Viewpoint

Rules

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If   you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?” Charlie Brown  asks in the award-winning comic strip “Peanuts.”

Investigative reporter  Marites  Vitug documented that  University of  Sto. Tomas  bent  rules to  vest a  PhD  degree  on  Supreme  Court  Chief  Justice  Renato Corona.  He never  submitted a  dissertation  and overshot UST’s complete-in-five-years  yardstick.

“Young men know the rules,” noted Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served as United States Supreme Court  justice 1902 to 1932. “But old  men know the exceptions.”

Sen. Francis  Escudero  stewed over “piece-meal  leakage of  evidence” against  Corona by some  Lower House prosecutors. “Respect  the Senate, as impeachment court,” Chiz snapped. “Observe it’s rules.”

“Are  critics  serious about impeachment rules?” asked Inquirer’s Conrado de Quiros. Then, they should warn  Court spokesperson Midas Marquez, paid his salary with taxpayers’ money, “against lawyering for Corona.”

In  geo-hazard  areas,  rules to safeguard lives  are routinely fractured. Over 125 people  were  entombed  by  mudslides in Compostela Valley since 2003. That  excludes the 30  killed last week,  National  Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council revealed.

Typhoon “Sendong” floods  wiped out  an entire community perched  on a sandbar dubbed  “Isla de Oro.”  Overall  death toll in Northern Mindanao  now exceeds  1,453. Some  will never be accounted for.

“They create the future who watch the present,  and learn from the past.” Cagayan de  Oro mayor Vicente Emano and allies never learned from past  “tutorials”  like the November  1991 Ormoc City  tragedy. Within an hour, floodwaters dumped  by Typhoon Uring  (Thelma) swept  4,875  to their deaths.  Emano denies he was shooting craps when the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration repeatedly  warned that “Sendong” had swerved  from Cebu to Cagayan and Iligan.

“Rules are for the obedience of  fools but  guidance of wise men.” Kristin, who is all of  8, agrees. She scribbled 12 guidelines for the study room  she shares with our other  grand-daughter Katarina, 5. Kristin captioned her handiwork,  “Rules.”

“Don’t give the dolls a shower,” says Rule No. 5. Rule  No. 6, is a follow-up: “Don’t put the shampoo on your skin.” These are preceded  by  Rule No. 2: “Minimize your voice.”  And  Rule No. 9 stipulates: “No throwing items without permition.”

“Should it be double S?” asks  Kathie when we note  the error. She  pencils in the correction—and scrawls in  Rule No. 13: “Don’t be so mene.” She meant  “mean,” of course.  But you catch the drift: Rules kept result in order.

The Constitution contains basic rules. One is Article VII. It  bans appointments two months before a presidential election. That  clamp holds until end of the incumbent’s term, that is, noon of June 30.

Proposed by delegate (later chief justice) Hilario Davide,  that was  stitched into the 1987 Constitution precisely to prevent a repeat of  quarter-to-midnight appointments by previous presidents. Carlos P. Garcia named 350. Diosdado Macapagal  tripled that.

Forty-five years later, Macapagal’s daughter would  outdo them  all, “Viewpoint” noted in “Mocking the midnight bell” (PDI /June 5, 2010 ).  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stuffed  midnighters  into a  score of agencies: from  the Monetary Board,  Commission on Muslim  Filipinos  to Court  of Appeals.

In a “Cinderella spree,” she  renamed  racketeers to  official gambling casino Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.,  promoted  Malacañang gardener Armando Macapagal to  Luneta Park—and  her former chief of staff  Renato Corona as Supreme Court chief justice

“No,”  protested  the President’s manicurist, Anita Carpon,  “Count me out.” She had been given a “midnight appointment” to Pag-ibig Fund. “Here is one lady who still knows how to blush.”

Did  Corona  blush when he  accepted the post of  Supreme Court chief justice?  Who knows? What  we know is Corona had  sufficient warning.

“According to the Aytona case ( 1962 ) and Valenzuela case ( 1998 ), when the president-elect is known, authority of the incumbent is only to ensure an orderly transfer of power,” constitutional expert Joaquin Bernas pointed out.  If  Arroyo insists  on naming a chief justice, she  courted  the possibility  that the Congress would impeach him.

That  has now come to pass.

Former  senator  Rene Saguisag  has consistently held  Corona  is a “de facto, not de jure chief justice.”  As such, Corona  has  sole  responsibility, under Presidential Decree. No. 1949 (series of  1984)  for billion-peso Judiciary Development Fund.

But  Saguisag  students fielded to ferret information on the JDF  hit a blank wall. Indeed, the tribunal  is the least  transparent branch of  government, Marites Vitug writes in her award-winning book: “Beyond a Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court.”

To spur transparency,  Republic Act 6713  stipulates: Public servants must “accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know [their] assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses.”

“Corona cannot hide behind an illegal self-serving interpretation” exempting the SC from a requirement others comply with, Saguisag says. Justices Antonio Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno, meanwhile,  released their statement of assets and liabilities.

Other  justices  twist in the wind.  Actress Katherine Hepburn’s excuse  will do for now.  “If you heed the rules, you’ll miss all  the fun.”

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