Way to go, Mr. President

“Right is right, Wrong is wrong.” – Chief Justice Renato Corona

Maybe it was because he never went to Harvard to study law or maybe because he was brought up to speak out when he saw something wrong. Not to wait for the right time to say it so as to save the wrongdoer from embarrassment. Maybe he just has balls of steel because President Aquino did not hesitate to call out the Supreme Court at a justice summit it organized in cooperation with the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Governments. The summit was a lawyers’ den but the president had the courage to point out to them that what was legal was not necessarily right.

The president cited four questionable decisions by the Court, two are a bit technical so a crafty lawyer can justify them to a non-lawyer. But the other two can be easily understood even by those without a formal education so the same crafty lawyer risks having his teeth kicked in if he dares argue their righteousness. I’m talking about the TRO on the watchlist order on Gloria Arroyo and the decision to create a congressional seat for Dato Arroyo, the younger son of Mike and Gloria.

On the TRO the president pointed out, “Pansinin po ninyo: Nang naglabas ng TRO ang Korte Suprema, may kaakibat itong mga kondisyon. Subalit hindi nagtagal, sila mismo ang umaming hindi naman pala kailangang tuparin ang mga alituntuning ito. Aba, e naglagay ka pa ng patakaran kung wala ka naman palang balak na masunod ito.”

On the creation of a new congressional district for Dato Arroyo, the president said, “Isang halimbawa pa po ng desisyon nilang mahirap unawain ay tungkol sa paggawa ng mga distrito sa Kongreso: Sa Article 6, Section 5 ng Saligang Batas, kinakailangang mas higit sa dalawandaan at limampung libo ang populasyon ng bawat distrito. Ang problema: may mga hindi nakakaabot sa bilang na ito, tulad na lamang ng isang distrito sa Camarines Sur na may mahigit isandaan pitumpu’t anim na libo lamang ang populasyon. Kaya noong nasa Senado pa tayo, bilang chairman ng Committee on Local Government, kinwestyon natin ang pagbuo ng distritong ito, subalit ibinasura lamang ito ng Korte Suprema. Ang tanong ngayon: kung hindi na nakasalalay sa populasyon ang paglikha ng distrito, ano ang magiging basehan ng mga mambabatas kapag may panukalang redistricting? Ibig bang sabihin, may nakalatag tayong batayan kapag lungsod ang binubuo, pero kapag lalawigan o distrito, wala na?”

From Noli de Castro to Supreme Court spokesomething Midas Marquez the negative reaction to the president’s speech was focused on its propriety and the need to obey without question or protest the Court’s edicts. They place the burden of upholding the Court’s stature on others, as if tyranny would be the inevitable consequence if a president questions the Court’s decisions, as if anarchy would follow if the public holds the Court in contempt. But to those who reacted positively to the president’s speech, the burden was on the Court to earn the public’s trust and respect.

The president must have anticipated the reactions to his speech because he closed it with:

“Iginagalang po natin ang pagkakapantay sa kapangyarihan ng hudikatura at ng ehekutibong sangay ng gobyerno. Wala po tayong balak na tapakan ang karapatan nila, o bastusin ang kredibilidad ng sinuman. Pero kailangan nating balikan ang mga batayang prinsipyo ng ating demokrasya. Kami pong mga nanumpa sa tungkulin ay iisa lamang ang pinagkakautangan ng loob: kayong mga Boss namin, ang sambayanang Pilipino. Narito kami para maglingkod sa ating bansa; at para may manilbihan nang buong katapatan at sigasig sa mga Pilipino.

“Ngayon, kung may isang lingkod-bayan na tumatanaw ng utang ng loob, hindi sa taumbayan na siyang dapat na bukal ng aming kapangyarihan, kundi sa isang padron na isiniksik siya sa puwesto, maaasahan po kaya natin siyang intindihin ang interes ng Pilipino?

“Hindi po ako nagtapos ng abugasya. Gayumpaman, lumaki tayong may malinaw na pananaw kung alin ang tama, at kung alin ang mali; kung alin ang makatao, at kung alin ang tiwali. Naninindigan pa rin akong ang katarungan ay hindi manibelang basta-basta naililiko sa kung saan nais sumadsad ng mga mahistrado. Hindi ito laruan ng mga abugado’t hukom na binabaliktad at pinapasirko ayon sa kanilang kagustuhan.

“Obligasyon ko, at obligasyon nating lahat na manatiling tumahak sa iisang direksyon, sa ilalim ng nagkakaisa nating adhika: ang paglingkuran at pangalagaan ang interes ng sambayanan. Sa lahat ng nakikibalikat sa atin sa tuwid na daan, manalig kayo: Hangga’t nasa tama tayo, wala tayong laban na aatrasan. Hanggang nasa likod natin ang taumbayan, magtatagumpay tayo. Huwag natin silang bibiguin.”

The president threw the Chief Justice’s words back at him. (See the quote at the top of the page.)

Way to go, Mr. President!

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.