Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was first published in Interaksyon.com on January 11, 2012.
In the end, the litmus test of an impeachment is policy-oriented: will the people and the nation be better served by retaining or by ousting impeached officials? Impeachment belongs to the people, not to lawyers. – former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban
It is the position of the current Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) that the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona undermines judicial independence.
“If the Chief Justice can be validly impeached for collegial decisions (including pending cases) for “political bias” and hauled to the Senate to undergo the rigors of political trial, all by a mere stroke of 1/3 signatures of the House gathered in blitz, then the Supreme Court will never be the same again, its judicial independence defanged, and its magistrates—including their decisions—now at the mercy of the political bidding, if not power plays, of the ruling House majority and the President.” (Italics courtesy of IBP)
Good googly moogly! Does the IBP want to amend the Constitution and increase the threshold for impeachment to more than 1/3 of the House? Does it want to eliminate stroking by replacing signatures with some other form of voting like yelling, clapping or booing? And what the hell is “gathered in blitz”, is that a pun? Maybe the IBP was only trying to be cute because everything else in their 85-word sentence does not make them look good. Nor does it help their argument that impeaching Corona is bad policy.
The IBP’s expression of deep concern over Corona’s impeachment suggests that they believe the Supreme Court was the paragon of independence during Gloria Arroyo’s regime. Did they not suspect partiality or subservience in collegial decisions ranging from EO 464 to creating a congressional district that paved the way for Dato Arroyo’s political ambitions to Corona’s midnight appointment? And what is the IBP’s appraisal of the status quo ante orders on the impeachment of Merci Gutierrez and the firing of Gloria’s midnight appointees and the TRO on the Watchlist Order on Gloria and Mike Arroyo, do they want that kind of rule of law from an independent Supreme Court to continue forever?
Is it good policy to acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona? It is if you don’t believe that a majority in the Supreme Court has been servile to Gloria Arroyo. But if you believe otherwise, then you must remove Corona.
Why single out Corona? Because Gloria Arroyo singled him out. Because she chose him from all the justices who were willing and had proven themselves to be worthy of her trust. Because she went through a lot of trouble just so she would have a legal basis to appoint him as the Court’s major-domo. Why wouldn’t you single out the man that she singled out?
Two things that the senator-judges must do: first, memorize the words of former Chief Justice Panganiban at the top of the page and second, heed the advice of a philosophy professor, “justice must resolve a conflict in a way that leaves the community whole.”