Attila Rides Again

by Juan L. Mercado

Attila the Hun torched much of Eastern Europe  between  434 to 451 AD. President  Gloria  Macapagal Arroyo exits from Malacanang with a scorch earth  policy that gutted institutions from the Ombudsman to the Civil Service Commission. The outgoing regime will lob every obstacle against the incoming  administration, Inquirer’s Manolo Quezon and friends write in their paper on looking beyond the 2010 elections. Atilla tactics would ensure Benigno Aquino “wins a palace that has no value other than the title home of “President of the Philippines.”

That  forecast  unreels  in Ms Arroyo’s midnight appointments from gardener to manicurist.  How many jobs did  she sign away? No one knows so far.  President Carlos Garcia fobbed  off  350 nominees. Her father Diosdado Macapagal tripled that to 1,717.

But  hackles bristled  when she anointed Justice Renato Corona to succeed  Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno.  “It takes two to tango.”  Don’t disco, counsel a score of voices.

Consider former Chief Justice Manuel Moran’s delicadeza,  Inquirer’s Solita Monsod  suggested.  After serving as ambassador, Moran waved away  a midnight  re-appointment.  Leave that to the incoming President, he demurred.

“My soul, be satisfied with flowers/ With fruits, with  weeds even; but gather them/ In the one garden you can call your own.”, Cyrano de Bergerac wrote.

“Do a Moran”, former President  Fidel  Ramos  told  his protégé. Ramos was the first to endorse Corona for the Court.  Decline, if only to save the Court,  suggested  the Philippine Bar Association  and the Supreme Courts Appointments Watch.

The Court reels from questions of integrity and serial reversals of  “final decisions”  Justice Lucas Bersamin wrote the ponencia that entertained a “third motion for reconsideration” to favor 16 towns seeking to become cities via the backdoor.

“This is unheard of in Court annals”, notes the book: “Beyond A  Shadow of Doubt”. Justices Roberto Concepcion, JBL Reyes or Cecilia Munoz Palma would  have  retched at such aberrations.

Moran’s self-denial  was institutionalized into the rule that an outgoing president is a caretaker, not a plunderer. The 1987 Constitution explicitly  barred  midnight appointments. No  exceptions.

”Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each new wave of judges blown in by each successive political wave”, Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1970.

Crammed with  Arroyo appointees, the Court  instead  handcuffed  incoming President Benigno Aquino.  In  a  9-3-1 vote, the tribunal exempted a chief justice from the ban. The Constitution’s no exception rule  is not what it really  means,  insisted Justice Lucas Bersamin’s cloying ponencia.

Justifications offered “were anchored on trivialities of draftsmanship,” snapped Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. “They have the weight of helium.”  That’s a prohibited amendment of the constitution  by judicial  tinkering,  observed Ateneo’s Joaquin  Bernas.  Justices Antonio Carpio and Morales yanked back their applications from the Judicial  Bar Council.

Bernas and  ex-Senator Rene Saguisag earlier declined appointment to the Supreme Court. Such refusals are rare. “To be honest, as this world goes.  Is to be one man picked out of ten thousand,” Hamlet mused.

Like  most  lawyers, Corona  itched  to  don the chief justice’s robes. So, did he exclude himself from  Hamlet’s  ten thousand  count?  Other midnight appointees clung kapit-tuko to their sinecures.   “Delicadeza  has been long weakened,” Saguisag wrote. “(But  we)  seem to have completely lost (this virtue)  in the last decade.”

Bernas and  Saguisag  earlier noted   that  Corona , like Justice Moran, could  refuse to tango.  “Rene should decline, out of delicadeza, and Noynoy may reappoint him,” Saguisag wrote. “Or  Noynoy may name (Conchita) Chit Carpio-Morales as the first woman  chief justice. She is due,  to retire after a year.

Did  Justice Corona blush on hearing counsel from his main backer as well as those who also have deepest values of the Court at heart?  “Shame may restrain what law does not prohibit”, the Stoic Roman philosopher Seneca wrote.   

But history  shows Atillla and  cronies  often collude.  Wala  ng  bingi  ditto sa mundo gaya ng ayaw makinig, the old  proverb says. “None so deaf as those who refuse to hear.”

Aquino  meanwhile said  he’d  take his oath of office before a barangay captain. “I still  don’t have a formal barong,”  wailed village chief Edgardo Aguas of  Tarlac .

Who  hit  history’s  replay button?  Corazon Aquino spurned the dictatorship’s Supreme Court. She fired the Marcos  justices. She took her oath of office before the junior but independent Justice Claudio Teehankee.

The  Corona appointment is  Arroyo’s ”declaration of war “against Aquino, Senator Aquilino Pimentel commented.  Rep. Mikey Arroyo opened a second front saying: His mother would seek to become Speaker of the House.  —  and  beyond.   Atilla will ride again!

Richard Rich betrayed his mentor Thomas More, history tells us. As a reward,  Henry VIII, named  Rich to rule Wales.  Before More’s execution, Thomas saw Rich’s  medallion and wondered:  “Why, Richard,  it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?”

Today’s  rampaging Attilas can bestow, like Wales,  a chief justice’s upholstered bench.  But   the decision to be a Thomas More or  play ball with  Atilla rests with Justice Corona. No one else.

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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