MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 March) – In a previous column titled “Is PNoy out on a vengeance?” I floated the possibility that the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona could have been provoked by the Supreme Court decision awarding the vast Cojuangco clan-owned Hacienda Luisita Inc. to its farm workers.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is related to the Cojuangcos on the mother side. And although he has divested himself of shares in that sugar estate as required by law, it does not necessarily mean he has completely turned his back on his roots and class. There is always the risk therefore that as president he will use the case to get back at Corona as head of a Supreme Court that has divested the Cojuangcos of their main power base as one of the country’s enduring political families.
Worse, Aquino III may use the impeachment to forge a compromise with the Court on the fate of Hacienda Luisita the decision on which has not become final and executory.
This possibility certainly poses a dilemma to well-intentioned reformers who dream of having a Supreme Court run by magistrates of unquestioned integrity. What good will it do if Corona is kicked out for his misdeeds as stipulated in the impeachment complaint if it will mean doing injustice to the hacienda’s farmworkers?
Progressive House members who belong to groups that have supported the hacienda workers in their struggle for land must have weighed their decision on whether to sign or not sign the impeachment complaint based on this scenario. In the end, lawmakers like Bayan Muna’s Teddy Casino and Neri Javier Colmenares supported the move against Corona.
Bayan Muna’s support to the impeachment was possibly motivated by its desire to settle a score with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed Corona as chief justice on the eve of her departure from Malacañang.
Under Arroyo, hundreds of left-wing activists fell victims to summary executions and involuntary disappearances. The Left was among those who had called for Arroyo’s ouster over the “Hello, Garci” controversy.
Now a Pampanga representative but under hospital arrest for alleged electoral sabotage, Arroyo was persistently accused by militant groups of having condoned at least those violations by defending military officials like retired general Jovito Palparan, who is now in hiding after a court issued an arrest warrant against him for the kidnapping of two University of the Philippines students.
While the Supreme Court had done the militant groups a favor by deciding in favor of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, it is arguably not lost on them that such decision could have been induced by Arroyo’s falling out with the Aquinos, who were among those who had questioned Arroyo’s legitimacy. Majority of the current Supreme Court justices were appointed by Arroyo.
For the militant groups, the same influence that Arroyo presumably wields on the Supreme Court – particularly on the Chief Justice himself – can be used by Palparan and other military officials associated with her to avoid prosecution or conviction.
But what about the possibility of the Supreme Court kowtowing to Aquino, at least on the Hacienda Luisita case? Certainly, this is a risk that Bayan Muna and its allies have to take. They have to wage one battle at a time.
Besides, Aquino III can only cause a reversal of the ruling on Hacienda Luisita at the risk of eroding much of what’s left of his popularity. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)