Monthly Archives: February 2012

“The scenario of a Mob Rule is More than just a Possibility”

For a Senator-Judge to sift through the conflicting and numerous points of view that have been brought forward by a good number of varied legal luminaries as well as ordinary citizens whose rights are indirectly but equally at stake in these proceedings, they must “un-clutter” their minds with the non-essentials of the case. This is a time to revert to the “basics” which is to determine guilt or innocence based on admissible evidence in relation to the articles of impeachment that conform to impeachable offenses; but in the process, upholding the rules and laws enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution is the bedrock and foundation of our democratic form of government even if it is incapable of theatrics akin to the behavior of a lynch mob such as the one that is again beginning to rear its head.

The scenario of a “rule of mob” is more than just a “possibility” because it is assisted and encouraged by the President no less (let’s not beat around the bush), the majority of Representatives of Congress including some from the Upper House that are dressed as Senator-Judges but conduct themselves as prosecutors, and a media (the giant Lopez broadcast network and Inquirer in print) that has surrendered its’ “watchdog” role and impartiality to the whims and desires of PNoy himself. On the other hand, the rights of the individual clearly spelled out in the Bill of Rights, rights that are considered the most basic and important of rights of a citizen of the Philippines, can be no more dramatic than it is as stated in our Constitution. But when these rights are put to a test, there can be no second guessing or leeway for “liberality,” much less denial of these rights, even in this type of trial that has been repeatedly defined as Sui Generis and independent. Its’ uniqueness in no way exempts it from adhering strictly and uncompromisingly to the Bill of Rights as they apply to the respondent, who is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

And as to the role and duty of the Senators sitting as judges, the safest and surest way of performing that duty faithfully, as expected of them, is to stay steadfast to the oath that they are sworn to, that requires and binds them “to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws of the Philippines, so help me (them) God.” For Senator-Judges to veer away from that by simply stating that they will decide “in accordance with their conscience” or what the popular sentiment or public pulse is, sounds like a cop-out on what they have sworn to, if not outright breaking their sacred vow. In fact, “conscience” could easily be, God forbid, what they believe their daily horoscope compels them to do; while “public sentiment” could very well preclude the exercise of the rights of the respondent.

There is only one principle that a Senator-Judge must uphold throughout this trial and that is, to be faithful to the oath they were sworn to upon convening the Impeachment Court. At the end of it all, if the Senator-Judges cannot be trusted with their solemn oath, what then can we trust them with?

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For Feb. 8, 2012/ Wednesday
Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT

The issue of what standards or benchmark to use in determining when a SALn is considered properly and accurately disclosed can easily be arrived at by a comparative presentation of several SALn’s to show what a typically correct disclosure looks like. Since the requirement for a disclosure of one’s SALn is likewise required of the Congressmen-Prosecutors and their being present in the court room would allow them to explain their respective SALn’s, why don’t they volunteer their SALn’s as evidence of how a complete and accurate SALn should look like? It would be much clearer to the public if they were to present the issue in that manner. It would also prove that the Chief Justice has no excuse in filing a SALn that’s “wanting” if that is indeed the case, and that could be borne out by means of comparison with the SALn’s of the Honorable Representatives of Congress. This would seem to be the most practical solution to this issue and could help restore the credibility of the Congressmen that signed the filing of charges against the Chief Justice without first reading them, a requirement of the Constitution that is part of the need for verification of the Articles of Impeachment. Of course, this suggestion is being made with tongue in cheek knowing it’s not going to happen.

“From September 2010 to December 2011, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) made a total of 28 calls and sent four letters to the Office of the Secretary General to obtain copies of the July 2010 (upon assumption) and December 2010 SALNs of the 15th Congress members and the CVs and PDS of 14th Congress and 15th Congress members. As of this writing, these have yet to be released by the repository agency.” This statement was made by the PCIJ only last month. Based on this, what was suggested above is asking for a miracle. The question therefore begs to be asked: what are the Representatives “hiding” – as they often repeat addressing the Chief Justice? To begin with, they are required by law in the same manner the Chief Justice is, to disclose their SALn.

The palace has been accused, repeatedly, of “selective justice.” They, too, can now disprove the accusation and enhance their credibility by asking the Congressmen to release their SALn’s. They cannot be seen to be applying laws stringently on their perceived enemies and waiving the same for their allies. Or, do they really care and feel they, and only they, are above the law?

It was a bit of a surprise the impeachment court voted to allow the subpoena of Corona’s bank documents from PSBANK and BPI, but seeing how it was a precise account number (as passed-on by a little lady) and not just an account name, then I guess the majority opted to please the gods of liberality. But what’s good for the goose, likewise for the gander, so I think the defense can also look forward to the same treatment when their turn comes. Problem is: expect the full force of the Palace’s propaganda machinery, state and private, to create an artificial situation where it would seem like the prosecution, after tackling all eight articles, had already won and it was just a matter of formalizing the vote. With that, the broadcast and print coverage will be turned down, reduced, given less airtime during the turn of the defense; they would make it seem like the defense was merely going through the motions. Senator Ralph Recto’s suggestion on the sequencing of defense and prosecution – that each take their turn on a per article basis but voting comes at very end of all articles — was not a bad idea.

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“Beware”

“I,  (the Senator Judges), do solemnly swear, that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, now pending; I will do impartial justice in accordance to the Constitution and the laws of the Philippines, so help me God.”

Yet, how often do we hear the Senators debate over how they are to treat the proceedings and whether this is a constitutional or political undertaking and what exactly is the definition of “political.”  Senator Trillanes has stated in a speech he made at the University of the Philippines that he would decide on the case based on “public acceptability.” Where in the oath did it mention “public acceptability?” Senator Honassan said almost the same thing, “public pulse,” which is likewise not to be found in the oath.    We’re wondering whether any of the Senators actually took to heart the oath they had taken because if you had seen them (it can be viewed on You Tube) swear to it, you would think they would die first before breaking that solemn oath. And when you hear them admonish a witness by reminding them in a threatening tone that they are under oath, you might tend to believe they breathe the oath they had taken. But then again, you could imagine many things, if you considered what politicians say with matching pious expressions, only to see them do the opposite at the drop of a hat, which makes you drop back to earth and reality instantaneously.  So much for oaths and oafs.

 

There are two realities competing in the impeachment trial: one is what is occurring in the impeachment court; and the other is what’s happening outside of it and that includes traditional as well as digital media. In the former, based on the reaction of the judges and presiding officer in particular, and our own appreciation of the proceedings, the prosecution panel seems way outclassed by the defense team. In the print and broadcast media, it’s clear that for the most part, it has submitted to, if not conspired with, the scheme of the Palace which is to demolish Corona and run him out of the Supreme Court. Some of the bigger media outfits do this unabashedly without caring to show even a semblance of fair reportage. In the internet where there is no monopoly of the news, the story is surprisingly different. If one were to make “the rounds” of various web sites and blog pages where there are a lot of “comments” from the readers or viewers (if there’s a video clip), the pro-conviction sentiment is about equal the pro-acquittal and at times you may even find more pro-acquittal. There’s also a lot more talk on the issue of the real reason behind PNoy’s obsession in removing Corona, and the most mentioned are the decisions made and to be made on the Hacienda Luisita (HL) case pending in the Supreme Court, and that’s only regarding the distribution of the land and not mentioning the “Hacienda Luisita Massacre” yet; whereas, in the newspapers and broadcast channels, mention of HL seems to be treated as taboo.

 

There is plenty of chatter, and not a few coming from insiders of the “yellow brigade,” that the goal of forcing the resignation of the Chief Justice remains the same if not more urgent. This could also be seen in the way the prosecutors have shown no let-up in their continued appearances on TV showing “proof of guilt” that the court has already ruled as inadmissible. It is debatable whether the prosecution panel is more focused on winning a conviction inside the courtroom or in the public’s mind with the hope that mob rule will ultimately decide the outcome of where Corona is to be found at the end of it all.

 

There’s a third reality, however, that the majority of Filipinos are sure of, and that is: their lives have seen no improvement in the last year and a half and they don’t see it happening because of what would result in this trial that they feel should not be government priority. What was expected to be daily entertainment to many is now turning out to be a source of irritation turning to anger seeing how far divorced the focus of our leaders are to the real problems they face daily, beginning with difficulties of  putting enough food on their tables.  That reality goes deeper than mere curiosity about the truth regarding the impeachment trial, or even the passion associated with blind partisanship. Hunger and the absence of basic services is visceral and sometimes a matter of life or death as in the case of the 11 deaths daily caused by the lack of health services for pregnant women as the RH Bill points out. It is obvious that the Palace and Congress have placed more time and energy in the impeachment of one man over what are supposed to be “priority bills.”  The “mob rule” is a double-edged knife that does not have the neutrality and coldness of laws and the Constitution and can change direction overnight and boomerang to those that incite it.  Beware.

 

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