War of words
The past few days have seen President Benigno Aquino III unloading a verbal barrage on Chief Justice Renato Corona just as the prosecution was losing its battle to open the High Court chief magistrate’s dollar and peso deposits.
Corona responded in kind through current and discredited claims, that is, that the President is getting back at him for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Hacienda Luisita case and that the President has psychological issues, which didn’t pan out in the 2010 elections and only made some people a lot more uneasy.
Despite possible differing views, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was Senate President during the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada and Sen. Joker Arroyo, another impeachment trial veteran, were one in saying that Aquino and Corona should cool off on their war of words before the public.
If only to bring some sense of balance and dispassionate conduct to the Senate impeachment trial, their advice is worth heeding. That advice is also shared by the country’s bishops, who try to maintain a neutral stance despite voicing fears of a constitutional crisis with the head-on collision between the presidency and the judiciary.
It’s not hard for the two men to simply keep their peace. The impetus for this word war lies frankly in the President, who is simply issuing inflammatory statements that under ordinary trial rules would be tantamount to outright contempt.
But the President takes comfort in the fact that the impeachment trial is a political exercise that plays into and is shaped by public opinion. Despite the considerable resources at his disposal, some of which are rumored to come from his benefactor former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Corona is at a disadvantage owing to his negative standing before the public.
After the Senate questioned how the prosecution managed to secure the bank documents that some of them considered illegal, notice how President Aquino fired back by saying that Corona’s continued stay as Chief Justice will make his anti-graft campaign so much more difficult.
At the heart of all this lies that “little girl” in the government hospital, whom her public relations people claimed is the target of a political persecution campaign by her successor.
It’s the “little girl,” not the “small lady” who remains the core issue of the impeachment trial. Corona is perceived as one of her instruments, albeit a very potent instrument, that stands in the way of the administration’s anti-graft campaign.
Having said all that, the President should refrain from issuing more statements that would distract from the impeachment trial. Let those in the Senate trial do their work. The public has more than enough people occupying their attention in this important political exercise.
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