Nothing much can be achieved in the impeachment of CJ Corona even if successful in the Senate except to sear in the public memory that a radical change in the leadership of the Supreme Court, touted before as the “untouchable” branch of the government is but a myth. But surely, it will not alter the present dynamics of the court and the manner by which it would dispose a case that comes to it for review involving litigant or litigants that were responsible in conferring on the members of the institution the privileged of their positions.
Thus it doesn’t matter if Corona is out. It doesn’t make the job for PNOY much easier.
Without CJ Corona, the Supreme Court would still be composed of 11 magistrates appointed by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and three magistrates appointed by President Simeon B. Aquino. Though Justice Antonio Carpio was her appointee, this jurist was able to wiggle himself out from her clutches. But voting would still much run along the same gridlines: a majority to favor the old caliphate of GMA, and get her and her regular Mafiosi network of criminals off the hook.
But why would someone make an effort to make a court that should be co-equal and independent be a tool of PNOY? Because the court has not shown any degree of independence in the past, it might as well be a tool of someone who wants to see government bureaucrats walk the path of righteousness than be a tool of a thief.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has just one vote just like the other magistrates but he could make some moral persuasion to his “distinguished brethrens” by promising them foreign travel complete with allowances, hotel accommodations and free meals courtesy of World Bank Loans if they vote in accord with the “conscience” of the Court. But the CJ need not go this far if you consider that these associate jurists were also appointees of the previous power broker, and though she had lost her luster, she still holds tremendous power at the back door.
It is not an argument that these jurists can make more money or goodwill by kowtowing with the new administration of PNOY. The problem lies with their past enlistment of padrinos that made their entry into the highest tribunal possible and the “utang na loob” syndrome continues beyond the tenure of their previous power-brokers. These past favors are not limited to conferring on them the majestic title of a “justice of the court,” they can include also very personal favors as hospital payments of the jurists or their immediate families; cancelled checks in their names; records of money transfers to their bank accounts, or a dossier of their indiscretions which she can dangle like a sword over their heads. CJ Corona himself was honest enough to admit that GMA had spent some money for his hospitalization.
Now you can understand why many would not disclose their SALNs and would take issue with the prosecutors for not disclosing their own SALNs. But these congressmen would stay only in Congress for three years and if they are lucky, for another three years. In the case of jurists, they stay in the court for life or until retirement age of 70. They make money unseen by the public for a period of 30 years if they join the judiciary at age 40, and yet they would begrudge Congressmen for not showing their illicit income for six years. It is not a case of the kettle calling the pot black; it is a case of a market vendor with altered weighing scale calling a bank swindler the greater thief.
In 1927, Governor Leonard Wood bent Chief Justice George Malcolm of the colonial Supreme Court to decide a case against Manuel Luis Quezon rather than face a media flurry over the jurist’s young Filipina mistress.
Mr. Marcos, acting as a modern-day Wood had crippled the opposition to his regime during martial law by diplomatically asking them to join his regime; bribe them, and threaten them if the first two options had failed. This was the reason why of the 10 jurists of the Supreme Court during martial law, only Justices Roberto Concepcion and Claudio Teehankee were the conscientious objectors. All the others have their tails wrapped around their balls. This was also the reason why mid-way the martial law era, the public only saw Ninoy Aquino, Tanada, Sumulong, Soc Rodrigo, Anding Roces, Jovito Salonga and Jose W. Diokno putting up with the dictator. All others have joined the Marcos bandwagon.
GMA has never been a neophyte of the chemistry of power, after all she was a daughter of a President. She could have learned also from Mr. Marcos and Erap, the consuming politics of blandishment and bribery. She allowed the military to have their own business apart from the regular payolas from jueteng and she cornered government contracts to her friends and supporters the way Mr. Marcos would make business for his cronies and Erap for Atong Ang and his “midnight cabinet.”
Just like Marcos, GMA had the Comelec under her thumb and she packed up the Supreme Court with her spineless loyalists masquerading as upright jurists to protect the civil liberties of the people. At the time that her authority was waning, she had managed to skirt the prohibition in the constitution and appointed a Chief Justice who now faces a legal gauntlet for treating her with royal reverence.
While a public euphoria over the dismissal of CJ Corona can generate a tremendous goodwill for the president to make way for his political agenda of reforming the bureaucracy, a contrary ruling can spark a wildfire that can destabilized the nation.
This early the Senate and the defense were already cautioning the public against trial by publicity which is another way of saying that the public should not weigh into the process of impeachment and leave the Senators to appreciate the evidence against CJ Corona. As if the public cannot discern the legitimacy of purchases of some posh real estates in Metro Manila by the Chief Justice, or his wife and children from sources that they can credibly explain. It has nothing to do with admissibility of evidence or the finer nuances of the law; it has something to do with a simple arithmetic.
That the public is being cautioned to control their passion is simply to prepare them from reacting convulsively if the Senate sees things differently. There is a fear that the indirect recall by the sovereign of their jurist through the Senate could translate into a direct recall of their judicial officer if they go to the streets to demand his resignation once the debate in Congress turns out to be a spectacular circus with Senators dressed as clowns. This could be another Erap impeachment in the making.
If this happens, GMA who suddenly recovered from her ailments through local medical intervention that she was able to write an economic treatise, could recoil in fear that no matter what the institution says of Corona’s innocence, the public is ready to make a different judgment. It will dim her own chances of getting through the same fast lane because a public outrage could invite a military intervention which could be totally pro-PNOY or a lost command out for another adventure!
The republic which hobbles today in crisis, can easily become paralytic and turns into a genuine banana republic.