This is it. This is what some of us have been waiting for. No, it’s not really the much-anticipated appearance of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in court. Okay, yes. We are going to be glued to the tube when he finally testifies, indeed. But at the back of our heads, the long wait has always been for the Senator Judges of the impeachment court to finally grow some balls.
Up until recently, the Senate court has been bowing down to the pleasures of one man and his cohorts. But recent developments indicate that there are senators who are finally speaking out against the tyranny of the mastermind behind the impeachment of Corona. Who he is and what his motives are is not really a secret. In fact, emphasizing it has become a bit boring because the whole country already knows how much President Noynoy Aquino hates Corona. Even before he was inaugurated, PNoy already made it very clear that he didn’t want to recognize former President Gloria Arroyo’s appointee as the Chief Justice. Why the Senators ignored this from the beginning is mind-boggling to say the least.
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Unfortunately for the Senators, indulging PNoy’s obsession with Corona these past few months is finally taking its toll on their workload. The real issues plaguing the nation have taken a back seat just because PNoy wants to fast-track Corona’s removal from office. More importantly, the Senators now realize that “Aquino may do the same” to them if they ever find themselves on his bad side — and it doesn’t really take much to get there.
It’s quite insane that they didn’t see this coming. Talk about lack of foresight! They should have known this could happen as soon as they received the badly written impeachment complaint from the House of Representatives. It had to take another violation of the Constitution for them to finally say,“What this government is doing is alarming and worrisome”.
Senator Bong Bong Marcos had to contradict defense lawyer Dennis Manalo’s notion that there is a “grand conspiracy” to oust Corona because it appears that persecuting him has already become “a public, state-sanctioned policy” under the Aquino government:
“What grand conspiracy? There is no mystery there,” Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told the Manila Standard.
“There were not even false pretenses. The grand conspiracy has become public policy. The entire administration is not bothering to hide it anymore that nothing is more important to them than the impeachment trial and the conviction of Chief Justice Corona. Everything takes a backseat.”
If only the Senators listened to us earlier on. Quite a number of us have been expressing our disgust towards the Aquino administration’s lack of respect for the law just to get their way even before the buzz about the impeachment complaints was conceptualized. Senator Jinggoy Estrada had this to add:
The scheme that the entire government machinery can be used against just about anyone without regard for the law makes the perceived enemies vulnerable to attacks.
Imagine: the Ombudsman can just ask, without a court order, the Anti-Money Laundering Council to obtain the chief justice’s accounts? And who else prepared those PowerPoint presentations? The Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit? The documents came from AMLC. Everybody is into it.
If they can do that to the chief justice, then all of us have a reason to worry. Even if you have nothing to hide, they will throw everything at you.
It seems that the simple concept of upholding the rule of law is not just difficult for the average Filipino to understand; it is also a bit alien to some of our “distinguished” lawmakers. It’s like they had to learn the real meaning of democracy the hard way. The consequence of this farce of an impeachment trial is damaging to our democracy, to put it mildly.
I cannot emphasize it enough that what happens during Corona’s trial will set a dangerous precedent for future court proceedings. We might even see the slow descent of our society into anarchy since respect for the law is being progressively disregarded. If the senator-judges allow the violations by the prosecution and their collaborators including the office of the ombudsman, then they will have sealed their own fate as well.
[Photo courtesy Southern Leyte Times.]
Let’s hope though that the Senators are thinking of the protection of the average Juan de la Cruz in advocating changes in the laws, and not just themselves. One can’t help but think that some of them are just trying to protect their own asses when they showed their concern over this latest violation of the Constitution. In what Senator Sergio Osmeñia III is suggesting, it seems he can recognize the flaw in the impeachment proceedings but he failed to mention Corona as the victim of what can be described as “political pressure” or “blackmail”:
“I am not a lawyer but it seems that this is a good time to introduce amendments also to safeguard the rights, as pointed out by the distinguished Majority Leader (Vicente C. Sotto III) wherein certain issues might be used, timed properly or timed improperly and put certain people at a disadvantage,” Osmeña told reporters on Wednesday.
“I would suggest that we craft already our proposed amendments to the Ombudsman Act and to the Anti-Money Laundering act (AMLA) so that we can also limit the type of information and the use of that particular information,” the senator added.
Osmeña said R.A. 6670 could be amended and clip the power of the ombudsman by:
(1) Allowing the ombudsman to inquire from the AMLC only if he or she had already established probable cause on crimes enumerated in the AMLA;
(2) Disallowing the ombudsman to file a case less than one year before the elections;
(3) Limiting the access of the Office of the Ombudsman or any other agency to AMLC data only when the council specifically knows that the case deals with a crime that is one of the predicate crimes mentioned in the AMLA; and
(4) Limiting Ombudsman’s access to AMLA data on cases involving impeachable officials.
Osmeña’s proposed amendments to the law limiting power of the ombudsman seem self-serving. And any changes to plug the loopholes won’t make a difference if it is ignored. This brings us back again to the Filipino’s consistent failure to repect the rule of law. It doesn’t really matter if the law is perfect, if it is not adhered to, then it is useless.
Why can’t Filipinos follow the law? As I’ve pointed out in the past, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people. It is difficult for most Filipinos to uphold the rule of law because of this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. This attitude is manifested even in the simplest form from disregarding the road rules to the complicated like railroading the filing of an impeachment complaint.
This sense of being more important can be a double-edged sword, really. On one hand, it can prevent our Senator Judges from thinking about what Corona is going through but on the other hand, if they think hard enough and put themselves in his shoes, it might help them decide that they are better off acquitting Corona lest they go through the same public persecution one day.
In life, things are not always what they seem.