by Juan L. Mercado

“If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”, Charlie Brown asks in the award-winning comic strip “Peanuts.”

Investigative reporter Marites  Vitug documented that University of  Sto . Tomas bent rules to vest a PhD degree  on  Supreme Court chief justice  Renato Corona.  He never submitted a dissertation and overshot UST’s complete-in-five-years  yardstick.

“Young men know the rules,” noted Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, who served as US Supreme Court justice 1902 to 1932. “But old  men know the exceptions”.

Senator Francis  Escudero stewed over “piece-meal leakage of evidence” against Corona by some Lower House prosecutors. “Respect the Senate, as impeachment court, “ Chiz snapped. “Observe it’s rules”.

Are critics serious about impeachment rules?, asked Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros. Then, they should warn Court spokesperson Midas Marquez, paid his salary with taxpayers’ money, “against lawyering for Corona”.

In geo-hazard areas, rules to safeguard lives are routinely fractured. Over 125 people were entombed by mudslides in Compostela Valley since 2003. That excludes the 30 killed last week,  National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council revealed.

Typhoon “Sendong” floods wiped out an entire community, perched on a sandbar dubbed “Isla de Oro”. Overall death toll in Northern Mindanao now exceeds  1,453. Some will never be accounted for. 

“They create the future who watch the present,  and learn from the past.” Cagayan de  Oro mayor Vicente Emano and allies never learned from past “tutorials”, like the November  1991 Ormoc City  tragedy. Within an hour, flood waters dumped  by Typhoon Uring  ( “Thelma”) swept  4,875  to their deaths.  Emano denies he was shooting  craps when Pagasa repeatedly  warned  “Sendong” had swerved from Cebu to Cagayan/ Iligan.

“Rules are for the obedience of fools but guidance of wise men.” Kristin, who is all of 8, agrees. She scribbled 12 guidelines for the study room  she shares with our other grand-daughter Katarina, 5. Kristin captioned her handiwork  “Rules”.

“Don’t give the dolls a shower”, says Rule #5. Rule #6, is a follow-up: ”Don’t put the shampoo on your skin”. These are preceded by Rule #2: “Minimize your voice”.  And Rule #9 stipulates: “No throwing items without permition” (sic)

“Should it be double “S”? asks Kathie when we note the error. She pencils in the correction — and scrawls in Rule# 13: “Don’t be so mene”. She meant “mean”, of course.   But you catch the drift: Rules kept result in order.

The Constitution contains basic rules. One is Article VII. It bans appointments two months before a presidential election. That clamp holds until end of the incumbent’s term, i.e. noon of June 30.

Proposed by Delegate (later Chief Justice) Hilario Davide,  that was stitched into the 1987 Constitution precisely to prevent a repeat of  quarter-to-midnight appointments by previous presidents. Carlos P. Garcia named 350.  Diosdado Macapagal tripled that.

Forty five years later, Macapagal’s daughter would outdo them all, Viewpoint noted in “Mocking The Midnight Bell” (PDI/ June 5, 2010 ).  Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stuffed  midnighters into a score of agencies: from the Monetary Board,  Commission on Muslim Filipinos to Court of Appeals.

In a “Cinderella spree”, she renamed  racketeers to official gambling casino Pagcor, promoted  Malacanang gardener Armando Macapagal to Luneta Park.—- and her former chief of staff Renato Corona as Supreme Court chief justice

“No,” protested the President’s manicurist. Anita Carpon,  “Count me out.” She had been given a “midnight appointment” to Pag-IBIG “Fund. “Here is one lady who still knows how to blush”.

Did Corona blush when he accepted the post of Supreme Court chief justice? Who knows?  What we know is Corona had  sufficient warning.

“According to the Aytona case (1962) and Valenzuela case (1998), when the president-elect is known, authority of the incumbent is only to ensure an orderly transfer of power,“  constitutional expert Joaquin Bernas pointed out.  If  Mrs.  Arroyo insists on naming a chief justice, she  courted  the possibility  that  Congress would impeach him.

That has now come to pass.

Former Senator Rene Saguisag has consistently held Corona is a “de facto, not de jure chief justice.  As such, Corona has  ‘sole  responsibility”, under Presidential Decree. No. 1949 (series of 1984)  for billion-peso Judiciary Development Fund.

But Saguisag  students, fielded to ferret information on the JDF,  hit a blank wall. Indeed the tribunal is the least  transparent branch of government, Marites Vitug writes in her award-winning book: “Beyond Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court.”

To spur transparency, Republic Act 6713 stipulates: Public servants must “accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know [their] assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses.”

”Corona cannot hide behind an illegal self-serving interpretation” exempting the SC from a requirement others comply with, Saguisag says. Justices Antonio Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno, meanwhile released their statement of assets and liabilities.

Other justices twist in the wind. Actress Katherine Hepburn’s excuse will do for now. “If you heed the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.”


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