Yesterday, 188 Members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The House of Representatives charged the Chief Justice of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, as well as graft and corruption. The Philippine Daily Inquirer remarked that it was, “Swift”. It is a move everyone agrees that target specifically Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The administration has long argued that Mrs. Arroyo left behind a Supreme Court specifically to shield her from reprisals after she has stepped down. The argument began even before President Aquino took office. In fact, the showdown started days after being declared the winner of the 2010 elections, with Corona accepting the midnight position of the Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Corona’s acceptance of the position at the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term as President is precisely what casts doubt over the Corona Court. That acceptance has cast a long shadow of doubt on the impartiality of the Supreme Court. It also doesn’t help the image of the Supreme Court when Midas Marquez would speak on their behalf. It also doesn’t help that the existing perception of Justice in the Philippines is one riddled with Corruption, and that decisions can be bought.
Impeachment is a political act, and a number’s game. Impeachment is both easy and hard to do. The constitution requires 1/3 of Congress to impeach an official. That number is difficult to attain on any given day, as recent history to impeach Mrs. Arroyo proved to be difficult. In this case, the Liberal Party has the numbers in the lower House of Congress. The Senate now transformed into a Court will be a different battle ground. Aquino only has four members of his party, and one could make the case that the Estradas and their allies will side with Aquino.
Impeachment isn’t about being guilty. Impeachment is being indicted. So now, Chief Justice Corona will have to face his day in court.
Like getting Merci Gutierez from her position as Ombudsman six months ago, the case against Chief Justice Corona is seen as a way to dismantle Arroyo’s defenses. And also, not too long ago, those opposed to the Administration have long argued that President Aquino isn’t doing anything, or enough. Now, the President has gone on the offensive and is flexing his high approval ratings.
Some are saying the move against Mrs. Arroyo and CJ Corona and others is a witching to distract the public from the “terrible” economy— an economy that grew in an anemic, 3.2 percent amidst a worldwide economic downturn. I agree with many of the critics in so far as the government is slow to spend money, and to build infrastructure. Everyone knows that spending and building infrastructure is a way to ignite economic activity. However, I also agree with the government that it should be prudent in spending money. Couldn’t there be a way to do both? Prudently spend, but vigorously pursue public private partnerships?
The list of live Public Private Partnership projects seem to be too few. The page also lists that these projects are in advanced stages of preparation of tender. At the time of this writing, I count one education project— PPP for school infrastructure project totaling 10.04 billion pesos. There is one project from the Department of Health— Vaccine Self Sufficiency Project which amounts to PHP0.90 billion pesos. Over at the Transportation department, it has the Puerto Princesa Airport Development totaling PHP4.2 billion. Lastly, public works lists the Daang Hari (PHP 1.96 billion) and the NLEX-SLEX connector.
The list of prospective PPP projects is longer, though. A little bit more vigor, never hurt.
Going back to the notion of justice, while I am for CJ Corona’s indictment, as well as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s arrest. Let us also not forget that pursuing cases on Diokno, and those responsible for the August 2010 hostage taking debacle be held accountable. It is also prudent, wouldn’t you agree? Likewise getting every public official’s SLAN be appropriate too. One has to wonder how many representatives of the House actually filed proper Statements of Assets and Liabilities, and in the spirit of “Daan Matuwid”, if they failed, to, shouldn’t they also be held accountable?
What about important pieces of legislation? Take for example the Freedom of Information act, and the Reproductive Health Bill, both of which remain proposed legislation. The debate on Reproductive Health is over. At least in the public sphere, the majority of which agree that it is a good piece of legislation. Yet it continues to languish in the halls of Congress. Some argue that our lawmakers should be pursing those bills. Some also argue that the President should be pursing those bills as well, and by focusing much energy on their perception of a witching against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it translates that the President isn’t interested in important pieces of legislation.
Business leaders surveyed that Corruption and lack of stable policy are two of the top primary reasons why too few invest in the Philippines. The President won his election riding on an anti-poverty platform, and continues to have high approval ratings. The President’s Legislative-Executive Agenda which he revealed early in 2011 highlights is top, top priority. So is the Palace simply doing what most people want it to do? One would argue that yes, it does. It also doesn’t mean that FOI and RH bills aren’t important or are not needed. It just means he is going all out on his war against Corruption.
In the President’s words,*
“Marangal at maayos po nating sinubok na isulong ang prosesong ito sa pamamagitan ng Truth Commission, ngunit unang hakbang pa lamang natin, hinarang na agad ng Korte Suprema sa ilalim ng Punong Mahistradong si Renato Corona. Hindi po kami sang-ayon, pero pinilit po naming sundin ang kanilang desisyon, bilang paggalang sa institusyon ng Korte Suprema.”
Given President Aquino’s high approval ratings, he has license to hunt. Given too the number of people who seem to be angry at Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it would seem a lot of people continue to support Aquino’s effort in the fight against corruption. There is a weakness in the economy, with rising cost, particularly due to high cost of power, taxes, and exacerbated by a global economic downturn and leadership crisis, will apply more pressure on the Philippine economic recovery. It also wouldn’t hurt the President if he showed the same vigor in pursuing PPP, and weeding out those who screwed up in his own backyard. It isn’t madness or injustice to pursue cases against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Chief Justice Corona, and others, and high time the President showed vigor, and I hope makes it count too in other areas.
Photo via gov.ph
*This entry was updated to include a quote from the President’s speech on the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona.