As I See It

Faulty decisions encourage corruption

/ 09:57 PM December 08, 2011

I don’t agree with those castigating President Aquino as “rude” when he criticized Chief Justice Renato Corona and members of the Supreme Court in his speech at the Justice Summit. He should not have done that, they said, because the objects of his criticism were present. But when else, when their backs are turned? Wouldn’t that be cowardly?

Perhaps they were shocked from their comfort zones because nobody has done it before. The Supreme Court has so scared people that nobody dares criticize it to its face. Even law practitioners railing against “unfair” decisions of the high court do it before their colleagues but not before the Court itself. Some lawyers who did that were disbarred, like Ateneo law professor Alan Paguia.


But Supreme Court justices are not infallible like the Pope. They have feet of clay like the rest of us who make mistakes. The Court has indeed made contradictory and confusing decisions, as the President said.

What did P-Noy say in his speech? It is this: Recent decisions of the Court, such as declaring unconstitutional the creation of the Truth Commission and the quick issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the watch-list order (WLO) of the Department of Justice against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to cite just two cases, have substantially hindered current anti-corruption efforts.


To put it more succinctly, within the context of the current tussle between the executive branch and the judiciary, faulty dispensation of justice is itself an injustice. In effect, it not only tolerates but actually causes corruption because it sends the message that crime does pay.

The trouble with these critics is that they have the misguided belief that politeness should always have primacy over candor. Perhaps in some instances, such as social gatherings, this ought to be observed. However in this instance when the issue is stamping out corruption and holding accountable those who have betrayed public trust, declaring obvious truths and being straightforward in expressing valid criticism are certainly justifiable.

Was P-Noy justified in his decision to publicly criticize the high tribunal? Definitely. Because he, as head of a co-equal branch of government, had the duty to do so.

Criticisms are healthy. It lets the object of the criticism know that he is doing something wrong so that he can correct it. That is democracy in action. That is when you know the checks and balances among the three branches of government are working. As dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East College of Law said, the President’s action was in accordance with the principle of checks and balances between two co-equal branches of government.

Can you imagine what will happen if Congress and the judiciary always agree with the chief executive and vice versa? That is how dictators are born. That was how Ferdinand Marcos became a dictator; the members of Congress were his allies and the Supreme Court supported him all the way.

That was what happened to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The members of Congress were her lackeys and the Supreme Court twisted the law to make her actions legitimate. When she ousted President Joseph Estrada from the presidency, there was no constitutional justification for it, so the Supreme Court came out with a decision that Erap had resigned, although there was no letter of resignation in existence. Neither did he resign orally.

But the tribunal headed by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, in a unanimous vote, declared that Erap had resigned on the basis of the diary of an official, which was never presented to the Senate or to the Court. The ponente of that decision, Reynato Puno, was rewarded by GMA with an appointment as chief justice. Davide was rewarded with an appointment as ambassador to the United Nations after he retired from the high court.


That started the culture of impunity in the GMA administration, resulting in the massive cheating during elections and the many cases of graft and culminating in the Maguindanao massacre. Because there was neither a Congress nor a Supreme Court that checked the abuses of the executive branch.

Going back to Valdez, he said, “I think this (the President’s criticism of the Supreme Court) will strengthen our system of checks and balances. The President has to do what he has to do. He has to articulate the sentiments of the people.”

Although Valdez acknowledged that while the judiciary is independent from the Executive, the Court’s decisions “must still reflect the sentiments of the Filipino people.”

He added: “The Supreme Court has the responsibility to reflect the collective intuition of the people. The Supreme Court is not just a decision-making body, it has to capture the conscience of the people.”

Those who still believe that P-Noy was wrong in criticizing the high court in the manner he did should not complain when grafters in government—past, present and future—are able to get away with their loot.

I would rather have a leader who can sometimes be perceived as “rude” for being straightforward, than one who is gracious and polite but who robs the people blind or stands in the way of efforts to rid this country of its most serious malaise: rampant corruption, which has kept many of our people in abject poverty.

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TAGS: Aquino, check-and-balance, corruption, executive, featured columns, government branches, judiciary, Legislative, opinion, Supreme Court
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