Get on with ‘kangaroo trial’
The report, “Sereno goes on leave, gets ready for impeach trial” (News, 2/28/18), summed it all up: “[Chief Justice Maria Lourdes] Sereno may become the second Chief Justice to be impeached after Renato Corona was removed during a Senate trial in 2012, also for not disclosing income.”
Indeed, like the ill-fated Corona, Sereno is about to face Senate trial for violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees—which, by any reckoning, cannot “rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” e.g., “culpable violation of the Constitution.” It is not a constitutional provision but a mere legislative enactment that almost everyone in government service is guilty of violating since time immemorial—to hide their wealth, some or most of which probably were ill-gotten.
It used to be brushed aside as no biggie, the prevailing “normal” for the longest time. Blame the Supreme Court for firing a lowly court employee who failed to disclose an extra income from a market stall in the paltry sum of about P1,000 per month. Where justice should have been tempered by mercy, the harshness of the law was applied strictly. Under the “doctrine” then of “what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander,” Corona, who concealed his assets in dollars and pesos worth tens of millions, was also fired by the Senate impeachment court. Evidently, being chief justice did not make Corona enthroned with immunity, impunity or the privilege of being deemed above the law.
Although denied to death, politics is really the name of the game. And since Congress is the “sole judge” of all impeachment proceedings, any interpretation or definition of “impeachable offense” it adopts is good enough. Theoretically, it can even deem “jaywalking” impeachable, see? But here’s one “culpable violation of the Constitution” that is clear as daylight and requires no interpretation from either Congress or the Supreme Court: “All cases or matters… must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and … twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts” (Article 15 , Constitution). This command relates to the heart and soul of the judicial system requiring justice to be delivered more speedily to have any meaning.
Yet, despite its plain language, the Supreme Court has interpreted that provision to be merely “recommendatory” as far as it is concerned, and “mandatory” only as far as all lower collegiate or single-judge courts are concerned under pain of “disciplinary action.” Its being “supreme,” of course, grants it the arrogance to mock the Constitution by enshrining that dichotomy solely for the benefit of its members. It is an admitted fact that cases brought to the Supreme Court have dragged on much, much longer than the two years mandated by the Constitution. And it is no longer surprising to know of many cases remaining unresolved for decades. If that is not “culpable violation of the Constitution” by the justices who are sitting on those cases as if performing their job depends only on their own convenience, we don’t know what is! Their excuse has always been that there are just too many cases to resolve. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had this to say: “We are here to serve the public and if we find it difficult to do so, maybe it’s time to consider another career in the private sector” (“Government execs who can’t perform should move to private sector, says Roque” News, 3/1/17).
And no one in Congress—the so-called representatives of the people who had gone through the serious business of ratifying and ordaining that Constitution—has seen fit to hold Supreme Court justices to account for that blatant violation? Excepting those just recently appointed, sitting justices who have decisions yet to be made despite the lapse of two years should also face impeachment. Those who have retired and left behind unresolved cases should also be held to account for their neglect of duty. How about requiring them to return their undeserved retirement benefits kaya? That’s what the Commission on Audit always does with regard to undeserved bonuses and benefits finagled by other public servants. Are Supreme Court justices really such sacred cows?
Alas, politics in this country, not the rule of law, always prevails when it comes to impeachment cases. And the way it rears its ugly head makes many want to puke. It is never for the good of the country but a mere matter of political patronage or accommodation. So, since there is no stopping the grandstanding by the Sereno haters in the House of Representatives justice committee, please, your honors, let’s cut to the chase already, get on with the “kangaroo trial” in the Senate and be done with it! The teleserye in that committee still trying to find “probable cause” to indict Sereno is needlessly getting to be very expensive for the taxpayers, not to say boring us all to death. The forgone conclusion has been telegraphed so many times already, for Pete’s sake!
GEORGE DEL MAR, firstname.lastname@example.org
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