Sowing The Wind

by Juan L. Mercado

“Oppression can only survive through silence.” Who’d gag the Ombudsman  from testifying  before the impeachment court on sealed dollar accounts of  Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona?

“I will obey the Senate,” said  Ombudsman  Conchita Caprio-Morales,  subpoenaed  to  appear  Monday.  She’d  respond  to questions by 23 senator judges. That  includes  her  order to Corona:  explain within 72 hours, charges of stashing  $10-million.

No, interjected Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez.  Senator judges and citizens may have to cool their heels.  Suppose some one “questioned Morales order before the SC on the ground of grave abuse of discretion?”, Midas asked.  The high court may “rule on  legality of the Ombudsman’s order.

Is  Midas speculating?  Or is he soliciting ?

It is not illegal for citizens to hallucinate. But should a  tribunal  spokesman hyper-ventilate,  publicly on petitions in some murky future? Or is this “hope fathering  thought”?

Midas assumes the Court would stitch the  Ombudsman’s lips shut, if and when, such a petition is filed. Crystal bowling is not included in his  “Terms of  Reference”. Or does he know something  we’re not  privy  to?

Spokespersons are not hawkers who peddle wares in red light districts. They are supposed  to  work by a  fine tuned sense of  delicadeza. That’d  rule out trolling for  petitioners

World Bank rapped Midas knuckles  for  shoddy oversight of  the US$21.9 million Judicial Reform Support Project.  MIdas announced the Court granted Gloria Macapagal  Arroyo permission to scram.  He didn’t clarify adequately conditions on bail and counsel. These sparked a standoff between Justice Department and Court —  at Manila International Airport ’s departure lounge.

Does Midas clamber on the first available limb, to defend the embattled chief justice?   Ask Harry Roque of UP Law Center.  He skewered  Midas  “blatantly blurring” his role as Court spokesman with that of Corona apologist.

Will the impeachment court roll over and play dead,  if the high tribunal decides, as Midas hopes, to  stifle Ombudsman  Carpio-Morales  come   Monday?

“We’re  happy to note you are now cooperating,  ” an often testy Senate President  Juan Ponce Enrile  told  Corona’s lawyers  before he issued subpoenas  for the Ombudsman, Rep.  Walden Bello and  NGO officials.  “We may ask (Corona)  to tell the bank to release his foreign currency bank accounts.”

Over 36 grueling  trial  days, Corona has been nagged  to voluntarily disclose his foreign exchange accounts. Later, later, he’d dismiss such  requests. Is  “later” here —  finally?

Before  Enrile  signed the subpoenas, Senator Aquilino  Pimentel  lofted  another  significant signal — in the direction of the  Supreme Court.  “Koko”  yanked back  his  earlier support for  a Senate decision  to  comply with a Feb. 9  Supreme  Court  “temporary restraining order” to bolt Corona ’s dollar accounts.  By a vote of 8-5, the high court stopped  PS Bank  from disclosing  foreign exchange  accounts.

“It’s  not a crime to have a dollar account,” the defense bristled. “Of course not”, replied Sen. Serge Osmeña, chair of the Senate committee on banks. The question  is where did  the dollars, if any, come from?

We  hoped that  “Senate  statesmanship  would be  reciprocated by  judicial  wisdom”, Pimentel  said. Almost  three months have  lapsed. Yet,  the  Court has not acted one way or the other.  Will  it  rule  after  Senate adjourns  on  June  7?  His  hopes were now  dashed.    “I  vote to enforce  our order for PS Bank and others  to divulge all foreign accounts of the chief justice,” Pimentel declared.  His  shift whittles down  the original  13-10  vote to a razor thin  12-11.

The  Court  seems  in no hurry  to rule.  Is “temporary”  six months? No?  One year, maybe two?   Or is temporary  perpetual?    For Arroyo justices, “final’ does not mean definitive, decisive, conclusive, unchangeable or unappealable,” noted Viewpoint Sun ( PDI /31  Aug  2010).  It also means “changeable, inconclusive or revocable.”

The Court flip-flopped repeatedly on “final” decisions  like  the  14-year old  Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap). It  cartwheeled four times, in three years,  on  16 towns elbowing to become cities.  It  upheld gerrymandering of Camarines Sur to accommodate Rep.  Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo. The Court agreed to Eduardo Cojuangco pocketing 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares, by dipping into coco levies wrung by martial law bayonets.

Will  the  Corona  dollar account TRO wither into  “moot and academic” status?  The Senate  will end the trial May 30. Meanwhile, six out of 10  believe  “Corona has hidden wealth based on the undeclared money and assets in his SALN, Social Weather Station surveys found.

Ombudsman  Conchita Carpio Morales’  track record shows  a jurist  who does  not suffer fools  gladly. Recall  her dissent  from  majority of  justices who  approved Corona’s  midnight  appointment  as chief justice:  It  was jerry-rigged  “on drafting  trivialities that has the weight  of helium”.

She  acted on the pro-forma  waiver that Corona, like other filers of  SALNs , signed.   It  authorized  the Ombudsman to look into all  his financial   records in connection with SALN. Now, the impeachment court asked a  constitutionally independent Ombudsman  to share it’s findings. 

Caprio-Morales won’t  be  silenced.  She’ll  display the “burnished steel” of previous decisions.  That’s  our take.  Who  tries  to  gag  this   Ombudsman  will sow the wind — and reap the whirlwind.


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