Shatter the sacred cow | BusinessWorld Online Edition

Shatter the sacred cow | BusinessWorld Online Edition

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Posted on December 13, 2011 08:50:29 PM

Shatter the sacred cow

Grassroots & Governance
By Teresa S. Abesamis

The Lower House decision to impeach the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is raising much hue and cry among legal professionals, academics and politicians. Issues are being raised about the danger of “destroying our democracy” and the harm that can arise from opening up the sanctity of the Supreme Court to political attacks.

It seems to me that the sacredness of the Supreme Court’s authority has already been eroded through the years, not because of criticism by the public, but by its own failure to safeguard its own probity and integrity, especially in recent years.

Certainly, its claim of holding fast to its independence is highly questionable, given its flip-flopping decisions on many high profile cases, on the basis of mere letters, not even formal pleadings from a highly successful lawyer who seems unbeatable in the Supreme Court.
Transformation of our society calls for bold and radical moves, not little tinkering steps. Much of society, has descended to such lows and this has led to much cynicism, especially about the justice system in our country, often said to be “for sale.”

President Benigno Aquino III came into office promising to rid the country of corruption, which he says, makes it hard to fight poverty, our heaviest problem. In this campaign, the President has run into two major obstacles: the sitting ombudsman and the majority of the Supreme Court justices, who had been appointed by the overstaying former president Arroyo. We have been spared much gory unpleasantness when the former ombudsman resigned rather than face the Senate investigations into her impeachment. Perhaps she realized that she could not possibly survive the trials.

Retired Associate Justice and now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, in a recent workshop on Integrity Initiatives held by Transparency International Philippines, stated that corruption is the true enemy. She said: “We have heard many disturbing reports of corruption, abuse or incompetence by members of the different pillars of the justice system, and these reports may unduly result in the erosion of trust in the system. Unless we address them, questions about the integrity of the system will continue to haunt us.”

Now that we are on the brink of trying the former president Arroyo for her alleged crime of electoral sabotage, a case which the RTC court has judged to have probable cause, it is clear that if nothing drastic is done about the sitting Supreme Court Chief justice, that case, and others that might soon be filed against her, will end up as frustrating rigmaroles, given the recent history of Supreme Court behaviors.

Shattering sacred cows is necessarily an unpleasant act. If we are to mature as a democracy and government of laws, then we must be prepared to deal with the blood and gore. The truth is often painful. A large majority of the members of the Lower House has voted to impeach the sitting Chief Justice Corona. We must now entrust judgment to the Senate which is not controlled by any political party, not even the Liberal Party. Like the President, these members of Congress are elected representatives of the Filipino people, whose interests they must now protect and defend.
Many of our legal luminaries and academics like to cite US jurisprudence as the model to emulate. Former presidential candidate Albert Gore has been cited as having done the right thing in conceding the Y2000 election to George W. Bush, despite questions raised in the presidential vote-count process in Florida where the state Supreme Court had been appointed by the latter’s brother, Governor Jeb Bush.

I wonder what would have happened, had Albert Gore, who had majority vote at the time, refused to concede, and had he challenged the decision before the United States Supreme Court, regardless of its alleged “sanctity.” Would the United States have gone to war in Iraq, on the flimsy claim of existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), later acknowledged to have been untrue? George W. Bush mobilized a Coalition of the Willing to by-pass the United Nation’s veto of the Iraq invasion plan, despite objections by the respected Hans Blix who asked for more time, since his UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification and the International Atomic Energy Commission, both UN bodies, had not found evidence of WMDs.

What would have happened if Albert Gore had been willing to shatter the myth of sanctity of the Florida and US Supreme Courts? Perhaps the Iraq war would not have happened. The United States government might have done better by focusing instead on Afghanistan, and bringing peace and development into that country. The US government would not have run into such huge budget deficits, causing economic recession, joblessness and suffering around the world.

Perhaps, given his environmental zeal, and early advocacy for climate change, President Albert Gore might have gotten the US government and with their moral leadership, gotten the world to reduce pollutive emissions, and who knows, with a lead time of about ten years, much of the climate change disasters in the world, and in our country might have been prevented? Many, many Lives have been lost because of such faulty decisions by the Bush government.

There are eight charges in the impeachment complaint against Corona. The most telling cases are those regarding the sitting Chief Justice’s personal behavior, in particular, his failure to decline the appointment of his wife as a highly compensated director of a government corporation while he sat in the Supreme Court. How can he now claim that his independence and that of the Supreme Court are being threatened? He already lost that all by his lonesome to Gloria M. Arroyo, over whose cases the Supreme Court will eventually sit in judgment, given the proclivity of her lawyers to send appeals to the so-called august body.

Let’s not pussy-foot on this one. Shatter the sacred cows. It is time for truth to triumph. Unless we face the truth squarely, we cannot have true justice. And the Supreme Court will not regain its honor, which must now be earned. It is time to shatter the myth. Hopefully, the Court can rise from the ashes and regain its self-respect.

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