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.”