Taking the side of neither bully in the school yard

January 5, 2012. Our involvement with the issue of the Chief Justice’s impeachment must not degenerate into taking sides from among the warring political factions of the government, for we must remember that what truly matters is the people’s welfare. Beyond all the cacophony of this political circus, the truth remains that both contending ruling cliques have their own vested agenda. The Aquino and the Arroyo groups have taken advantage and exploited this feud in order to portray themselves as heroes and saints while neither of them genuinely address the basic pursuit of social justice in the country.

To take side with either bully of the schoolyard is not a choice, it is a false dichotomy.

On one hand, if we are truly for judicial integrity and independence, we should welcome the opportunity for the Chief Justice to defend himself against allegations of partiality in an impeachment trial. We should caution against those who portray the impeachment of the Chief Justice as an attack against the Judiciary as an institution and paint several personalities as martyrs. Impeachment per se is not a breach of judicial independence. Impeachment is a mechanism for Congress to fulfill its check and balance function as representatives of the people. It is not a mere surplusage in our Constitution. Our Supreme Court Justices, highly esteemed by some of us as they may be, are not infallible demigods who are immune from scrutiny and criticism, and they remain to be public officials who are accountable to the people.

We should also welcome the impeachment as a step in holding accountable the past administration of former President Arroyo, for it is undeniable that while the Chief Justice is in power, the integrity and impartiality of all Supreme Court decisions with regard the Chief Justice’s former principal, to whom he has served as chief of staff and legal counsel, will be put into question. Judging the pattern of decisions and opinions of the Chief Justice, indeed his impartiality is in doubt.

On the other hand, we should also caution our support for such pursuit of judicial integrity by refusing to throw all our weight behind the Aquino clique, for it is readily apparent that this is a machination to consolidate all branches of government at his disposal, after a consistent pattern of Supreme Court decisions that run against the present administration’s interests, the final straw being that of the decision regarding Hacienda Luisita. Removing an Arroyo-appointed Chief Justice opens the golden opportunity for President Aquino to install his own. In that regard, we should also remain vigilant in the common pursuit of a Supreme Court that is truly an independent entity capable of dispensing legal matters with fairness and justice.

At the end of the day, while we are being made to watch this political circus the prevailing fact remains, President Aquino has no clear program of action to resolve the root causes of massive poverty and injustice in the Philippines but a rehash the same old bankrupt economic framework and political policies of his predecessors, including former President Arroyo. All President Aquino has to show for, laudable as it may be, is a smokescreen of anti-corruption rhetoric. Such is merely a staged showdown between his administration and Arroyo’s which does not address the basic problems of the people. After all, in the final analysis, how different are the two cliques from each other?

* with reference to former President Arroyo’s infamous line in response to critics: “I’m tired of chasing the bullies around the schoolyard!”

[This is a statement I wrote for the Civil Law Student Council of UST with regard to the political issue of the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial]

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