Where the Supreme Court exercises its duty under the constitution, it is called “rule of law” but when Congress exercises the same function in accord with the same constitution, it is called “the mother of all blackmails”.
It was a politically charge atmosphere in the House yesterday and Congressman Edcel Lagman cannot hide his displeasure over the decision of his colleagues to impeach CJ Renato Corona in an overwhelming majority of 188 Congressmen out of 285.
His description of this latest political exercise was indeed colorful, to defend the jurist, a beneficiary of a former caliphate that had lost its luster and its once notorious power broker, now massaging her bruised pride in a hospital bed.
Congressman Lagman could only offer his eloquence and loyalty to placate the beleaguered magistrate and the lady that once distributed the largesse of the state to her rent-seeking courtiers. But the Congressman from Albay was partial in his read of the constitution again. Just like the way he read the botched Truth Commission.
Par. 2, of Article VII of the constitution says:
(2) All cases involving the constitutionality of x x x….
decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations, shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon.
Congressman Lagman praised the Supreme Court, which voted 8-5, (barely 52 per cent of the entire court) for adhering to the constitution and in protecting the civil liberty of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when it froze the Watch List Order of the Department of Justice, thus allowing GMA and Mikey Arroyo to travel abroad had not the DOJ refused to heed the court’s order.
But the same solon called it “mother of all blackmails” when his 188 colleagues or about 66 per cent of the House, voted to impeach CJ Corona.
The same constitution which allows the Court to freeze any order of the executive or its department or declare it void under the law, allows also Congress on a vote of one third of its members to impeach a court officer like CJ Corona.
Article XI, Accountability of Public Officers:
(3) A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution.
Here is one branch of government by exercising its function deserves praise and adulation while another branch doing exactly the same deserves censure.
Aside from Congressman Lagman, there are others who take cudgels for the court invoking the separation of powers as an arsenal against the House, whose members were partisans of the executive department out to destroy the independence of the judiciary on promise of congressional allocations. Suddenly the word ‘partisan’ and ‘independent’ become relevant in this debate. Most members of the court had been GMA’s partisans; their appointment to the court – was comparable to congressional allocations, their titles are bankable, they approximate several gold bullions. Ask any high profile litigants or bring to mind the Meralco-GSIS row that showed some jurists’s hand in the cookie jar.
While congressmen have to spend money to get the mandate from the people as a pre-condition to vie for allocations later, court members are selected on patronage, a circle of power brokers determine who gets the plum and their loyalties are checked at the door to insure that they can be trusted upon to interpret the law for the benefit of their patron.
Occasionally, a jurist’s dedication to truth and justice would propel him or her to get off from this vicious ‘horse-trade’ and used the law in all its splendor to upbraid this system of vicious patronage.
Teehankee, Concepcion and Carpio are those few who got out of from the pernicious patron-vassal relationship and found the majesty of the law a comfort for their intransigence. But the majority remain “court jesters” despite their legal training, and continue to regale their benefactor at the expense of the nation.
Whether an act was in accord with the rule of law or a blatant blackmail depends on who is the beholder. Legislator Lagman, had he been in the company of the new administration would have no problem joining his colleagues in the house in this momentous occasion to make the chief justice account for his judicial behavior, but for now, he must writh in discomfort at the other side of the political wagon.