Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saving the Supreme Court | Inquirer Opinion

Saving the Supreme Court | Inquirer Opinion

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With impeachment defined as a judicial and political process, the Senate sitting as an impeachment court should affirm at least one of the charges against Chief Justice Renato Corona to force him to vacate his position. Corona is one of the remnants of the rear defense set up by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before she stepped down from the presidency. (Another was former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.) The impeachment and eventual ouster of the Chief Justice will not weaken but rather strengthen the Supreme Court, for it would send a clear message that the justices’ allegiance should be to the people and the pursuit of truth, justice and accountability, as enshrined in the Constitution.

The acts and decisions of the Supreme Court in the recent past clearly failed to manifest this obligation. On the contrary, the Corona Court used its power as the final arbiter of the law and the Constitution to frustrate efforts to make GMA accountable. It is so obvious that GMA potentially violated laws during her term of office and needs a lot of explaining to do, but the Court, rather than expediting the search for truth and accountability, opted instead to try to insulate her. The Court tried to give her the opportunity to flee, using as an excuse her supposedly unassailable right to travel even when it was clear that she needed to stay in the country and answer the charges against her. These acts of the Supreme Court led by Corona manifest the “in-your-face impunity” that characterized the Arroyo administration and should not have a place in our judicial system.

Had the high court during the Arroyo administration acted independently and had it been guided by the search for truth, justice and accountability, we could have put closure to the “Hello, Garci” scandal, the NBN-ZTE scandal, the fertilizer scam, and a number of other celebrated corruption cases that remain unresolved up to now. The Supreme Court justices should realize and acknowledge that they play a crucial role in the fight against corruption and should be guided accordingly in deciding gray issues.

Unless there is a change in the Supreme Court leadership, President Aquino’s efforts for the truth to come out regarding these allegations of corruption and election cheating, and potential plunder cases, will likely continuously be frustrated by the Corona Court, hiding behind the cloak of judicial independence. We should know better.

That our judiciary is broken and needs fixing is no secret. In a birthday lunch last Wednesday with a group that included a senior partner of one of the top law firms in the country, the lawyer commented that the judicial system is corrupt and it is frustrating for one who studied law so hard to eventually realize that court cases are not always decided on the basis of the law but on “other” considerations. He said that in some instances, this goes all the way to the top.

We all know this. Even former President Joseph Estrada referred to some justices as “hoodlums in robes.” And these hoodlums do not want to change the status quo which might happen if Corona is convicted. His conviction could be the catalyst for the needed drastic cleansing that the judiciary needs.

The conviction of Corona will thus improve the chances to fix what is terribly wrong with the judiciary. Why would we preserve a system that is perceived as corrupt and inept? One that took 20 years to resolve a corruption case involving high officials of the Philippine National Police so that five of the accused were already dead by the time the decision was promulgated? Unless drastic reforms are initiated, the trial of the Ampatuans et al. in the Maguindanao massacre could take as long. The many dedicated judges and justices who are truly committed to upholding the law and providing justice in a swift and fair manner should welcome a cleansing of their ranks and the purging of those who give our justice system a bad name.

The President needs us to support him at this time. To make it known that the Filipino people are behind him in this fight to end the culture of corruption that infects us.

This fight can only be successful if the big fish and their cohorts are brought to justice. And those who stand in the way of our search for the truth and obstruct true justice should be charged as well, like what the President is now doing.

Surveys have shown that close to 70 percent of Filipinos support the President in going after Arroyo. Those who want the status quo will not stand idly by and will use all their influence and power to block our search for the truth.

We cannot and should not let this happen. This is a golden opportunity for us to put an end to the corruption that has plagued our country all these decades. We should not be afraid to speak up. The country’s top business organizations need to be counted. They should not sit on the fence, just watching the drama now unfolding before us. The leaders of these organizations know how corrupt and inept the judiciary is and should start speaking up.
Do not turn a blind eye on the truth. Do not let this golden opportunity slip away. Unite and openly support our President in this war against corruption which we cannot afford to lose.

David L. Balangue is a former chairman and managing partner of SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co. and is the current chairman of the Coalition Against Corruption. Comments may be sent to"