It is no secret that President Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party are the prime movers in the campaign to oust Chief Justice Corona from the Suprem Court either through his “voluntary” resignation ala former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez or the more difficult route of a Senate impeachment trial.
Now that the LP-directed prosecution has rested its case against Mr. Corona rather anti-climactically by withdrawing five out of the eight original articles of impeachment, a critical evaluation of the Aquino-LP-led charge against the Chief Justice would be in order.
The manner and substance by which the LP-directed prosecution had prepared for and presented the evidence to prove its case gives us some clues on the motives and tactics of the Aquino administration.
We recall the lightning speed with which the House of Representatives impeached Mr. Corona, clearly at the initiative of Mr. Aquino and through the efforts of the LP leadership in the House.
This took place in the wake of the dramatic unfolding of events around the Corona-led Supreme Court’s decision which could have enabled former President Gloria Arroyo and her husband to leave the country on spurious grounds and the subsequent arrest of Mrs. Arroyo for electoral sabotage via the last-ditch efforts of a joint DOJ-Comelec investigative committee.
The Aquino administration rode on public approbation for the thwarting of the Arroyos’ perceived flight from justice and disapproval of the High Court’s role in making the latter’s escape almost a fait acompli.
It would not be long before the general perception would be that the prosecution had not prepared the evidences and witnesses enough to present an airtight case. This was compounded by their lack of litigation experience and skills.
It would appear to many, then, that the prosecution’s precipitate withdrawal of five of eight charges was not so much out of confidence that they had built a strong enough case to convict, but was rather made to save themselves from further embarassment.
This may well be so. But the more significant conclusion is that from the start, the Aquino regime was content with exposing Corona to be corrupt and dishonest, enough to persuade the impeachment court to convict him, or at least enough to pressure him to resign. Not surprising since the Aquino regime has consistently trumpeted its anti-corruption campaign as its key solution to poverty and all that plagues Philippine society.
This is immediately obvious from the comparative amounts of time the prosecution allotted and spent for presenting the witnesses and evidence for each article.
Subsequently, when the prosecution faltered in its presentation to the impeachment court, Mr. Aquino went full throttle into demagogically painting Mr. Corona as the epitome of corruption in government and that failure to oust him from the SC would jeopardize its touted campaign to “reform the judiciary”.
Things begin to clarify. Mr. Aquino has been using this impeachment trial primarily to sustain and strengthen the illusion that his regime is all about cleaning up government — from attaining accountability for past sins of corruption and malgovernance by the Arroyo clique to bringing the “matuwid na daan” to the other branches of government such as the judiciary.
What is covered up is the Aquino regime’s gross incompetence and lack of political will to actually file cases against Mrs. Arroyo for plunder and grave human rights violations even as wrongdoing and rights abuse under the Aquino watch is glossed over, justified and allowed to continue with impunity.
What is obfuscated is that it is implementing the same discredited economic policies and programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are exacerbating poverty, entrenching economic backwardness and further undermining the people’s standard of living in the midst of global economic turmoil.
What is sidelined is Mr. Aquino’s willful susceptibility to US dictates in so far as allowing heightened US armed presence and intervention in the country and in so far as defining the parameters of government’s counterinsurgency program.
But more than providing a circus (aka impeachmnet trial) to distract and preoccupy the people, the Aquino regime’s ultimate objective is to strengthen its influence if not hold over the Supreme Court by installing a new CJ and additional justices more to its liking.
In so doing, Mr. Aquino and his LP clique consolidate their hold on power sans a pesky, opposition-held SC; protect vested economic and political interests locked in dispute before the SC (yes Virginia, it is still all about the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita and, unsurprisingly, the Liberal Party Vice Presidential candidate’s election protest); and prepare the ground well ahead of time for upcoming national elections in 2013 and 2016.
Now that the prosecution has claimed to have gained the high moral ground and willfully, if not prematurely, ceded the initiative to the defense, it remains to be seen whether the latter can demolish the prosecution’s already flawed case and what the Aquino regime still has in reserve in its arsenal and resources to make the senator judges vote for a conviction.
It would not be farfetched for people to surmise that this could include the collection of past political favors or the promise of future ones; the distribution of executive largesse by means of facilitated disbursements of budgets, lucrative contracts and other sources of bureaucratic profit and outright corruption; and even blackmailing some of the venerable-looking senators with skeletons in their closet and other unnamed vulnerabilities.
The people’s stake in the Corona impeachment trial has been considerably dimmed by the way the Aquino-LP campaign to oust Corona is being exposed as a self-serving attempt to enlarge the Aquino regime’s power, influence and room for maneuver.
Published in Buiness World
2-3 March 2012