Has the Supreme Court sparked a constitutional crisis?
Not really. All it’s done is to spark a credibility crisis—on its part.
Its TRO on the opening of Renato Corona’s dollar accounts may have temporarily shielded him from more harm—too late just shielding him from harm since his peso accounts are damning enough in themselves—but it opens up the Judiciary itself to more harm. It adds whole new words after the modifier “supreme.” Wisdom is not one of them.
What’s wrong about the TRO is—everything.
One, it aids and abets corruption. Of course there’s a law that says dollar accounts may not be opened. But that law is not absolute. An exception was made to it before in the case of a foreigner who raped a Filipino woman and was ordered to make restitution. An exception can be made to it again, notwithstanding PSBank president Pascual Garcia III’s “legal” opinion—I was utterly floored when he made it—that the Supreme Court closed the door to it forever. Exceptional circumstances demand circumstantial exceptions.
The law is there for a reason. I can imagine how without it someone like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could threaten critics, local and foreign, to open their dollar accounts and impound them. But not allowing any exceptions to it poses graver dangers. It opens the door to corruption of epic proportions. Or it makes it easy for the corrupt to hide their loot. The corrupt won’t need to launder their money anymore. They won’t need to go abroad and stash their ill-gotten wealth in the Swiss banks. All they’ll need is to hold dollar accounts in PSBank.
The reason big-time crooks are not able to do that today is the fear, rightly so, that where a paper trail leads to it, those accounts might be looked into. The guarantee of privacy to depositors ends where national interest begins.
The Inquirer deposits my pay in PSBank Chino Roces branch. After seeing Garcia stonewall the impeachment court last week, refusing to reveal or even talk about Corona’s dollar accounts—he either has to be the most principled man on earth or he had been told the Court would issue the TRO—I am tempted to withdraw everything and put it in another bank. Or ask my office to do it for me. The notion that I have the same bank as Corona seems to me like the notion that I have the same tailor as Lady Godiva.
Two, it perpetuates the culture of impunity. Or more specifically in this case, it perpetuates the culture of shamelessness, the culture of brazenness, the culture of garapalan.
The problem here is not that the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the power of the impeachment court. I’d agree here as well that the power of the impeachment court may not be absolute, it ought to be subject to review. Easy in this case to be completely on the side of the impeachment court, but look back on the Erap trial and see if you would have felt the same way. If the prosecution then had sought to bring the question of opening the second envelope to the Supreme Court, I’d have agreed. Of course that point became academic after the people erupted spontaneously and took matters into their own hands. But the same principle applies, there should be exceptions to the rule.
But if so, then there are far more exceptional circumstances that ought to have prevented the Supreme Court from issuing its TRO. There are far more exceptional circumstances that ought to have prevented the Supreme Court from interfering with the impeachment in general. Those circumstances are that it is the head of the Supreme Court himself on trial. Those circumstances are that several justices themselves are on trial, or at least are being asked to be subpoenaed by several senator-judges. Those circumstances are that the Supreme Court itself is on trial, or at least as it has become since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Corona to head it.
For the Supreme Court to sit in judgment over itself, that is conflict of interest. That is shamelessness. That is garapalan.
Whatever happened to delicadeza? Whatever happened to basic decency? The reason Corona finds himself in the straits he’s in is precisely because he has banished those things by accepting a midnight appointment and by voting in cases involving his patron, never mind unwaveringly in her favor. The Supreme Court does the same. The culture of impunity merely means that the law has become so powerless it allows people to get away with murder. This is worse: It means the law has become so powerful it routinely commits murder itself.
Three, Corona has repeatedly said he has nothing to hide. Serafin Cuevas has repeatedly said he has nothing to hide. His supporters, real or hakot, have repeatedly said he has nothing to hide. So why is he hiding his dollars?
It was Miriam Santiago who argued for liberalism at the beginning of Corona’s impeachment trial out of her experience with the Erap impeachment trial. She was one of those, she said, who refused to allow the second envelope be opened on completely legal grounds. As it would turn out, she said, there was nothing compromising in the contents of that envelope. But the public, sensing that the court was hiding something, took to the streets.
Well, that was just part of it. The other reason was the overbearing behavior of senator-judges like Santiago herself, and the public’s perception, and rightly so, of the law being used to get around the law, of the law being used to thwart justice. It’s a good reminder of what happens when you try to hide things. It’s a good reminder of what happens when you use the law to thwart justice. It’s a good reminder of what happens when you reduce the people to a state of frustration or elevate them to a state of furiousness. They play truth and consequence.