Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was first published in Interaksyon.com on January 25, 2012.


The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits – Albert Einstein

Before yesterday’s hearing, I thought I had the defense strategy figured out: Tie the hands of the prosecution; block the submission of evidence by raising legal technicalities; confuse the public with legal gobbledygook; and distract everybody with the hairdo of Justice Cuevas. I figured wrong. I didn’t see the secret weapon of the defense: a remote control device to activate the motor mouth of lead prosecutor Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas.

Less talk, less mistake! Hasn’t anybody told Tupas that?

His fellow Ilonggo Sen. Miriam Santiago lent him a hand when he was being pummeled by defense counsel Cuevas.  She reminded the court that they needed to be liberal with accepting evidence so that the ugly outcome of the Estrada impeachment which was caused by strict interpretation of the law would not be repeated. That should have been that. Tupas should have thanked Miriam for her unsolicited assistance. But no. He had to open his mouth and make a manifestation that implied Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was partial to the defense.

Dugay man ka dinhi sa Maynila kay tonto ka pa man gihapon.” Niel cannot even spell Neil correctly. I don’t know what it is with the fifth congressional district of Iloilo but the man who preceded Niel as representative was a man named Rolex. But in fairness to Niel, he is not alone. There is an epidemic of stupidity.

Court spokesman Midas Marquez bragged that lawyers de campanilla were defending Corona for free, pro bono in legal parlance, and the defense lawyers proudly claimed that they were doing it out of principle. Stupid.

Human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag pointed out that Corona is violating judicial ethics by accepting free legal assistance:

“Rule 5.04 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics says judges shall not accept a gift or favor from anyone. My humble submission is that wealthy and powerful CJ Rene may not accept free legal services from lawyers as these comprise a gift or favor.  Utang na loob to be repaid in the form of favorable or sympathetic rulings. No lawyer is helping Rene for free just because he is such a nice guy. He or his firm may have cases at every level and association with the CJ would not harm at this point.  Amor con amor se paga.

Then there are those miron lawyers who are asking the Supreme Court to stop Corona’s trial because the House of Representatives committed “grave abuse of discretion.” They argue that the Supreme Court has the power and the duty to “determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government” under Art VIII sec 1 of the Constitution. Checks and balances to insure due process daw. But the same constitution also says “The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment” and “The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.”

Lawyers can argue those provisions until the end of the world or until Cuevas gets a new hairstylist whichever comes first but the question that matters to non-lawyers is, why is the Supreme Court being asked to decide on the constitutionality of a trial whose outcome has a direct bearing on the Chief Justice?

An earlier Congress was shortsighted enough to submit to the Supreme Court’s decision in the impeachment of Chief Justice Hilario Davide. It surrendered its exclusive power to initiate impeachment. Now we have to live with that Court’s tortured explanation of what initiating an impeachment complaint means. And all that Court wanted was to save Davide from a second and stronger impeachment complaint.

Now I’m not saying that those Arroyo-appointed justices will issue a TRO to protect their chief. They could dismiss the TRO petition. But that’s not the point. The thing is it’s stupid to even imagine that the rule of law and the system of checks and balances will somehow benefit from a lawsuit that asks justices to decide on a case involving their chief. The credibility of the institution rests on the perception that its decisions are impartial, objective, and fair. How, in this particular case, can the Court come up with a decision that will meet such criteria? Sentido comun por favor.

Everybody has a right to be stupid but that does not mean they have a right to abuse that right.