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Panganiban’s dangerous, pro-‘rule of the mob’ view

/ 12:05 AM January 19, 2012

This is a reaction to the column of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban titled “More political than legal,” referring to the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. (Inquirer, 1/8/12)

The former chief justice says: “In short, impeachment may be legal in its substance; it may show a veneer of technicalities but it has an embedded core of public wisdom. It may be coached in highfalutin legalisms, but its essence is encapsulated in simple common sense.” Then, he said: “This capitulation buttresses the thesis that impeachment is a political, more than legal, exercise.” In sum, he champions the rule of the mob by advocating the power and influence of surveys. Thus, he said: “The people’s evaluation of what they see and hear during the trial solidifies into public opinion that is caught by surveys.”

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Frankly, I felt bad and sad after reading his column. I thought that being a lawyer and a former chief justice at that, he should have taken the cudgels for the Supreme Court not necessarily in defense of Corona, but in defense of the Constitution, the Rule of Law and the time-honored principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary.

With due respect to the former chief justice, he seems to be missing the point in this whole exercise.

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I am inclined to agree with Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who dismissed the importance of surveys on the Corona impeachment. (“Ignore surveys,” Inquirer, 1/8/12) He said: “The surveys have nothing to do with the process for strengthening our institutions. And even if they did, we ought to ignore (them) and (remain faithful) to the principles of impartiality.” His view is more in accord with the constitutional principles, as noted by constitutional expert Hector S. de Leon, who said: “Impeachment is a proceeding, criminal in nature, where the Senate sits as a court of justice, hence, proof beyond reasonable doubt, based on the evidence should be the quantum of evidence that would be required for conviction.”

Panganiban seems to overlook the underlying doctrines of constitutional law, the doctrine of separations of powers, which is in peril and which every lawyer worth his salt ought to protect and defend. Because the moment we allow the president to have absolute control over the other two co-equal branches of government, he will have absolute power, and once that happens, our country would be headed toward a dictatorship. We have seen with our own eyes how it is when the House of Representatives allows itself to be under the thumb of the president. The president gets what he wants from the House. And if the president wants to extend his term, he might just get it especially if the terms of the congressmen are likewise extended.

This every freedom-loving Filipino should guard against.

—ABUNDIO L. OKIT,

former chapter president,

IBP Bukidnon and former IBP governor

for Eastern Mindanao, Q. Gille St.,

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Sumpong, Malaybalay City

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TAGS: Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, chief justice renato corona, impeachment trial, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano
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