Editorial: Straightening out

On Jan. 16, Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona will be tried by the Senate, under the prosecution of the House of Representatives. He will be tried on account of eight charges, of which the more crucial include mainly betrayal of the public trust through his failure to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN); partiality in his decisions as a Chief Justice, particularly towards his own interests; and the charge of graft and corruption, among others.

Impeachment is a difficult, tedious and extraordinary process that checks the power of key government figures, such as the President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Ombudsman and the Chief Justice, by removing them from authority.

The difficulty that characterizes impeachment proceedings is that at least a third of the Lower House must agree with the proposal filed before it gets forwarded the Senate for trial. In this case, the overwhelming support of mainly Liberal Party congressmen, numbering to 188, more than two-thirds of the House of Representatives, is a monumental political move that has not only expedited the often time-consuming process, but also signified that the Liberal Party is solidly behind its candidate for Chief Executive, President Noynoy Aquino.

The main objection to what is termed as the ‘blitzkrieg’ formation and approval of the complaint is the sheer speed by which it was ratified. The overall orchestration of what is suspected to be a collaborated endeavor begs to ask the question of whether all the representatives were able to fully and clearly grasp not only the complaint, but also consider the implications of such a move.

The picture it paints, according to observers, is that of government’s two branches, the executive and legislative, teaming up to diminish the autonomy and unquestionable integrity of the third, the judiciary. This would, as the defenders of the court would have it, violate the very foundation, the principle of equal checks and balances, upon which Philippine democracy is grounded.

Awaiting the initiation of the trial on Jan. 16 has created an environment of thick tension between both camps, and both sides have been digging up the other’s dirt, so to speak, which in Philippine politics is an acceptable way of reinforcing loyalties.

Public opinion is in itself openly divided, with both sides having adamant supporters and determined detractors. Columnists write their vastly contrasting stances and justifications, the prosecution and the defense have been interviewed, and media works in shaping public opinion.

But the important thing to the trial is not the massive publicity that it is garnering, but the balance and level-headedness between both camps. This should not be war, but rather a striving for reform within the government, meant to augment its stability and not fracture what seems to be a duality of Arroyo and non-Arroyo supporter, as it was originally portrayed.

But the prosecutors, in particular, should be wary, not of the opposition but of themselves. The fact that Rep. Niel Tupas has strongly implied that the entire ‘cleansing process’ is more about removing the traces of Arroyo ‘coddlers’ from the judiciary, seen to be an impediment in the President’s management. Such indiscrete implications should as much as possible be kept in check, because this would signify that the impeachment is really invalid. In fact, the prosecution should undertake further legal preparations, as gentlemen lawyers are no substitutes for the real deal that Chief Justice Corona has under his belt.

It is going to be an exciting trial, and the Lasallian community should keep itself updated on the developments. The decision may very well decide the turn of administration and if the way ahead, will, as Pres. Aquino has constantly exhorted, be straight. Or rather, straightened out.


The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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