The Rule of Law

Much has been said about the rule of law lately. Many of those who disagree with the President’s position, claim to speak for the Rule of Law. The assault on Chief Justice Renato Corona they say is a travesty. They ask, how can we live in a society of rules, and not of men when the Palace disagrees with the decision of the Supreme Court, they will not obey it or apply pressure on the Justices to get what they want?

The position of lawyers come from a lifetime of training that they must obey the law, and follow the decisions of the Supreme Court even if the Court is wrong. They cite De Castro versus Judicial Bar Council as such a decision. How ever you think of De Castro versus JBC— for or against— the Supreme Court has ruled and that is now the law of the land.

On the other side of the argument, President Aquino is saying, “How can we have a rule of law when the Supreme Court is neither fair, nor partial How can we expect decisions full of wisdom when we don’t trust the Supreme Court to be fair?”

The disagreement between Aquino and Corona date back prior to Aquino’s election to the Presidency. Aquino views Corona’s acceptance of the position of Chief Justice as suspect. He views it as self-serving on Corona’s part. This was “Corona’s original sin“, Rina Jimenez-David wrote on the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

“Well, it seems President Aquino and his political allies held him to his word. They watched and waited and pounced when the opportunity presented itself. Corona shouldn’t be surprised or shocked at the impeachment. What started out as an uneasy relationship soon turned testy and nasty, and from there deteriorated into active hostility and conflict.”

President Aquino is saying: how can we have rule of law when the Supreme Court isn’t fair nor partial? How can we expect a fair ruling when we don’t trust the Supreme Court to be fair?

Luzvimi Entila on Facebook writes:

“sc chief justice corona has an upper hand would the issue be construed in pure legal perspective; but would the issue be viewed on the moral viewpoint, it would be otherwise — his supposed “stealing” of the sc chief justice post courtesy of the midnight appointment by then PGMA is for the public so constitutionally culpable a crime that merits but impeachment.

the deprivation of the President of his constitutional right and privilege to appoint SC chief justice is construed by the public as deprivation of the people of their very SOVEREIGNTY to appoint SC chief justice through their elected President.

the SC’s ruling over the legality of corona’s midnight appointment is viewed by many as self-serving, therefore unacceptable.

the public uproar against corona may not at all a legal ground for impeachment, yet, by corona’s case, it may be in the future, if not very soon.”

Wylie Chavez on Facebook chimed in with these words:

“CJ Corona…stop claiming to b d icon f Phil democracy..democracy is not on trial. YOU are..Stop saying d courts r on trial…you are not “the Court/s”…how can u carry urself w integrity when d very nature f ur appointment is questionable. How can u claim impartiality when your ties w Arroyo s undeniable…On these two counts u can’t even prove otherwise… “

Crissy, the [email protected] also dropped in her commentary:

“may not be an expert in law but you can feel the strong resistance of Filipinos against you. You accepted a post included in the so-called “midnight appointments” and by accepting such position you deprived the incoming president duly elected by the people to choose his Chief Justice among the nominees prepared by the Judicial and BarCouncil.

Resigning from your post I think will be the most appropriate and noble act to do amidst these controversies. We all love our country, we all respect our Constitution but the country needs to move on with a Chief Justice clear of any bad accusations, someone who has integrity and full trust and confidence of the Filipino people. The Supreme Court is the highest court of our country and if there are people who need first to respect, value and uphold the importance of the institution that duties lies on the Chief Justice and Associate Justices.”

Leomar’s Den asks independence or incompetence?

“The act was desperate and I can see that the Chief Justice is trying to drag the institution that he swore to defend into his own mess. The impeachment case is not against the Supreme Court but against the Chief Justice. It is not like someone is trying to control the Supreme Court and destroy its independence. It is the incompetence and partiality of certain justices inside this institution that is under attack. Had their shown competence and fairness on the cases that they have handled then I don’t think that we will have this problem. The impression that I am getting is that the Supreme Court is running counter to the Aquino administration. How can this administration effect its reforms and policies if there will be legal impediments along the way and if they keep on losing legal battles with other parties? Yes, they can say that they are independent but is this helping the country? Absolutely not! In fact, I think this is only helping the critics and the people who don’t want this administration to succeed. “

Samuel Pinaroc wrote on his wall saying,

IMPEACHMENT… let’s get it on… rat ratan na.. yea boy!! I hope something good will come out of this impeachment trial… This should have done a long long time ago… The Supreme Court not only under Chief Justice Coronas watch but all those who would be appointed later on should be accountable to the people and be punished accordingly if they have violated the law… ” NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW INCLUDING CHIEF JUSTICE CORONA OF THE SUPREME COURT… LET JUSTICE TAKE ITS DUE COURSE”

There are those like Princess Jhomane Lunario Nobleza who believe that the Palace is a bully:

“go chief justice corona fight for freedom of this country,..laban para hindi kau apak apakan nalang jan sa SC..”

David Michael San Juan says,

“Dear Chief Justice Corona, be the People’s Knight against the Yellow King. It’s never too late to abandon the dark side. Up the ante, Mr. Chief Justice, give ’em elite politicians a good fight. Side with us, the people AND WE WILL WIN THE FIGHT. Be our voice. While at the helm of the Supreme Court, radicalize jurisprudence. Decide in favor of workers, farmers etc. in all cases. Order the redistribution of haciendas for free. Declare contractualization unconstitutional. Strike down automatic debt appropriations. Hold Gen. Palparan and other officials accountable for past human rights abuses. YOU HAVE INFINITE POWER. Interpret all laws in our favor. Prove that you deserve our sympathy. Fight the oligarchs, tyrants etc. and side with us the people. Abandon Gloria’s sinking ship and don’t ever give in to the Yellow King. Prove your detractors wrong. Side with us, the people, abandon Gloria! Be the People’s Knight!”

Global Balita’s On a Distant Shore written by Val G. Abelgas, echoes this sentiment,

“Once Aquino succeeds in undermining the credibility of the Supreme Court, where will the people turn to for final adjudication? Will the people have to rely on extra-constitutional processes, like People Power, each time there is a judicial question that is not satisfactory to the majority? What makes a Supreme Court stuffed with Aquino appointees different from one that has nine Arroyo appointees? Is there any guarantee that an Aquino Court would be as independent as they should be? Or will they merely become a rubber stamp or protector of Aquino as the current court has been perceived to be to Arroyo? What if the Supreme Court declares the impeachment move unconstitutional before the Senate completes its trial? Will Aquino and the Senate defy that, too, and proceed with the trial? When will all these end?”

Veteran Columnist Teddy Locsin Jr. says, “The Noy Deal is no deal.” Locsin says, there is a huge difference between FDR and PNoy, the former had a plan, the latter does not. So he asks pointing out that if Aquino did have a reform agenda he would approve the passage of a Freedom of Information Act, “Who is he to question our sense of responsibility?”

People who disagree with Corona’s impeachment come largely from the perspective that the Supreme Court is being bullied by what they perceive as an All powerful Aquino as King. It is a fundamental disagreement that wouldn’t surprise me that they didn’t vote for President Aquino in the first place.

Then there are those like Mr. Locsin who are cynical— there is no reform agenda, and the President doesn’t know what he is doing. People rightly point out the slow process of Public Private Partnership programs, which holds much promise, but hasn’t really taken off. So the loudest voices haven’t really said the Corona Impeachement is wrong, rather, if President Aquino gets his wish and takes Corona down, and Arroyo out of the picture, is his Administration more than vendetta, or is it really about reform?

Reading De Castro versus Judicial Bar Council on the right of Arroyo to appoint a Chief Justice clearly could have gone differently. “Within 90 days”, the Constitution says the President must appoint one, and the retirement of Chief Justice Puno in May 2011 was well within that framework. To read it, unschooled in the law one could easily suspect that all excuses were made to fit the scenario that President Arroyo could appoint the Chief Justice though her term was about to end. Lawyers of course would have to follow the Supreme Court because that’s their, well bread and cheese.

The Law makes us civilized, but we have human brains and conscience to help us decide right from wrong. If an old lady happened to cross the street, but fell down and the street sign suddenly said, “Don’t walk”, would you break the jaywalking law, cross the street to help out the old lady or do you wait until the sign says, “Walk”, until you go over?

There is no doubt that in the sum of it all, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter. It remains so. In the Corona Impeachment case, though sometimes we think it is a circus, is an example that our system works. There is a check and balance between the three branches of government that when one oversteps, the others can resolve.

From President Aquino’s point of view, the story is simple. Renato Corona by accepting the role of Chief Justice, when he didn’t have to, and didn’t need to became part of the problem rather than the solution. How the Chief Justice is appointed is a question of law. But just because one could, doesn’t mean one should. Put it simply, knowing there is a cookie ready for eating, doesn’t mean you should eat it now. You could always wait after dinner to eat it or put it off because you’re on a diet, or it is bad for you. So it isn’t a question of the law, but a question of, are you willing to do the right thing.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.