Rules | Inquirer Opinion


/ 11:04 PM January 09, 2012

“If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?” Charlie Brown asks in the award-winning comic strip “Peanuts.”

Investigative reporter Marites Vitug reported that the University of  Santo Tomas bent rules to vest a PhD degree on Chief Justice Renato Corona. He never submitted a dissertation and overshot UST’s complete-in-five-years yardstick.


“Young men know the rules,” noted Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served as US Supreme Court justice from 1902 to 1932. “But old men know the exceptions.”

Sen. Francis Escudero stewed over “piece-meal leakage of evidence” against Corona by some House of Representatives prosecutors. “Respect the Senate as an impeachment court,” Escudero snapped. “Observe its rules.”


Are critics serious about impeachment rules? asked Inquirer’s Conrado de Quiros. Then they should warn Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez, who is paid his salary with taxpayers’ money, “against lawyering for Corona.”

In geohazard areas, rules to safeguard lives are routinely violated. Over 125 people were entombed by mudslides in Compostela Valley since 2003. That excludes the 30 killed last week, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council revealed.

Floods spawned by Tropical Storm “Sendong” wiped out an entire community perched on a sandbar dubbed “Isla de Oro.” The overall death toll in Northern Mindanao now exceeds 1,453. Some missing persons will never be accounted for.

“They create the future who watch the present, and learn from the past.” Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano and his allies never learned from past “tutorials,” like the November 1991 Ormoc City tragedy. Within an hour, floodwaters dumped by Typhoon “Uring” swept 4,875 people to their deaths. Emano denies he was playing poker when Pagasa repeatedly warned that Sendong had swerved from Cebu to the Cagayan-Iligan area.

“Rules are for the obedience of fools but guidance of wise men.” Kristin, who is all of 8, agrees. She scribbled 12 guidelines for the study room she shares with our other grand-daughter Katarina, 5. Kristin captioned her handiwork “Rules.”

“Don’t give the dolls a shower,” says Rule No. 5. Rule No. 6, is a follow-up: “Don’t put the shampoo on your skin.” These are preceded by  Rule No. 2: “Minimize your voice.”

Rule No. 9 stipulates: “No throwing items without permition (sic).” “Should it be double “s”? asked Katarina when we noted the error. She pencilled in the correction—and scrawled in Rule No. 13: “Don’t be so mene.” (She meant “mean,” of course.) But you catch the drift: Rules kept result in order.


The Constitution contains basic rules. One is Article VII. It bans appointments two months before a presidential election. That prohibition holds until the end of the incumbent’s term, i.e., noon of June 30. It was proposed by Delegate (later Chief Justice ) Hilario Davide and stitched into the 1987 Constitution precisely to prevent a repeat of quarter-to-midnight appointments by previous presidents.

Carlos P. Garcia named 350 to various posts. Diosdado Macapagal tripled that number. Forty-five years later, Macapagal’s daughter would outdo them all, Viewpoint noted in “Mocking the midnight bell.” (Inquirer, 6/5/10) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stuffed midnighters into a score of agencies, from the Monetary Board, the Commission on Muslim Filipinos to the Court of Appeals.

In a “Cinderella spree,” she renamed racketeers to official casino operator Pagcor, promoted Malacañang gardener Armando Macapagal to the board of the Luneta Park, and her former chief of staff Renato Corona as Supreme Court chief justice.

“No,” protested the President’s manicurist, Anita Carpon. “Count me out.” She had been given a midnight appointment to the board of the Pag-Ibig Fund. Here is one lady who still knows how to blush.

Did Corona blush when he accepted the post of chief justice? Who knows? What we know is that Corona had sufficient warning.

“According to the Aytona case (1962) and Valenzuela case (1998), when the president-elect is known, the authority of the incumbent is only to ensure an orderly transfer of power,” constitutional expert Joaquin Bernas, SJ pointed out. If Arroyo insisted on naming a chief justice, she courted the possibility that Congress would impeach him. That has now come to pass.

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag has consistently held that Corona is a “de facto, not de jure chief justice.” As such, Corona has “sole responsibility” under Presidential Decree No. 1949 for the billion-peso Judiciary Development Fund. But Saguisag’s students fielded to ferret out information on the JDF hit a blank wall.

Indeed the Judiciary is the least transparent branch of government, Vitug writes in her award-winning book “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court.”

To spur transparency, Republic Act 6713 stipulates that public servants must “accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know [their] assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests, including those of their spouses.”

“Corona cannot hide behind an illegal self-serving interpretation” exempting the Supreme Court from a requirement others comply with, Saguisag says.

Justices Antonio Carpio and Maria Lourdes Sereno, meanwhile, have released their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. Other justices twist in the wind. Actress Katharine Hepburn’s excuse will do for now: “If you heed the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.”

(Email: [email protected] )

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