Monday, January 2, 2012

Much ado about nothing

Simply browsing over the flaws of the impeachment complaints against the Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court tells that even if the trial goes the full distance before the Senate, this charade is just as much ado about nothing. After all, public opinion, upon which the present Aquino government rests its case, will hardly sway those senators to render judgment against Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. Photo courtesy of AP. Click
link to view "Noynoy Aquino Slaps Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona" during  First
Criminal Justice Summit.
Truth be told, the public is really angry at former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and for good reason. If only the Filipino people would be allowed to lay their hands on Mrs. Arroyo, she could be taken out instantly as what the Libyan protesters did to their former despotic ruler, Muammar Gadaffi. The death of Gadaffi in the hands of the Libyan rebels and protesters seems to have set the new standard for punishment of crimes against the people.

Arroyo’s trial should therefore proceed without delay; after all, she’s also entitled to a speedy trial. The trial of Chief Justice Corona is a mere distraction, which takes away the attention on Arroyo. Whether this is by design will prove once again that Philippine politics is all but a big spectacle, a public entertainment of self-obsessed individuals fighting for the limelight. Much like what one journalist described the Bill Clinton impeachment as “a vast landscape painting of life as it truly is in Washington at the turn of the millennium, a Guernica of overfed egos.''

Perhaps this is why many of us have become cynical about change. Two years in his presidency, Noynoy Aquino has not effectively delivered on his election promise to bring to justice those who have enriched themselves through graft and corruption. Now that the government has the big Kahuna in custody, the Aquino government seems more interested in destroying Chief Justice Corona’s reputation and the independence of the judiciary. What motivate the President are his allegations of perceived bias by the Chief Justice in the court’s decisions that favoured former President Arroyo.

But Noynoy has already started packing up the Supreme Court with his own appointees, the latest being his former colleague in a security agency whom he has just elevated to the position of Associate Justice in the Supreme Court. If he were successful in getting rid of Corona, he would surely appoint a new Chief Justice who will follow his whims and caprices. Ultimately, what Noynoy Aquino wants is an obedient judiciary that rubber stamps whatever decisions he makes.
Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Photo courtesy of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer. Click link to view "Chief Justice Corona fights back
versus Noynoy Aquino,"
One columnist in a Philippine daily newspaper even wrote that the resignation of Corona and the justices appointed by Arroyo Justices would restore the credibility of the Supreme Court. Would he have the same audacity to recommend that justices of the United States’ Supreme Court do the same thing? This columnist practises law in San Francisco and it is highly doubtful if he would propose that some American conservative justices also resign for gradually eroding women’s rights earned from the Roe vs. Wade decision, or entrenching the right of the individual citizen to own guns over the need to fight criminality, or the right to political speech of private corporations. He would be the laughing stock of the American Bar.

A friend wrote me an email a while ago saying that Chief Justice Corona has been guilty of obstruction of justice by showing his bias in favour of Gloria Arroyo in decisions made by the court. He says that Corona has abused the law in order to serve his benefactor Mrs. Arroyo who appointed him as Chief Justice.

While there could be some kernel of truth in allegations that justices could be guilty of bias, this will not stand as a valid argument for impeachment. The truth is, justices show their loyalty to their appointing power. In fact, the appointing power ensures that the justices they appoint would be loyal to their views and interests, whether legitimate or not.

A Democrat U.S. President will appoint justices to the Supreme Court those who are likely to uphold and support his or her views of the political world. Thus, conservative justices appointed to the court usually would side with decisions that favour private corporations, big business and the Republican Party.

Former president Gloria Arroyo appointed justices who would toe her line. The same thing goes for President Aquino’s appointees. Sooner or before his term is over, Noynoy Aquino would be able to pack the Supreme Court with his own flock of obeisant justices. Will Congress impeach an Aquino-appointed chief justice for partiality? Will the public rise against Aquino for subverting the ends of justice?

As a young man who witnessed the destruction of our democratic institutions during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, I saw how the Supreme Court and Congress bowed to the wishes of the dictator. Noynoy Aquino is trying to accomplish the same thing: to exact blind obedience from the legislative and judicial branches of government. No wonder that the veteran journalist Amando Doronilla has suggested that the Aquino government is being undemocratic.

What seems disturbing is how the Philippine media is distorting the truth about the Aquino government. Let Noynoy Aquino prosecute Gloria Arroyo for graft and corruption. The Aquino the government, however, has downgraded the charges of economic plunder for lack of evidence. This is an election promise he made during the election. He now has the full power of government to bring Arroyo to justice, and he should be commended for fulfilling his promise.

In the meantime, how about Aquino’s other equally important promises to revive the country’s faltering economy, including creating jobs and reducing poverty? Is the Aquino government only interested in instilling his platform of daang matuwid (the right path)? Is this the single purpose of the Aquino government?

Two years in his presidency, Noynoy Aquino’s singular devotion to his crusade against corruption has not yielded much progress. The imprisonment of Arroyo, the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona, and a possible revamp of the Supreme Court, will not be sufficient to declare an Aquino victory, for all these events may even outlive his administration.

Just last October 2011, President Noynoy Aquino signed two major land lease agreements with China and Japan. China would lease from the Philippines 1.2 million hectares of Philippine land for agricultural production, and Japanese corporations, one million hectares for bio-fuel production.

On her part, former President Gloria Arroyo brokered during her term agricultural land investment deals covering 1.37 million hectares for the production of agro-fuel stock, such as coconut, jathropa and oil palm for bio-diesel, and sugar, sweet sorghum, cassava, and molasses for bio-ethanol.

Conversion of farmlands for residential, commercial and other industrial purposes continues unabated. Leasing of Philippine agricultural lands to foreign governments and corporations is tantamount to an act of land grabbing and it leaves Filipino farmers nothing. Those who happen to live on these lands are not given the opportunity to even have a say on the appropriation of their lands.

How come the Philippine media has not criticized President Noynoy Aquino for continuing to lease lands to foreign governments and corporations to meet their agro-fuel demands and production of high-value cash crops for export? Is it because this may link the President with the current travails of the Hacienda Luisita?

It should be recalled that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Corona has ruled in favour of redistribution of the Hacienda Luisita to the farmers. Yet, nothing much has happened in implementing the court’s decision. Could this decision be a casualty of the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Corona, under whose watch this decision was made?

If veteran journalist Amando Doronilla was right in characterizing the present Aquino government as “vindictive,” the farmers of Hacienda Luisita should postpone any celebration of their victory. Wait and see what happens after the impeachment of Corona.

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