Analysis

Who will blink first?

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(Political) war is too serious a matter to entrust to lawyers (military men)—Adapted from French statesman Georges Clemenceau

The stalemate over the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on the government’s decision to block the departure of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for medical treatment abroad has escalated into a full-blown collision between the Aquino administration and the high court.

It is no longer a conflict between President Aquino and his predecessor, whom he has pledged to send to jail by Christmas on cases alleging  “electoral sabotage,” graft and corruption and plunder. These cases are under preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice, and have not been filed in the courts. The conflict has ramped up into the most dangerous confrontation between the two co-equal and independent institutions of Philippine democracy—the chief executive and the highest court of the land—since Mr. Aquino took office 17 months ago. It is the most incendiary of the conflicts that have flared between the administration and the Court, which is packed by appointees of  Arroyo, over the issue of separation and limits of their respective powers. And it has pushed the country perilously to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

The standoff has also grave implications for the administration’s reform policies and its ability to prosecute officials of the Arroyo administration, most of all, the former president herself, for crimes involving abuse of power, election fraud and corruption.

The confrontation was triggered by  the Supreme Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Tuesday, which had the effect of allowing Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, so that she could seek treatment for a stubborn bone ailment.

By an 8-5 vote, the Court issued a TRO lifting the travel ban imposed by order of the DOJ. The TRO was issued by the Court in response to the petition of Arroyo. It directed executive officials to allow her to travel “effective immediately and continuing until orders from the Court.”

Jose Midas Marquez, the Court’s spokesperson, said the Arroyos were able to show that they were entitled to the relief prayed for in their separate petitions for certiorari and prohibition. Marquez explained that the continuance of their inclusion in the watch-list order might do them an injustice.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima refused to obey the judicial order and directed the Bureau of Immigration to stop the departure of the Arroyos who had booked flights in several airlines.

This defiance of the Court transformed the issue into a wider confrontation between the executive and legislative departments. It reopened still raw wounds over previous nasty incidents between  President Aquino and Chief  Justice Renato Corona, Arroyo’s midnight appointee as chief justice.

Immigration officials blocked the Arroyos from boarding their flight on Tuesday in a dramatic showdown at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, highlighting the high-handed and arbitrary manner by which the government exercised its powers, infringing on the Arroyos’ constitutional right to travel.

De Lima was almost hysterical and pugnacious in her defiance of the TRO. The President backed her actions, which prompted Sen. Joker Arroyo, the former executive secretary of the President’s mother, President Cory Aquino, to denounce him for showing tendencies of  “creeping authoritarianism.”

This heavy-handed exercise of presidential powers has allowed Arroyo to present herself as a victim of  “persecution” in the President’s campaign to make her accountable for  past wrongdoings.

Marquez warned De Lima and other officials  that they “might be held for contempt” if they insisted in preventing the Arroyos from leaving in defiance of the Court order.

The administration is deeply suspicious about the intentions of Arroyo if she is allowed to travel. It is concerned that she might not return in time to face trial for the cases lined up against her.

The President has said there is a great risk in allowing Arroyo to travel. The government is worried that she might seek political asylum abroad. If she does not return in time, the cases against her might fall apart before they can be filed in court.

Arroyo’s lawyers plan to file contempt cases against government officials for defying the Court order allowing her to travel.

Medical opinion is divided over whether Arroyos ailment is life-threatening and requires medical treatment abroad. This medical issue, as well as the issue over whether Arroyo would seek asylum to avoid standing trial in the country, has been sidetracked by the  more critical constitutional issue arising from the defiance by the executive of the TRO. Within the week, the Court is holding a special session to decide whether to revise the TRO or hold De Lima and her cohorts in contempt of court.

There are no signs that the Supreme Court or the executive department is backing off. But the constitutional system of check and balance is based on the sound principle that judicial orders have to be obeyed to maintain the rule of law. They must be obeyed—even by the President. If court orders are disobeyed, no one will be safe from a presidential dictatorship.

The question that citizens are now asking anxiously is: Who will blink first in this showdown?

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MJCN27L74QLOELVDVIP4V5M544 pinoynusa

    the SC has lost it’s authority by flip-flopping.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BMSQUIOZUHN6ZR2B3KA7Y7RC6Y Alex Leonidas

    This article is a sober analysis of facts, events, and political behaviors.  The downfall of a politician begins with his arrogance, no matter how popular he is at the moment.

  • Anonymous

    e paano naman pag ang korte ang nagkamali? at korte ang palpak?
    andaming kaso na nakabinbin, bakit tro pa ni arroyo nauna? ganun ba talaga, corona?
    andaming katangahan sa bakuran ng judiciary, yun muna unahin nyo-wag kaoy makisawsaw sa politika!

  • Anonymous

    hindi kailan man gagaling ang estudyante sa propesor nya, yan ang tandaan mo sec. de lima, nagkamali ka sa desisyon mo, bagito ka pa pala sa pwesto mo, hindi ka dapat diyan, sayang ang pinasusweldo ng taong bayan sayo, mag notaryo publiko ka na lang, dun bagay ang kokote mong kapiranggot.

    • Anonymous

      Sino ba ang mga propesor ni Gloria?

    • Anonymous

      cgurado ako n mas matalino c de lima s yo…ala m nya ang ginagawa nya …sakripisyo ang ginagawa nya..s taong bayan nagkasala c arroyo pro xa ang macontempt of court…

  • Anonymous

    The President must be the one to blink, the SC has long been asleep and their snores are offensive to the people. They would awaken to flip-flop then back to sleep. What a country.

  • Anonymous

    From the latest news, nobody blinked first. Malacanang delivered a coup de grace with the charges and arrest warrant for Gloria. Corona’s court was left holding an empty bag. Buti nga! And someday soon,, Doronila will also get his due.

  • Anonymous

    Incorrect facts. The TRO was not yet served, and DOJ cannot implement. Plus later on, found out that Arroyo did not comply with condition no. 2.

  • Anonymous

    I can bet my balls (not yours Ferdie) that this reality show is yet to hit climax! (“,)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5PGZA6WQW46QED7HFNWEDJ5EC4 Arnel

    MO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW..

    MAYBE THE SUPREME COURT IS RIGHT BASED ON LAWS INTERPRETATION,,,,,BUT IN THE INTEREST OF THE NATION,,IS THE WRONG THING TO DO..WHO IS NOW TO BE FOLLOWED??

    OUR CONSTITUTION IS FOR THE PEOPLE, AND  BY THE PEOPLE,, AND ITS FOR THE INTEREST OF THE NATION AS A WHOLE.. IF A PRESIDENT IS WRONG AND CORRUPT,,HE/SHE CAN BE REMOVE BY COUPDETAT OR NOT BEING VOTED AGAIN ON ELECTIONS.. SAME THING AS MEMBER OF CONGRESS//

    HOW ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT JUDGES……..IMPEACHMENT DAW??..KAILAN ..PAGPUTI NG UWAK..

    HAVE U EVER HEARD ANY SC JUDGES IN THE PHIL.  BEEN REMOVE FROM THEIR POSITION?
    NOPE..I DONT THINK SO..

    CORONA IS A MIDNIGHT APPOINTEE..GMA PREVIOUS CHIEF OF STAFF.. WHO DO U THINK HE WILL SIDE?? PNOY>>> UR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_77TQMHBXMTHEOOLEZ63NPCYWMQ lanemden

    kung hindi kayo naniniwala sa korte, punta nalang kayo sa bundok… meron dun kangaroo court…

  • http://twitter.com/doncaparros Don Caparros

    I agree.

  • indiosbravos2002

    Its block voting nothing more.  I might not be surprise if the other 7 justices (aside from Corona) might have their own separate opinion but is forced to vote for GMA as payment of  their political debts.  Its quite suspect that Corona hastily went back home from his short lived vacation probably to lead the flock and ensure no one goes astray.

  • Anonymous

    i thought there were five who decided against the tro, so then, the other two were not able to decide on the matter. am i getting it right?

  • Anonymous

    ok, thank you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U73P2EVWALVL7J7AEEWCOXB3ZU Billy

    Arroyo cronies….magkano bayad sayo…pakainin mo ng galing sa perang ninakaw ni Pandak sa taong bayan ang pamilya mo

  • Anonymous

    Actually – surprise, surprise – I abhor GMA as much as the next person. But I am so frustrated that nothing has been done by the government to legally keep her here. That is the government”s failure, no matter how you look at it. The government has only itself to blame.  

  • indiosbravos2002

    This is a loop hole that needs to be fix. Obviously, the reason why the president is the one with the power to appoint is so  that there would be synergy between the executive and judiciary on cases that may affect national interest. However, in cases wherein the CJ is appointed by the previous government which is hostile to the current  one.  The synergy is lost and what you have is a judiciary that acts as a wrecking crew against the administration.  

  • indiosbravos2002

    Yes, they were on leave.  They did not find the issue as important as Corona who was in the states on vacation but had to go back home in haste.  Afterall, you cant abandon your padrino who put you in the position. That just is not right.

  • Anonymous

    corona should be impeached on the ground that he is just a midnight appointee. the appointments of our high magistrates should be reviewed. there must be a change to avoid a situation where a magistrate is beholden to the appointing power.

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