagger-and-cloak conspiracy aimed at weakening the Judiciary and the law itself.
Based on the President’s previous and recent statements regarding CJ Corona, there is no denying the fact that he certainly wants him out, in the same manner that Corona’s patron, Arroyo, eagerly anticipated the ouster of Joseph Estrada. The only difference is that Arroyo had no direct hand in Estrada’s impeachment, and did not abandon her predecessor until it became clear that he had lost control of the situation.
Aquino, on the other hand, has never concealed his dislike for Corona, and so he is perceived – rightly or wrongly – to have directly ordered his allies to file the complaint. Yet, the President’s public remarks, uttered without an explicit order to the lawmakers to proceed with the impeachment, cannot be technically interpreted as usurping the exclusive powers of the House to initiate all cases of impeachment.
Aquino may have been imprudent in voicing out his anti-Corona sentiments but his indiscretion doesn’t rob the impeachment of its validity.
In fact, the President may choose to distance himself from the impeachment complaint and leave it completely to the House. Still, CJ Corona, desperate for sympathy, will likely not drop the alleged existence of a conspiracy by and between other forces from his arguments. If it’s not Aquino, the Chief Justice will look for others, maybe including the Pope, to blame for the mess he’s in.
As a political proceeding, the impeachment complaint will always invite questions, suspicions and skepticism as to its real motive. Thus public opinion, not technicalities, will largely influence how the Senate will vote on CJ Corona’s fate. And as far as public opinion is concerned, the Chief Justice knows he has to carry out the daunting task of disproving accusations that his appointment, done in violation of the Constitution, was a grand conspiracy to eventually shield Arroyo from charges of plunder, graft and other crimes.
But after the Supreme Court granted Arroyo’s petition for a temporary restraining order even before she could file it, who would believe the Chief Justice that such conspiracy did not exist?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)