University of the Philippines professor and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist, Randy David was spot on when he said “In a society like ours, debt of gratitude to the appointing authority cannot be ignored. Often, it outweighs professional considerations. This is even more so when the appointing authority handpicks choices for sensitive positions with an explicit eye for their proven personal loyalty.” David may just as well have been describing the patronage politics of the incumbent Philippine President, Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) when he was writing his column.
But perhaps it is easy for Mr David to pretend that patronage politics was only prevalent during former President and Congresswoman, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) time in Malacañang because it is no secret that he has a political axe to grind. It was during GMA’s term that David was arrested at a rally at the Edsa
Shrine in Ortigas in 2006 on suspicion of sedition. And perhaps Mr David’s age is betraying him a bit because patronage politics was actually even more blatant during the late former President Cory Aquino’s term. Just to refresh his memory, an article from TIME magazine even documented it:
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[…] But in the tumultuous four years since Aquino became President, charges of incompetence and graft have increasingly tainted her own government. When rebellious soldiers launched the seventh abortive coup against Aquino on Dec. 1, their most pointed complaints focused on the administration’s failure to deliver basic services and on allegations of corruption among the President’s wealthy and influential relatives.
The charges, magnified by the Manila rumor mill, have inflicted serious political damage. While the President herself is considered incorruptible, critics accuse her of turning a blind eye to family and friends who are said to be enriching themselves at the public’s expense.
Turning a blind eye seems to be the order of the day for those siding with GMA’s political opponents. Mr David is conveniently turning a blind eye to PNoy’s penchant for appointing his Kamag-anak, kaibigan at kaklase or KKK to sensitive positions in government with PNoy personally handpicking them for their proven personal loyalty.
In his recent column, Mr David highlighted for the second time, how GMA ascended to power after the ouster of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and called it “dubious”. Maybe it is the limitation in the number of words set by the Inquirer editor or perhaps it was Mr. David’s own use of literary device but whatever it is, he omitted the fact that it was Cory Aquino, the mother of PNoy, who was one of those who led the second people power revolution dubbed “Edsa II” that unconstitutionally unseated Erap. The late Manila Cardinal Archbishop Jaime Sin, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, former President, Fidel Ramos all called for Erap’s resignation after Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson, a longtime friend of President Joseph Estrada, went public with accusations that Estrada, his family and friends received millions of pesos from operations of the illegal numbers game, jueteng.
The Supreme Court Justices at the time were even forced to legitimize GMA’s ascent to power on the basis of this being one endorsed by “the will of the people” — the same “will” the Aquino camp now keep citing as the basis of their self-righteous campaign against the SC. What seemed like a good idea then for all those who led the revolt against Erap is now being hailed as “opportunistic” on the part of GMA from Mr David’s point of view. Old age must be taking its toll on his memory.
Without naming them all and without going to specifics, Mr. David accused GMA of “generously rewarding political lackeys and apologists with cushy positions in government corporations” thereby virtually condemning these people to the hall of shame by their mere association to the former President. It’s as if Mr David himself is not acting as a PNoy’s apologist by writing a very biased article. I guess the professor thinks that it is okay for him to question GMA’s motives because it is in the Filipino people’s nature not to trust or take someone at face value. And the lack of trust can be explained in the old saying, “it takes one to know one.”
Of course Mr. David made special mention of the Ampatuans and how they “complied with her (GMA) every whim by manipulating electoral outcomes”. It’s possibly another memory lapse on his part because the trial for GMA’s alleged “electoral sabotage” case hasn’t even begun yet he already issues his own verdict.
Lastly, Mr David reserved a few paragraphs for Supreme Court and Chief Justice, Renato Corona. He strongly agrees with PNoy that the latter was a midnight appointee by GMA. Never mind that, at that time, it was the Philippines’ Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that “unanimously” agreed to start nominations prior to the 2010 elections for the replacement of the country’s outgoing Chief Justice Reynato Puno. And they did so citing Section 4(1), Article 8 of the constitution — which mandates that a Supreme Court vacancy should be filled within 90 days once the position remains vacant.
In a news item published in February of 2010, it was shown that even constitutional experts had no problem with GMA appointing the new judge:
A group of constitutionalists has no qualms about President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointing the next chief justice despite a constitutional provision supposedly prohibiting it two months before an election.
Members of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) even want the Supreme Court to compel the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body that screens nominees to vacant judicial posts, to submit its shortlist to President Arroyo.
In a 20-page petition, Philconsa, through its president Manuel Lazaro, said the election ban in the Constitution covers only appointments in the executive department and not in the judiciary.
The group pointed out that the only restriction cited by the Constitution is that the president must appoint from the list submitted by the JBC.
The bottom line is, the issue about appointing a new SC judge has been resolved in early 2010 even before GMA chose Renato Corona. It turns out that GMA was even compelled to pick a new judge by the JBC out of an urgent need to do so because “historical events dictated the post should be vacant no more than a day”. Here’s what the SC had to say about the controversy at that time:
The SC said there is no provision in the Constitution providing for designation of a temporary chief justice during the vacancy because the post is crucial during election period since the high court acts as the final arbiter under the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
The SC, however, gave weight to the argument of the Solicitor General stressing the importance of the chief justice post saying historical events dictated the post should be vacant no more than a day.
When Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee retired on April 18, 1988, Associate Justice Pedro Yap was appointed on the same day. When Yap retired on July 1, 1988, then Associate Justice Marcelo Fernan was appointed the same day.
When Fernan effectively resigned on Dec. 7, 1991, Senior Justice Andres Narvasa was appointed the following day. When Narvasa retired on Nov. 29, 1998, Senior Justice Hilario Davide Jr. was sworn into office the following morning.
When Davide retired on Dec. 19, 2005, Senior Justice Artemio Panganiban was appointed to succeed the following day.
Lastly, when Panganiban retired on Dec. 6, 2006, incumbent Chief Justice Reynato Puno took his oath on midnight of Dec. 7, 2006.
Whether one agrees with the Supreme Court’s final decision or not, one thing is for sure, Chief Justice Corona has been taking all these attacks on his personal integrity like a real gentleman. The record shows that during the height of the debate surrounding GMA’s move to appoint a new SC judge in early 2010, Chief Justice Corona who was at that time, still a Associate Justice together with fellow nominee, Antonio Carpio opted not to join the voting on the issue citing that “it will have effects on them”. And prior to the SC’s decision to okay GMA’s picking of the new judge, Corona even reportedly said that “he would accept the nomination for the post but on condition that the next president (PNoy) should make the appointment.” It is too bad that PNoy and his apologists like Randy David ignore Corona’s record of objectivity in the past. It must be in their nature to be too quick to judge a judge appointed by GMA.
In life, things are not always what they seem.