“We Masquerade Our Dysfunction As A Quest For Due Process”

The Corona Dilemma

I am writing a book about the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona because this historical political exercise effectively divides the nation between those who believe in the myth that there is nothing wrong with the judiciary and those who believe that there is something wrong with it and CJ Corona represents everything that is wrong with it.

Between those who believe that due process of law is about shackling the truth seeking process in the impeachment trial by technicalities and those who believe that those technicalities have no role to play in ferreting out the truth.

Between those who believe that judicial independence and co-equality among the three branches of a republican state are two constitutional principles that are constant and immutable and those who believe that these are self-perpetrating myths in the light of realities that occupants of these branches of government work in collusion with each other if they belong to the same political affiliations and at loggerheads with each other if they don different political colors.

Between those who believe that  public offices are  private preserves of politicians and magistrates and those who believe that these are public trusts that are imbued with public interest that are open to public scrutiny and officials are subject to recall process, one of which is impeachment.

My Own Perspective On Impeachment

“I believe in the supremacy of the people who put in their constitution various modes of recall of their elected officials: recall by signatories sufficient in number of the constituents to initiate the process; by regular elections; or by “impeachment.”   In the case of  appointed officials in the constitutional bodies, (Supreme Court, COMELEC, Ombudsman, and COA), there is only one recall process: “impeachment.”

The underlying principle behind the recall of government officials is that inherent “mistrust” of the sovereign people against their government functionaries, otherwise, they should have been just allowed to elect a monarch or appoint a jurist for life.  The contour of this mistrust is textually sculptured in the constitution through the above mechanism of  recall,” ” elections,” and “impeachment.”

Why Japan and Singapore Pass Us By

In 1950s, the Philippines was Asia’s thriving democracy and economy.  Japan and Singapore were nowhere in the horizon in terms of our prosperity.  But several decades later, these two nation states had overtaken us by miles and leagues.  Reason: People in these nation states have a firmer grasp what is  honor, country and flag, and their people are more disciplined while we have the faintest idea of what is love of country and patriotism all about and we savor in petty squabbles and glory in our vicious attitude of “matira ang matibay,” (survival of the fittest) in our daily lives.

In Japan, a public officer suspected of corruption commits a seppuku or unceremoniously resigns with no ‘buts,’ or ‘ifs.’   In our country, we love to fight for our right to an office as if we have a birthright to it and flaunt our own personal interest as congruent to that of the interest of the nation we swear to serve. We continue to masquerade our dysfunction as a quest for due process, while others would simply call our attitude on what really it is: “callousness.”

Now you know why our neighbors are prosperous!

“Recent decades deepened a central Philippines paradox. How and why has this island nation, a veritable “lost Eden” rich in natural resources, become a very poor country with a very wealthy oligarchy? As revolutions, empires, and regimes have come and gone over the past two centuries, the Filipino oligarchy has survived from generation to generation, amassing ever greater wealth and power with every twist in this tangled national history. With each passing decade, the country’s juxtaposition of private wealth and public squalor seems somehow more pronounced, lending added significance to this entrenched elite as the key element in a relentless social statis. Since the state has proven “ineffective” in its economic regulation, one analyst argues that “the actual path of growth emerged from the economic and political behavior of the most powerful families, which had been accumulating capital for several generations.” (Anarchy of Families, Alfred W. McCoy).

One can see the Supreme Court giving the coco-levy funds back to Danding Cojuangco instead of the coconut planters; and Lucio Tan winning all his cases in Court as an affirmation of the proposition on how the oligarchy enlists the bureaucracy in its effort to accumulate more wealth.  The same oligarchy returns lavish favor for this judicial support to our judicial barons and we know this better in Latin phrase, “quid pro quo.”  The court or the ponentes also receive occasional “thank yous” from litigants  – they come in various forms – cash or condo discounts.   

If you believe the claim of CJ Corona that he can explain his millions because he came from a well-off family from Batangas, then one can see clearly how the oligarchs protect their own kind.   Thus Danding and Tan being oligarchs themselves can always expect favorable treatment from the oligarchs in the judiciary.  But the same set of oligarchs can also punish a branch of the same oligarchy by distributing their haciendas  under the populist concept of “land for the landless” if a member of that oligarchy sees the court as a stumbling block of his own vision of progress and engages the court in a national political combat to settle the issue.  Rarely one can see the court settles a case  predicated on a higher issue  of the  “general welfare” of the people.

The present state of things in the judiciary in expecting something in return from winning litigants has an evolutionary basis from our primitive system of laws.

Here is what Justice George Malcolm of the colonial Supreme Court wrote in his book, the Government of the Philippine Islands: 

“Sec. 30 -Judicial procedure- The chief, assisted by old men of his barangay or by a neighboring chief, acted as judge in all cases of litigation between his subjects.  He heard the witnesses and judged the case according to usage and law.  When the litigants belonged to different barangays, or the controversy was between two chiefs and even at other times, arbiters were chosen, who gave judgment.

The trials were public.  Investigations made and sentences passed by the dato must take place in the presence of those of his barangay.  Oaths were administered. The oath taken by the principales of Manila and Tondo in promising obedience to the Catholic Kings of Spain in 1571 was as follows:  “May the sun divide us in halves, the alligators bite us, the women refuse us their favors and refuse to love us well, if we do not keep our word.”

x x x

“For the determination of their suits, both civil and criminal, there was no other judge than the said chief, with the assistance of some old men of the same barangay.  With them the suit was determined in the following form: They had the opponents summoned, and endeavored to have them come to an agreement.  But if they would not agree, then an oath was administered to each one, to the effect that he would abide by what was determined to be done.  Then they called for the witnesses, and examined summarily.  If the proof was equal (on both sides), the difference was split; but if it were unequal, the sentence was given in favor of the one who conquered.  If the one who was defeated resisted, the judge made himself a party to the cause and all of them at once attacked with the armed band the one defeated,  and execution to the required amount was levied upon him.  The judge received the larger share of this amount, (underscoring mine) and some was paid to the witnesses  of the one who won the suit, while the poor litigant received the least.”

We can see now how our present-day judges make a lot of money from the winning litigants.

18 thoughts on ““We Masquerade Our Dysfunction As A Quest For Due Process”

  1. A nicely written piece! Congrats for researching…. Kaya pala! Please write something also to show that there is hope for our country. And what can we do as ordinary citizen to awaken others who simply do not care! I strongly believe we can still be great as a nation!

  2. Nice piece, and best wishes on the book. I think, although the Philippines has a constitution, it does not have a clear set of accepted national values like that which underpins the U.S. Constitution. The document is paper, not passion. If it had a set of accepted national values like honesty and honor, it would not have this kind of showtime trial in which everyone plays for “face” but few for principle.

  3. Excellent piece of discourse. Although skimmed thru it only. But don’t you worry I will wait for you book as I hope this is only ‘patikim’. the more I read your piece of work the more I want!

    I was particularly attracted by your last line,…..

    .”We can see now how our present-day judges make a lot of money from the winning litigants”

    Can we see ourselves in their shoes? Spending more than 10 years of study and not expected to make a penny? What will our parents say? In this game the more money one makes the more clients one have. But does the professional ethics really reflect on this game?

    Justice means nothing to poor Juan de la Cruz.

    • may pinagmanahan… i just can’t explain why so many of our people still look at the SC as the epitome of integrity and righteousness.. has it something to do with the media packaging?

      • The ideal is integrity. The reality is far less. We all hope for the ideal and the court barons keep disappointing. But we should hold on to the ideal and force the judges to change THEIR standards. Not give up on our own.

  4. CJ CORONA says:

    “…As such we shall continuously cleanse the court’s ranks by strengthening the integrity of the judiciary and raising it to the highest level possible. I believe that a member of the judiciary who is found guilty of dishonesty should not only be dismissed from the service but also disbarred. No ifs, no buts.”

    [Speech delivered by Chief Justice Renato C. Corona at the MOPC Judiciary Night, 7:00 p.m., 24 June 2010, Intercontinental Hotel.]

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