Legal schizo | Inquirer News

Legal schizo

/ 07:54 AM March 20, 2012

Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today,” African sages  counsel. What will a post Renato Corona Supreme Court look like? The transition is inevitable. Will it come sooner, not later? How?

No one can foresee how 23 senator-judges of  differing values and experience will vote. “The heart of man and the bottom of the sea are unfathomable.” The perspectives of a Ferdinand Marcos Jr. differ from that of, say a Sen. Joker Arroyo.


Before he donned a judge’s toga. Bongbong  tracked his late father’s cronies. Lucio Tan  and others absconded with martial law loot, he griped. Arroyo led the prosecution in President Estrada’s impeachment. “We cannot have a country run by a  thief,” Arroyo said  in his December 2000 opening statement.

“On trial today … is not just Corona,” writes Institute for Studies in Church and Culture’s Perla Melba Maggay. Also in the dock are senator-judges, media, our democratic system—and our capacity as a nation to pursue justice and put closure to sins of the past.


“Filipinos are personalistic,” she added. “What seems to work (are) personal connections and an intricate network of loyalties based on interconnected interests and kinship.” This pressures the formal system. It exposes “the lack of fit between formal adjudication system and realities of our political culture.”

Impeachment (must) fulfill the substance of the law, not just the appearance,” Maggay adds. “The letter kills,” says the Apostle Paul. We must “make accountability work within the constitutional remedies available to us …  Usual circumventing the law will  force our people to take to the streets as the only recourse available to them.”

Many citizens deploy guesswork-beyond-tea-leaves in Corona’s impeachment. What do strained faces of witnesses mean?, we wonder. Torrents of legal minutiae swamp us.  “You tithe mint, dill and cummin but  neglect the weightier matters of the law—justice,  mercy and faithfulness,” an itinerant  teacher once said.

Mondays to Thursdays, we hold our breaths as Corona ’s defense panel juggle Jekyll and Hyde positions. At media blitzes, Corona vows  complete “transparency.” But he balks at revealing all his bank accounts. He shrugs off  suggestions by senator judges that he voluntarily testify. How about Cristina Corona  taking the stand? His lawyers offered.

“There are really bank accounts under his name,” a peeved Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told Inquirer. “(They should) get to the point. And let’s finish this case.”

See this legal schizophrenia in the context of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “sow-dragon-teeth” exit strategy, now in tatters.

In Greek mythology, Jason scattered teeth of the dragon slain at the spring of Arbes. And from them rose warriors who battled  for  him. The phrase now means systematic fomenting of disputes.


GMA’s bids for term extension  sputtered.   Before leaving  Malacañang, she arranged to run for Congress and signed scores of “midnight appointees.” These “dragon teeth” warriors were to beat back sleaze accusations.

The Arroyos were confident  this rampart wouldn’t buckle. “Mama” would even seek to become Speaker of the House, Rep. Mikey Arroyo announced:

“Every path has it’s puddle.” President Carlos Garcia’s 350 midnight nominees were fired the day Diosdado Macapagal took his oath as eighth Philippine  president. “Cong  Dadong” tripled  “midnighters” to 1,717 when he left the Palace with young daughter Gloria in tow.  GMA outdid Dad.

President-elect Benigno Aquino  fired  Delfin Bangit, named Armed Forces chief of staff by GMA to overshoot her own term by 11 months. He cashiered re-appointed  Pagcor officials who paid P1.7 billion for 10 million cups of coffee. GMA rehired Omsbudsman  Merceditas Gutierrez for a term that sliced deeply into President Aquino’s watch. Gutierrez quit April 2011, a month after the House of Representatives impeached her for coddling Arroyo interests.

Consider former Chief Justice Manuel Moran’s delicadeza, Inquirer’s Solita Monsod suggested when news leaked that Corona would be named Chief Justice. After serving as ambassador, Moran declined a midnight re-appointment. Leave that to the incoming President, he demurred.

Moran’s example was institutionalized into the 1987 Constitution. It sees an outgoing president as caretaker and explicitly barred midnight appointments. No exceptions. The Arroyo Court handcuffed President-elect Benigno Aquino. In a 9-3-1 vote, the tribunal exempted a Chief Justice from the ban.

That’s a prohibited amendment by judicial tinkering, observed Ateneo’s Joaquin Bernas. He’d be a de-facto Chief Justice, not legit, former senator Rene Saguisag warned. Corona scurried to don a Chief Justice’s robes.

Among “dragon teeth” battlers, only Corona is left. GMA is detained on election sabotage cases. That reduces impeachment to its gut issue: Does Corona meet the standards required for a Chief Justice?

“It’s all about character,” businessman Peter Wallace writes. “Corona does not meet the high standards demanded of the position. But if the trial continues to its end whatever the outcome, I can’t imagine how he can remain as Chief Justice … It would certainly put the Supreme Court in a continually questionable position.”

Corona never pretended to be a Thomas More. Credit him with brains. He knows the story of the ghostly finger that traced on the walls of King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace: Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Parshin. “You have been weighed in the  balance and found wanting.”

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TAGS: Corona impeachment trial, senator-judges
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