by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona is both a legal and political process. What is legal about it refers to impeachment as a mechanism to remove a sitting Justice, just as it is to remove other heads of branches of government. What is political about it is that 16 of 24 senators have to vote for the impeachment for the Chief Justice to be permanently removed. And their vote is final whether they can justify it or not, whether they believe any evidence or not.
The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines carries this provision called impeachment. When Congress impeaches, that is not turbulence. That is the exercise of what is constitutional. When Congress cannot impeach even if enough of its required numbers believe they have cause, then that is real cause for turbulence.

If there is turbulence caused by the initiative of P-Noy to question the integrity and objectivity of Chief Justice Corona, and the parallel decision of more than enough members of Congress to impeach Corona, then it is a kind of turbulence that a society eager for change and reform welcomes. Without that urgent need for change and reform in the hearts of most Filipinos, they would not continue to approve of what he is doing, they would not continue to give him their trust.

The personalities who are predicting dire things for our people and country because of a turbulence that P-Noy has caused in openly accusing Chief Justice Corona of protecting Gloria Arroyo may have legitimate concerns. But it may also interest the Filipino public that the most critical are simply continuing today what they had started since Noynoy Aquino suddenly disrupted a presidential campaign and election. Check the names and faces of the most rabid critics of P-Noy and the impeachment of Corona. You may find that they have been against Noynoy the candidate or for another candidate who eventually lost.

Seven of ten Filipinos approve of P-Noy’s performance. More than that, they trust him. Only one of ten disapprove or distrust P-Noy while two of ten are not prepared to express their sentiments. 95 percent of Filipinos look forward to 2012 with optimism. The line of his enemies that P-Noy is dictatorial and threatens to be even more so than Ferdinand Marcos is not only ridiculous – it is an insidious but stupid attempt to accuse Filipinos that they approve of and trust a president with a dictatorial design. After Marcos, these hysterical critics of P-Noy would like to say that Filipinos do not know what a dictator is. And the most funny part of it is that many of his opponents have accused the same P-Noy of being weak and a wimp. No wonder their credibility sucks despite their constant sound-bytes.

I have said this before and I will say it again. Of the three co-equal branches of government, the Executive and the Legislative have been frequent targets of the harshest insults and ugliest accusations. When congressmen, senators and presidents were the targets, lawyers and judges and justices did not claim that the Constitution was threatened. Now that the third co-equal, the Judiciary, is the object of an accusation that merits impeachment in the judgment of more than enough members of Congress, there is a concerted outcry among partisans of Corona as though the Chief Justice is exempt attacks, accusations and impeachment.

My personal wish is that Chief Justice Corona will not wilt and will go down fighting to the end. It matters less to me whether he will be impeached or not; what matters most is that the issue of integrity, the issue of honesty, and the issue of corruption in the Judiciary will finally attract public attention. It is not as though the man on the street has not been critical and judgmental of lawyers, judges and justices who buy and sell cases. It is simply that there is more fear about displeasing justices and judges and lawyers with strong connections to judges and justices than there is about displeasing Presidents, Speakers and Senate Presidents.

I can only assume that the performance of previous Supreme Court Justices must have built a strong sense of security and credibility in our people. But the distrust with which many people regard judges and justices today cannot be denied. If it will be helpful, I wish there will be surveys of how many people believe or do not believe in the integrity of the justice system and the officers of the Judiciary. I am of the opinion that it will be helpful for judges and justices to know just how they people they are sworn to serve and protect feel about them.

There is a point that I can find agreement with those who are against the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona, and that refers to the special and most crucial status of Justices. Since they are the interpreters of the law, I concede that they must be given a kind of regard and treatment that puts them a head above the rest. At the same time, because of that expectation of society that Justices are impervious to partisanship or corruption, when they fall, society falls with them.

I believe that our justice system, our judges and justices, must again find that special rank in the eyes and hearts of our people. Of all three co-equal branches of government, it is the Judiciary that I hope to be the most trusted at all times. My view is that the present judgment of the Filipino people is distrustful of them and the impeachment trial of Corona will trigger serious reform and a return of the people’s faith in the justice of our land.

I also believe that it is ripe for us to think of a real overhaul of our justice system, not simply impeaching justices, but installing ordinary citizens to be judges of their peers in a jury system.

Turbulence? Yes, please!


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