Opinion


Corona Court damaged badly




To Take A Stand
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.


Posted on November 29, 2011


Sen. Joker Arroyo assailed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for openly defying the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO). He said that GMA’s right to travel was merely incidental when compared to the executive branch’s move to emasculate and damage the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court under the leadership of Renato Corona has long been emasculated and damaged before Secretary De Lima ignored the court’s order. It is so by its own doing.

In the eyes of legal eagles and political pundits, Secretary de Lima’s defiance of the court’s order was wrong. But civil society groups, party lists, and even employee associations like the Philippine Airlines flight attendants, ever the first to denounce transgressions of the law, not only hailed De Lima’s defiance of the court, they mobilized themselves to prevent the Arroyos from departing. To these politicized citizens, the Corona Court has lost its moral authority to enforce the provisions of the Constitution for it has itself violated the Constitution, not once but several times.

Renato Corona’s midnight appointment as chief justice was itself in violation of the provisions of the Constitution. His associates in the court, all appointees of GMA, affirming the legality of his appointment as chief justice was in defiance of the Constitution.

The Corona Court set aside the Constitution so that Dato Arroyo, son of GMA, can have a district to represent. The representative of the old 2nd District of Camarines Sur previous to Dato wanted to be back in Congress as the district’s representative. The GMA subservient Congress broke up the district into two, one for Dato and the other for the former representative, a true son of the district.

That act of Congress was questioned before the Supreme Court as there would be disproportionate representation of Camarines Sur in Congress in contravention of the provision of the Constitution on equal representation. However, the Supreme Court upheld Congress. So, now the district formerly represented in Congress by one congressman is now represented by two whereas the two larger districts are represented by only one each.

The older son of GMA, Mikey, has to have a seat in Congress too. The sycophants of Gloria Arroyo in the COMELEC allowed him Mikey to represent “Ang Galing Pinoy,” the party list of tricycle drivers and security guards in Congress. The Supreme Court quickly dismissed the disqualification complaint against Mikey citing that the case was outside its jurisdiction.

But the Supreme Court moved swiftly to stop impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez following her petition for certiorari and prohibition, when impeachment is well within the province of the House of Representatives. Gutierrez also claimed that the two impeachment complaints against her violated the constitutional provision that allowed only one case a year. But instead of stopping the proceedings on the second impeachment complaint and allowing the first one filed to be heard, the Corona Court issued an indefinite order for a serious status quo ante on both complaints. The order shielded Gutierrez from any adverse move against her for five months, which in turn prevented any graft charges against Arroyo from prospering until last week.

The Corona Court has flip-flopped five times on the constitutionality of the laws making 16 municipalities cities. And just recently, on a mere letter from lawyer Estelito Mendoza, it recalled its decision, reached with finality with no further pleadings to be entertained, ordering the reinstatement of 1,400 Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight attendants. The flight attendants pointed out that the high tribunal had said three times that “PAL’s retrenchment was illegal.”

The issuance of the TRO against De Lima’s hold departure order seems to have been issued with undue and unusual haste when there was no urgency for it as GMA’s health condition, according to the abstracts submitted by her doctors, was not life-threatening. According to some non-partisan lawyers, Corona should have ordered an en banc session to hear the oral arguments of de Lima before issuing the TRO. Instead, he issued the TRO before de Lima could argue against the TRO, raising the suspicion of many that he was really giving the Arroyos the chance to flee before any criminal complaint could be filed against them.

If a mere letter from the counsel of the respondent in a case can make the Corona Court recall a final decision affirmed twice, would it be considered bold of the Secretary of Justice to hold in abeyance an order of the Corona Court until she has argued against the order as is the standard judicial procedure?

Last year the academic world accused the Corona Court of intellectual dishonesty when it absolved Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo of plagiarism. The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines accused the Supreme Court of abetting a culture of intellectual sloth and dishonesty. The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations declared plagiarism thievery of intellectual property.

After exculpating del Castillo, the Corona Court issued a show-cause contempt order to UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen and 37 members of the faculty for demanding the resignation of Del Castillo. Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno pointed out that “it is not the place of the Court to seek revenge against those who, in their wish to see reform in the judiciary, have the courage to say what is wrong with it. The Court finds its legitimacy in demonstrating its moral vein case after case, not in flaunting its judicial brawn.”

The Court’s decision declaring the Truth Commission unconstitutional was indicative of that culture of intellectual dishonesty. The Corona Court shot down the proposed Truth Commission because it singled out the GMA administration and made it a vehicle for selective retribution, in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Yet the same Corona Court did not find the Anti-Graft Commission in violation of that clause of the Constitution when that commission covered only presidential appointees, to the exclusion of other government officials. Corona was the presidential chief of staff and spokesman when then President Arroyo formed the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission in April 2001.

Anyway, that character infirmity of intellectual dishonesty seems to be true also of the Corona Court’s spokesman, Midas Marquez. After Justice Sereno officially advised Marquez that it was wrong for him to say that the TRO on de Lima’s hold departure order against the Arroyos was in full force and effect, he told media that he respected Sereno’s opinion, making it appear that the issue was a matter of opinion, when in fact it was the ruling of the court by a vote of 7-6 that the TRO was deemed suspended pending compliance by GMA and her husband with Condition No. 2 of the TRO.

It is not the first time that Marquez had displayed intellectual dishonesty. Earlier this year, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales asked Marquez to correct his statement that all the justices were given copies of Merceditas Gutierrez’ 60-page petition before they took a vote on the status quo ante order stopping the House impeachment proceeding against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. When he was confronted with the fact that some justices had not really been given copies before the deliberation on the order, he said he was just quoting a clerk of the court.

That he was not dismissed for such a blatant lie only shows he is a protected underling. The strain on his face and the crack in his voice when he announced that GMA was barred from leaving the country because RTC Judge Jesus Mupas had issued a warrant of arrest against her only confirmed whose lackey he really is.

That culture of intellectual dishonesty is also manifested by the people who surround GMA. After Dr. Mario Ver, GMA’s bone doctor, had told Judge Mupas last Friday that GMA was well on the way to recovery, ANC’s Pinky Webb asked Raul Lambino, one of GMA’s official spokespersons, how GMA was. Lambino said that GMA was already getting well at home until she was hustled at the airport. It was as if he had not been saying just days before that GMA’s bone disease had worsened, spreading down to the lower part of her spine, threatening not only permanent paralysis but death, that is why the urgency to seek treatment abroad.

Well, it should not surprise anybody that Lambino can prevaricate through his teeth. It should be recalled that in 2006, he started a movement called Sigaw ng Bayan whose aim was to gather enough signatures calling for charter change. The Supreme Court, then headed by Artemio Panganiban, rejected Sigaw ng Bayan’s initiative, calling it a “grand deception” and a “gigantic fraud” on the Filipino people.

Speaking of grand deception, that airport incident where GMA was “hustled” was a grand deception gone wrong. Considering that Elena Bautista Horn was into events management before she joined government, it is not inconceivable that she stage managed the whole thing. She was very visible and grating during that event.

She kept on saying that PNoy had sworn to uphold the Constitution and yet he denied GMA her constitutional right to travel. Horn ignored the fact that GMA had sworn to uphold the same Constitution not once but twice and that it was GMA when she was president who ordered her Secretary of Justice Alberto Agra to issue Circular 41, the same circular Horn finds in violation of the Constitution. That is intellectual dishonesty.