Editorial

Taking the offensive

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It’s been said before but it needs saying again: Midas Marquez is the spokesperson and administrator of the Supreme Court but to hear him speak, one would think he was speaking only for Chief Justice Renato Corona. In his remarks to reporters last April 18 in Baguio City, Marquez said Malacañang’s “assaults” on the Chief Justice had served to undermine public confidence in the high court and the entire judiciary, resulting in “a wave of defiance” against court orders. It was actually an elaboration on his remarks last year that the impeachment of Corona constituted an attack on the judiciary itself. On Dec. 13, 2011, or a day after the House of Representatives transmitted the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice to the Senate for trial, Marquez delivered a mouthful: “Make no mistake. This is an assault not only on the person of Chief Justice Corona, not only on his office, not only on the Supreme Court. This is an assault on all the rights, powers and privileges of the entire judiciary. We are being forced to surrender our constitutionally mandated powers and functions to the whim and caprice of political machinations.” That astounding claim would be echoed in various ways in Marquez’s subsequent remarks—and even actions, such as the Dec. 14 “court holiday” that appeared to have been declared by his office in order to ensure warm bodies for a rally expressing support for the Chief Justice.

Marquez also told reporters in Baguio that newspaper accounts on the “relentless battering” from President Aquino and his officials had pulled down the Supreme Court’s trust ratings. It was a reference to the Pulse Asia survey conducted last Feb. 26-March 9 on 1,200 respondents showing that public trust in the high court dropped to 37 percent last March from 53 percent in November 2011, with the proportion of those expressing distrust rising to 21 percent from 15 percent. Marquez said it was the purported “battering” that caused the drop, as though the public could not be expected to remember the high court’s dismaying rulings, such as its flip-flops on the case involving the city status of 16 municipalities, its recall of its “final” decision that laid-off personnel of Philippine Airlines should be reinstated—or even its quick rejection of the embarrassing charge of plagiarism against one of its own.

And what of the fact that the Senate impeachment court, despite its unique power to try any and all impeachment cases, was hobbled by a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court, Corona’s very turf, on a scrutiny of his undeclared dollar accounts? Public dismay that the high court hewed merely to the letter and not to the spirit of the law in that case is unchanged, but by his remarks Marquez did not consider it as possibly contributing to the plunge in the tribunal’s public trust rating.

Marquez cited certain instances purporting to show “defiance” against the tribunal’s rulings. He mentioned among others the TRO it issued last year on travel restrictions on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who, on that basis, made a dramatic attempt to leave the country but was foiled by the justice department. That Marquez would, without blinking, cite the TRO that to this day remains questionable—for being known to the beneficiaries at a suspiciously early time, for one thing, and for the same beneficiaries’ failure to sufficiently comply with its requirements, for another—indicates a disturbing cynicism that can hardly be expected to boost the trust quotient of the high court.

What Marquez appears to be doing in his latest remarks is taking the offensive in preparation for the resumption of the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial in May. His renewed tack—that any criticism of Corona is an assault on the Supreme Court and the judiciary, which in turn results in an unfair performance in the surveys—is a piece of bromide that is getting truly tiresome. It’s the perfect broken record—a continuing reiteration of Corona’s own declaration on Dec. 12, 2011, that he would lead “the fight against any and all who dare to destroy the court and the independence of the judiciary.” It behooves the public to be clear-headed in addressing such remarks. In its own preparation for the impeachment proceedings, the public should remember what has transpired, what has been revealed, and what has been blatantly suppressed. And also that more than once, the Chief Justice has promised to refute the charges “point by point.”

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