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December 16, 2011
Chief justice on trial

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Streetwise | BusinessWorld

In our previous column entitled “Battle for Justice”, we said that a big battle is looming to bring the Arroyos to justice. Few outside the innermost circles of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino would have foreseen that the initial major skirmish would take the form of an impeachment move against the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and that it would come this soon.

The showdown between Malacañang, in its stepped-up efforts to have former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo prosecuted, and the Corona Supreme Court, in its obvious moves to help Mrs. Arroyo evade criminal accountability, had been shifted to the House of Representatives where Mr. Aquino clearly had the numbers for a swift impeachment.

The progressive party-list legislators in the Lower House supported the impeachment move despite the fact that they were not afforded the opportunity to give inputs into the complaint and were given very short notice of the plan by the House leadership and Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party.

According to Makabayan, the coalition of national democratic legislators and their political parties that includes Bayan Muna, the ouster of Mr. Corona is part and parcel of the continuing effort to make the Arroyos accountable for their grievous crimes against the people.

“Corona since he became associate justice has major responsibility for upholding illegal, anti-people and repressive acts of the Arroyo regime. Since he became chief justice, Corona has had chief responsibility for the legal maneuvers and decisions of the High Court favoring, protecting and allowing the Arroyos to escape prosecution.”

Moreover, the progressive movement has always been critical of anti-people Supreme Court rulings such as the reversal of the SC decision adjudging the 1995 Mining Act as unconstitutional, and had unequivocally protested the midnight appointment of Mr. Corona whose close ties to the Arroyos are indisputable while his voting record in the SC has been disreputable.

Certainly, the avowed objective of Mr. Aquino to remove a major stumbling block to the prosecution of the Arroyos through the impeachment of the Chief Justice is a step in the right direction.

But in truth, Mr. Aquino and Mr. Corona agree on a lot of major national issues and policies, as shown by the Corona defenders’ citing instances where Mr. Corona voted in favor of Mr. Aquino’s economic programs whose legality was being disputed in the High Court. While we are no fan of Mr. Corona, we also have no illusions as to Mr. Aquino’s concept of justice and what is good for the country.

When Mr. Aquino raises questions on the propriety of Mr. Corona’s being chief magistrate, we are sure that outside of the prosecution of the Arroyos, his idea of what justice is and what is good for the country is fundamentally different from ours.

Most likely, Mr. Aquino and Mr. Corona basically agree on what justice is, from the point of view of an elite democracy and an iniquitous society that they are both sworn to uphold and protect. They only disagree now on who should be dispensing justice at the highest level and to which of the warring factions of the elite he should swear allegiance to.

We recall that in recent statements, each time Mr. Aquino utters the word “justice” or “just”, strange things happen. People lose their homes and properties when, in the name of “all-out justice”, bombs are dropped on civilian communities allegedly harboring lawless elements. Farmer beneficiaries lose hope of ever owning the land they had tilled for generations, when Mr. Aquino insists that they must pay the landowners (to whose family he incidentally belongs) “just compensation”. And peace talks are once again stalled despite Mr. Aquino’s continuing pronouncements to pursue a “just and lasting peace”.

The progressive movement has also consistently criticized Mr. Aquino for his indecisive, inadequate and until most recently, ineffectual, moves against the Arroyos.

Mrs. Arroyo is now under “hospital arrest” for her role in the 2007 senatorial elections fraud. Still, she has not been charged for far bigger crimes such as the “Hello Garci” 2004 presidential elections fraud (where Mrs. Arroyo stands accused of having stolen the presidency from her opponent, Mr. Fernando Poe Jr.); the notoriously anomalous multi-billion peso NBN-ZTE deal; and the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, mass displacement of civilian communities and other gross human rights violations perpetrated with impunity under her rule. (The latter are still continuing, also with impunity, under the supposedly upright Aquino dispensation.)

The progressive movement can be expected to raise and pursue these issues against the Arroyos in the courts, in Congress and on the streets and whatever old and new avenues may be availed of as a result of the heightened debate over the Corona impeachment trial.

As to Mr. Corona, we expect he will employ legal arguments and loopholes as well as attempt to conflate the attack on him as an attack on the SC as an institution then utilize the people’s general acceptance of the SC’s inscrutability and supposed impartiality in his defense at the Senate impeachment trial. But he will be hard put to shake off the popular perception that he is a flunky of Mrs. Arroyo who prostituted himself and his office to protect her and her interests.

No doubt the partisan political lines will be drawn: pro-GMA/Corona versus anti-GMA/Corona; pro-Aquino versus anti-Aquino. The usual quid pro quo mechanisms will operate and Malacañang will pull out all stops to entice as well as draw dire scenarios for the Senator-jurists who will waver in rendering a guilty verdict. The trial will be fully covered by the mass media and the biases and proclivities of the owners and opinion makers will certainly come into play.

The wild card in all this is how the vast majority of the people who have no stakes in either the GMA/Corona or Aquino camps will weigh in on the ensuing political drama of the impeachment trial.

We are willing to bet that the vast majority want to see the Arroyos prosecuted, convicted and punished for a slew of crimes against the people and individuals whose rights they had trampled. Thus Mr. Corona will face an uphill climb in his defense.

But while it is true that a Corona conviction would remove a major obstacle to the prosecution of the Arroyos, rendering true justice to the Arroyo regime’s crimes is still a long way to go.

Mr. Aquino has an even longer way to go in showing to the people that his “daang matuwid” will lead to fundamental policy changes and substantial reforms that will truly be for the good of the people and not just the ruling elite and foreign big power and big business interests. #

Published in Business World
16-17 December 2011

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