What reforms are needed for a post-Renato Corona Supreme Court?
This glossed-over issue emerged in Tuesday’s face off: The 23rd chief justice stalked out, from the impeachment court, without a by-your leave. A fuming senate president Juan Ponce Enrile ordered a Senate lock down.
Guards trundled a limp Corona back in a wheelchair. Played out on TV and headlines, the “detention” is unprecedented. On “release”, he beelined for Medical City.
Some officials, on the run, turn hospitals into foxholes: That’s what “Joc Joc” Bolante, Benjamin Abalos and Ampatuan father and son of Maguindanao did. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has a veteran’s hospital cell, as Erap had.
If Corona was gravely ill, why did he not resign? If not, then this caper savaged an already battered Supreme Court, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”, the Galilean asked.
Corona is not past tense, his supporters insist, He’ll be exonerated , when 23 senator-judges rule early next week, they predict. Knock on wood.
“Those who look to the past or the present are certain to miss the future,” John F Kenndy cautioned. A court of unquestioned integrity is crucial to our grandchildren’s future. Stagnancy is guaranteed if business-as-usual prevails.
Kapit-tuko is how some dub Corona’s aborted exit from the witness stand. The Department of Justice earlier grounded Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s flight from Manila International Airport. The images are adhesive. They stick.
So did photos of the 13th Supreme Court chief justice, trotting behind Imelda Marcos as umbrella bearer. Justice Enrique Fernando’s parasol morphed into a symbol for a subservient Supreme Court. Fernando emphasized the judiciary’s ‘legitimizing’ function,” wrote Justice and former Inquirer columnist Isagani Cruz. “This was the stand-by excuse…under him, to sustain acts of President Marcos.”
The Corona Court proved a stamp-pad for Gloria. In 15 cases involving the Arroyo administration, Corona voted the Malacanang line. Justices gave express lane treatment for s temporary restraining order that would have allowed GMA to fly the coop.
The judiciary is bugged by case congestion, politicization of appointments, lack of access to justice, by the poor to old fashioned graft. Cases moulder “from 10 years (average) to 24 years (extreme cases)”, .economist Peter Wallace notes. Ask PAL’s flight attendants and stewards who had “final decisions” reversed thrice in 14 years.
Was Corona’s flap the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? Integrated Bar of the Philippines claimed impeachment had a ”chilling effect” —- before it . U-turned. Deans of law schools in Ateneo, La Salle, FEU, among others, skewered Corona’s “cop out”.
The impeachment court has before it Statements of Assets and Liabilities that smudge Corona’s real holdings. Corona admitted stashing dollars. But he ducks questions on how much. Or where they came from.
The Anti Money Laundering Council stood pat on it’s report of Corona’s foreign exchange shuttles. A prima facie case has been built, former chief justice Artemio Panganiban wrote in Inquirer.
Hopes for long stalled judiciary reforms piggyback on the next week’s decision. Reforms come only from a credible court.
Scrap the secretive barkadahan Judicial Bar Council, former Sen. Rene Saguisag urged. That system handcuffed us to a de-facto chief justice. Restore the open Commission on Appointment process.
Immediate reforms must begin in the Supreme Court itself. Institute transparency by repealing the resolution that prohibits release of justices’ SALNs.
Fire the the “16th Justice”. Court Administrator Marquez Midas speaks as if he is the Supreme Court”. He doubles as personal mouthpiece for Corona. World Bank clobbered Midas for less than exemplary oversight of its judiciary reform program support. The next Court Administrator must work as his job description says.
How well have justices implemented the “New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary” and the “Code of Conduct for Court Personnel”? Have they gone the way of the 10 Commandments, watered down to “10 Suggestions”?
Enrile’s leadership bolstered, so far, bonafides of the Impeachment court said. Next week’s ballot could reinforce — or undercut – it’s value. Raw memories still linger of how the “Craven Eleven” senators sealed Estrada’s “second envelop”. That triggered People Power. 2
The vote inevitably affects judiciary reforms introduced by chief justices from Claudio Teehankee, Marcelo Fernan, to Ricardo Puno. Hilario Davide crafted funding structures that gave the program clout.
Will acquittal Corona would make judicial reform near impossible to pursue? Or will conviction repair damage and restart the Action Program for Judicial Reform?.
What will be good for our grandchildren? Corona’s acquittal – or conviction? Senator-judges have kids too. That’s the bottom line.
The defense is down to it’s last trenches. “We’re studying the option of mistrial.”, counsel Serafin Cuevas says. A mistrial does not apply to impeachment, countered . Senator Franklin Drilon. Wednesday, Cuevas asked the Supreme Court to resolve his earlier petition to nullify the impeachment trial from A to Z.
“Kung patay na ang kabayo, aanhin mo pa ang damo? Cuevas added. “ Of what use is grass if the nag is dead?” Indeed, curtains have fallen on the Corona era. .The rest is postscript.
No need to rise from hospital bed Chief, and ask who those bells toll for. “They toll for thee”.