Monday, December 12, 2011

Of Supreme Court, Impeachment and the Constitution

We live within a flawed practice of a popular and copied ideology. Democracy is a system of government that is based on the belief that its sovereignty resides in the people and the authority of the elected government emanates from this. People participate in the system by asserting their sovereignty through the ratification of the constitution through a plebiscite. The irony is that majority of the people do not understand the complex issues involved and are indifferent, mostly unaware, of what is being debated about. Even within our legislature there are lawmakers who might not have even read the Constitution and may have little appreciation of it. The other involvement that the citizens have in our democratic system is the voting of candidates into public office. This is an exercise of a sovereign right that needs neither explanation nor prodding because it simply asks of them to put in office personalities of their choice but perhaps with little understanding of the meaning and significance of the choices that are made available to them except that of the immediate benefit the vote rewards (vote buying) them with and the instant gratification of a fan supporting a favourite idol brings. Having actors governing our lives is something that we have to live with.

This is an imperfect system that has a host of problems accompanying it but thanks to our perseverance and patience we are able to live with it for generations. During the present times the frequency and the level of impunity by which the system has been buffeted may have reached critical mass that allowing it go on further would result into the country’s spiralling down into the category of a chronically failed state (at present we already belong to the lower batch of countries monitored by the internationally conducted Failed State Index).  
The current controversy which has Pnoy and the Supreme Court embroiled in raises fears that as a result of the attacks against the judicial institution could result in the weakening of the law and the fragmentation of their implementation despite the uprightness of the government’s contentions. I don’t think that what the government is doing cuts up the laws into bits of ineffectual non cohesive parts. What cuts them down is the travesty committed in law’s name. Reforming the justice system is not cutting it to pieces but mending and resplicing the gaps that constant abuse made mince meat of it.
Pnoy, despite the severity of his attacks on Corona, does not want a capitulation of the justice system. . I don’t think Pnoy inspires trembling in the justices boots. All he wants is for justices find it in themselves to reform and regain their integrity and dignity. They should throw off the shackles of being beholden to the evil hand that led to their falling into the ignominious pit they are in. It’s about time they regain their self esteem and be independent of judgment and fair in their evaluation of and ferreting of truths in the cases before them. They should cease to be the grovelling dogs under the banquet table of the Arroyos and to seek the return of their honour, coming out of the shadows with heads held high, respected as their positions warrant.
There have been talks bruited about in legal circles and in the legislative halls for the impeachment of the Chief Justice. Constitutional experts give caution that impeachment is a double edged sword which can be used as legal resort for reforms but may also be misused as a vindictive act carried out by blinded followers. Thinking that this is going to be a signal to the “rabble” for the persecution of the Chief Justice is a tad paranoid. Regardless of the rigorous process it will undergo, impeachment is the constitutionally prescribed antidote to the contagion that has attached itself to the highest court in the land. It will be a test of its ability as a constitutional instrument to cleanse government institutions of undesirable elements. I don’t think the object of the whole exercise is to scuttle all 15 Arroyo appointed justices via impeachment, to think so would be wishful thinking. Even the defenders of Chief Justice Corona say that this would be a monumental task and therefore something similar to people power or the Occupy Wall Street movement would be resorted to by Pnoy et al. Perhaps what is doable is the impeachment of Corona and being the head of the cabal once removed would be sufficient enough to move the other Arroyo justices through moral suasion.
It is hoped that “people power” actions is not resorted to. This has been    twice successful in the not too long ago past. People power as a resort reflects the desperation of the people’s will to rid itself of the unmitigated oppression very possible under martial rule and against a regime that is patently corrupt but thrives indefinitely because of the due processes that have to be adhered to. It takes little time for plunder to inflict severe damage to the country. There is not enough threat or imminent danger as the EDSA I or EDSA II posed to warrant a rallying of the people.  
I have always been wary of lawyers and their practice. It seems that most of the successful lawyers (monetarily) are those that are experts at loopholes, delaying tactics, technicalities, manipulation of evidences, coercion and/or coaching of witnesses, misinterpretation of jurisprudence and other wily strategies to make mockery of the spirit of the law. As I once said they make the guilty innocent and innocent ludicrous. Current examples of injustices are the content of newspapers every day. Arguing about the constitutionality of issues even takes a different and more complicated tact. As experts assert, “we should realize that there often are two or more possible sides to a constitutional argument. And the outcome of a constitutional debate often depends upon the modality of constitutional interpretation a justice might use.” Others have said that a debate on constitutional issues would sometimes make use of circuitous forensics, legal legerdemain which doesn’t inspire trust and provide us much comfort. The issues in the debate of the constitution and the Supreme Court are vital to us because it touches on our lives, our liberties and our happiness. What seem to be out of the picture are the discerned morality and the inherent correctness of things, the spirit of which should override all arguments. The Supreme Court, by the exercise of judicial review, wields tremendous political power. This tremendous political power that the Supreme Court yields is terrifying if it is controlled by the wrong hands.

What most people fail to realize is that the contrarian stance of the Arroyo installed justices who feel obliged to reciprocate to her and probably aided by ongoing and new incentives, stems from Gloria’s motive of having a Supreme Court that is friendly towards her so that she will be protected once out of her presidential protective mantle. It is no longer a chief executive protecting herself from being OUSTED, it is a case of creating a shield of protection from prosecution for misdeeds when she was in authority. Gloria chose some of her justices with the motive of protecting herself from the law which she anticipated will go after her hammer and tongs. It was never based on a violation of basic governance philosophies, political, personal and ideological considerations. She is being pursued for CRIMES committed. Proof of this is the indecent haste and surreptitiousness of appointments of personalities into government positions which will help her achieve her dastardly purpose; that of being exonerated from all the misdeeds that she foresaw will be charged against her.
In our system the appointment of justices is the prerogative of the president. Gloria had served an extended ten years as head of state and in the process the make-up of the judicial bench in the high court are predominantly her appointees. It would be reasonable to expect that some of them are qualified in terms uprightness and capability for judicious dispensing of the law. The justices seated at the benches of the Supreme Court, on the whole, would not be devoid of integrity, dignity, honour and self esteem. Their tragic flaw is that they are overly grateful for the one who installed them in their positions. If only they would show impartiality on cases regarding Gloria whom they have favoured consistently to the chagrin of the present administration. They are capable of being honourable except for the cases involving Gloria for reasons we speculate on and they find hard to divulge.