The People Won

by Jose Ma. Montelibano


From across oceans and time zones, I watched the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court vote on convicting or acquitting the impeached Renato Corona, Chief Justice. Exacting 12 hours behind Philippine time, from 2 – 6 am in New York, I became part of history, witnessing a legal, political and societal drama that is a first of its kind.

From the beginning of that drama, I decided to be a player. I am not a lawyer, not a congressman, not a senator, but I am a Filipino. I could speak, I could write, I could communicate, I could strategize, I could march, I could risk all to remove a man I believed, not just so undeserving of his position as Chief Justice, but so destructive to the highest core values of the Filipino people and culture.

I know that my reach is limited and nowhere as far-reaching as other writers in Philippine society. I do not have illusions about the span of my influence and have never developed the attitude of one who has. My personal world include friends in media, writers like Conrad de Quiros and a Billy Esposo who both enjoy readership and influence far more than me.

At the same time, over 12 years as an opinion writer in, I know enough of those of follow my articles regularly. I often interact with them, and, in many instances, have been privileged to share advocacy work with them. Thousands of them and I, weekly, experience a collective reality. They influence me, and I influence them.

From what they have relayed to me, from hotly expressed sentiments to muted reactions, I absorb their dreams and aspirations, their frustrations and disappointments, their joy and their pain. Because we relate mostly through the Internet, there is a massive sector of our people and country that does not yet have dynamic lives in cyberspace. These people, almost all of them poor, and their opinions, reality and future are of great value to me. So, more than that part of my life spent writing is the greater focus I dedicate my existence to – my people, my land, especially their poverty, their disenfranchisement, their liberation.

I have been open, from August 2009, about my support of Noynoy Aquino. Considering my context, how could I not be supportive of a Filipino whom my people so spontaneously and passionately embraced as their anchor for hope. It helps that there are also personal and familial relationships that have crisscrossed in our social and political lives all the way from his father’s assassination. Supporting him, and asking nothing for myself in return, have been made easier with a shared past that tested our resolve to pursue common dreams.

When Noynoy, as P-Noy, decided to confront Rene Corona, his counterpart in a co-equal branch of government, I found the courage to express what I had witnessed and experienced regarding the Judiciary. For too long, I feared the backlash of an irate Judiciary if I openly went after the corrupt in that branch of government.

I had marched in two Edsas but I was hesitant to be public about my criticism of judges and justices. When P-Noy decided to take on the wrongdoing of that part of the Supreme Court led by Rene Corona, I, too, said, what have I got to lose at this time of my life if the cleansing of a dirty system can be triggered by the drama of a President against a Chief Justice.

Gloria Arroyo went against everything sacred about the law and justice when she appointed Rene Corona as Chief Justice in a political midnight. Rene Corona went against all principles of decency and law when he accepted the appointment. Beyond that, it was my conviction that he, together with enough justices to form a majority, connived to create a cover of legality to deodorize a grave moral and legal wrong.

Gloria Arroyo and Rene Corona injured the spirit of law and justice by their zarzuela of a midnight appointment that was committed only for the darkest of intentions. But the timing of that dastardly act was perfect. The euphoria of the election victory of Nonoy Aquino distracted everyone from protesting Corona’s appointment in the streets. Had we done so, we could have spared the nation the impeachment of a Chief Justice.

As usual, though, Gloria and her collaborators always misread the majority of the people, those who are prejudiced by their greed, and listen only to that small number that people in power always attract. Some Filipinos can be bought. Most cannot, not even the poor. Just because they sell their votes when they are hungry does not mean they have sold their souls.

This is a new day. It may even be a new dawn. The roots of corruption, of the sense of entitlement of those the in power, are deeply entrenched. One impeachment may not transform, but it will open opportunities for transformation where there were none.

The removal of Renato Corona as Chief Justice is a victory for P-Noy not only because of the conviction handed down by the Senate but more because P-Noy was affirmed in his gut feel that the Filipino was sick and tired of corruption even in the Judiciary. Because P-Noy took the cudgels for them, the people supported his moves all the way, 70% at the least expressing their condemnation of Rene Corona from beginning to end.

The spirit of the law prevailed over letters rebellious to it. Conscience won over legalese, the House of Representatives won, the Senate won, P-Noy won. Most of all, the people won.

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