CORONA IMPEACHMENT IS AQUINO'S LEGAL QUAGMIRE

MANILA, JANUARY 15
, 2012 (STANDARD) COMMENTARY By Veteran author-journalist Cecilio T. Arillo - Many people do not know that President Benigno Aquino III and his 188 allies in the House who collaborated to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona may have created a difficult or precarious legal situation that can lead to a serious constitutional crisis or possibly a political and social upheaval.

Why?

This is because the Constitution, hastily framed during the time of President Aquino’s mother Corazon Aquino in 1986 and under which CJ Corona was impeached, is utterly defective.

[PHOTO - Newly elected President Noynoy Aquino in his Palace office looking up at former President Cory Aquino's portrait] Recall that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself strongly opposed the then-ratification of the Constitution in 1987 because of its serious infirmities.

Specifically, the defect and the danger that it poses to the country is that the President cannot appoint Corona’s replacement if he is convicted by the Senator-judges because no one at that point will convene the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body created by the Constitution, whose members prepare and thoroughly screen the list of nominees to be appointed by the President for every vacancy in the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice.

Under its Rules, promulgated on Oct. 18, 2000 by then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and the five other members, “the Council is thus vested with a delicate function and burdened with a great responsibility; its task of determining who meets the constitutional requirements to merit recommendation for appointment to the Judiciary is a most difficult and trying duty because the virtues and qualities of competence, integrity, probity and independence are not easily determinable as they are developed and nurtured through the years; and it is self-evident that, to be a good judge, one must have attained sufficient mastery of the law and legal principles, be of irreproachable character and must possess unsullied reputation and integrity, should consider his office as a sacred public trust; and, above all, he must be one whose loyalty to law, justice and the ideals of an independent Judiciary is beyond doubt;” i law library

[Photo - Former President Gloria Arroyo swearing in Chief Justice Renato Corona) Warts and all, President Arroyo in her time appointed Mr. Corona after then retiring Chief Justice Renato Puno convened the JBC to nominate his replacement to avoid a judicial vacuum.

Section 8, Article VIII, of the Constitution, (1) reads: “A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of Congress as ex officio members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.”

The present Constitution did not name a vice chairman or deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court to convene and supervise the JBC in case the Supreme Court Chief Justice dies, is incapacitated or is removed by impeachment.

Clearly from the foregoing, the President cannot appoint members of the High Court without a JBC list of nominees, unlike in the 1935 Constitution where the President can freely appoint members of the Supreme Court and all judges of inferior courts with the consent of the Commission on Appointments. The 1973 Constitution was almost the same as the 1935 Constitution, except that there was no Commission on Appointments at that time.

Some say the President can appoint the most senior member of the Supreme Court as acting Chief Justice to prevent a vacuum.

The question is can President Aquino III appoint him without JBC nominees as explicitly required by the Constitution and risk committing a culpable violation of the Constitution?

And supposed some of the justices or lower court judges sympathize with Mr. Corona and resign en mass?

Bear in mind that no democratic or republican state, like the Philippines, can survive without a functioning judicial system. Surely, no businessmen or foreign investors will put his money in a country under a mob rule.

At that point, whether one likes it or not, the military and the police will take over the government to protect the State from disintegrating. Or the President may declare Martial Law. But the question is can President Aquino III command the loyalty and obedience of the armed services, knowing that he himself was part of the problem?

In Section 8 (2), Article VIII, of the Constitution, the regular Members of the Council shall be appointed by the President for a term of four years with the consent of the Commission on Appointments. Of the Members first appointed, the representative of the Integrated Bar shall serve for four years, the professor of law for three years, the retired justice for two years, and the representative of the private sector for one year.

The Council, in Section 8 (5), shall have the principal function of recommending appointees to the Judiciary. It may exercise such other functions and duties as the Supreme Court may assign to it.

Section 9, Article VIII, of the Constitution, clearly states that “The Members of the Supreme Court and the judges of lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation.”

It is not too late yet for the prosecution and other angry and confrontational people to rationalize once more for the sake of the country before the Senate begins in earnest the trial of CJ Corona who is already being unfairly subjected to prejudgment of guilt, a dangerous situation that is already causing anxiety, tension and disunity among the people.

The best solution is to withdraw the articles of impeachment, amend the Constitution and let the President and his 188 allies in the House put the interest of the country at heart by adopting a consensual, rather an adversarial and confrontational, approach to deal with CJ Corona and the country’s more pressing political, social, economics and national security problems.

In fact, this is the position of some members of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines and other secular groups when they attempted to mediate the conflict between CJ Corona and President Aquino. Unfortunately, the latter spurned them.

[Photo - (L-R) Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, former President Fidel Ramos and President-elect Noynoy Aquino: Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales administer the oath-taking of President-elect Noynoy Aquino during his inauguration as the fifteenth President of the Philippines, at Quirino Grandstand on June 30, 2010 in Manila, Philippines. Aquino won the 2010 Presidential Election and was proclaimed winner and President-elect on June 9, succeeding outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (June 29, 2010 - Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images AsiaPac)]

Isn’t a good, wise move for a President, who’s very much aware of his oath of office (“…preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws and do justice to every man…”), to cohere with the two other branches of the government, unify the nation and put the plunderers, corruptors and other scoundrels in jail under a rule of law with less publicity and fanfare?

About the writer:

CECILIO T. ARILLO
Veteran author-journalist Cecilio T. Arillo, PhD, has just published a new book, “A Country Imperiled: Tragic Lessons of a Distorted History (IAME, 2011),” which presents a bold and factual perspective on the presidency of deposed leader Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the martial law period, the Edsa Revolt, the regime of President Cory Aquino and the subsequent administrations until that of Cory’s son, President Benigno Aquino III.

Like his previous books, “Breakaway (CTA Publishing, 1986)” and “Greed and Betrayal (CTA, 2000),” Arillo presents a factual recounting of history in “A Country Imperiled..” even as it breaks accepted norms on historical personalities and the traditional textbook view on the nation’s past and present. “A Country Imperiled” follows the same tradition of factual narrations of political history as it seeks to objectively demystify the Aquino couple, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who is hailed as a martyr, and Cory Aquino as an icon of democracy.

Some of Arillo’s observations especially on Cory, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and President Aquino curiously find parallels in the controversial Wikileaks supposedly coming from former Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney. He also dissects nasty allegations leveled at the Marcos couple through a fair recounting of their actions. These are based on declassified government documents and biased reporting of events.

Arillo says the book sets the record straight for the benefit of the new generation of Filipinos who may have to rely on historical accounts to appreciate the characters of the nation’s previous leaders. He adds that what prompted him to write the book were what came out mostly as distortions of historical events and the glorification of people who are supposed to be made to account for their sins of omission and commission.

Arillo, in the post-Marcos years, looks at the trail of plunders, corruptions, economic deprivation, gruesome human rights violations, insurgencies, hundreds of killings involving journalists and serious problems of brownouts, flooding and horrendous traffic.

He says the book also seeks to break the common notion that corruption is the root of all evils in the country. “While corruption is a valid issue, the mendicancy of the country and wrong economic policies were caused mostly by predation that the country’s leaders have allowed to persist,” he writes in the foreword.

In his incisive review of the ills of the economy, Arillo puts on the spotlight the collusion between the Cory Aquino regime and the mostly Makati-based big businesses and “corporate predators that thrive on political patronage with the Aquinos.”

The book also exposes the role of the Church in the downfall of Marcos and the restoration of the old oligarchy. It also examines the vindictiveness of the Cory Aquino administration that was exemplified by the targeting for demolition of the efficiently functioning ministries, the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Human Settlements, particularly its Technological Resource Center whose assets were dissipated and later abolished on the mere argument that these agencies were creations of Marcos.

Arillo’s deconstruction of events is an interesting guide for legal researchers as well as students out to write a factual recollection of the country’s historical events. The book is now available for worldwide distribution at Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace. (THE DAILY INQUIRER)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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