One, Edgardo Angara should be kicked out of the impeachment court. So says the defense panel. The approval of multibillion-peso projects in his home province of Aurora, the defense said in a motion, conduces him to “partiality in favor of the Liberal Party and President Benigno C. Aquino.”
Quite apart from that, his son Juan Edgardo (“Sonny”) is a member of the prosecution. “Without doubt, the grounds for his inhibition are clear and unequivocal. The mere participation of his son in any aspect of these proceedings places him in a position of potential conflict. What seems to be missed in all this is that Sonny is the son and direct descendant of Senator-judge Angara.”
Well, I’ve never been a great admirer of Angara Sr., his political career has been as unblemished as his legal one—unblemished by principle. His loyalties have been as rubbery as Juan Ponce Enrile’s and Miriam Santiago’s, unmitigated by an Enrile-like talent for reinventing himself, or his luck in being at the right place at the right time.
Is it conflict of interest that he serves as senator-judge while his son sits as a member of the prosecution? But of course it is. It would be so in any country but especially in ours where family is everything. Blood is thicker than water is a principle that takes on exceptional resonance here. The objectivity you need to rule fairly on a case, or even to keep an open mind on it, is fatally compromised where kin is involved.
Should Angara be promptly removed as senator-judge in the impeachment trial?
Only if Renato Corona is promptly removed as chief justice of the Supreme Court, and for far graver conflicts of interest.
That’s the mind-boggling thing about it, that the people defending Corona should charge other people with the one thing he is so patently guilty of. Of course they probably figure they can always fend off that charge against him in the impeachment court by legal trickery, or by citing collegiality. Which proposes that if most justices voted the way he did, then he could not possibly labor from conflict of interest. When in fact all it proves is that those justices labor as well from the same conflict of interest he does.
While at this, you want to inhibit senator-judges from conflict of interest, why not inhibit Santiago who tears the heads of prosecution lawyers but grovels at the feet of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? In fact, why not inhibit all of them for being politicians, some of whom are running in next year’s elections and need to look after their political future? An impeachment court naturally suffers from the infirmity of its members having partisan interests. It was so during the Erap trial, it is so during the Corona trial.
Arguably Angara’s conflict of interest is a lot more in your face. But Corona’s is far more so. He was chief legal counsel throughout Arroyo’s watch, a misappropriated watch at that, which makes him a partner in crime. Add to that the monumental iniquity of his being shoved in as chief justice in the midnight hour. Whether or not he ruled in Arroyo’s favor in that subsequent capacity—and you can’t have better proof than his insistence, carried out by an infirm TRO, that Arroyo be allowed to flee the country—he should have inhibited himself or been forcibly restrained by a straitjacket, if not indeed forced to resign by his peers in the judiciary, or his betters outside of it, for exactly the same reasons defense wants Angara to do so.
The impeachment court may act as though that doesn’t matter, but not so the court of public opinion. Which in this country is the real court, impeachments or not. It is the only court that is not partisan, that is not compromised, that is not a hotbed of conflicts of interest.
Two, Corona says the reason P-Noy wants him out is that he wants a new chief justice that he can hold by the neck. Midas Marquez echoes his thought, saying the President is being arrogant and presumptuous in looking for Corona’s replacement. “There is no vacancy in the Supreme Court…. Perhaps we can practice some degree of humility.”
That’s the even more mind-boggling thing about it, that Corona himself should accuse others of the one thing he is even guiltier of. Frankly, I don’t know why he does this. I suppose it’s deliberate. He probably subscribes to Marcos’ concept of “the big lie”: Marcos too loved to call his enemies corrupt and power-mad. There’s only one problem. For the “big lie” to work, or have a chance at it, you’ve got to have complete control of media. You’ve got to be able to turn them into one huge propaganda machine. Marcos had and did. Corona doesn’t and can’t.
Can anyone be more held by the neck than Corona? That he should be willing to sacrifice not just himself but his whole family, exposing his children to ridicule and scorn for the sake of the second-most corrupt tyrant in postwar Philippines, either he’s got to be the most principled man on earth or he has a collar around his neck and led around like a poodle. The public at least is of no doubt which it is.
But of course there’s a vacancy in the Supreme Court, just as there was a vacancy in the Office of the President over the last decade. That post has been vacant since Corona stepped into it in the evil hour. Forget humility, mind only a modicum of kahihiyan. Can anything be more presumptuous and arrogant than preening before the world while clinging to a fake title handed out by a fake president? Can anything be more shameless than posturing as ferociously independent while being deeper in debt to a tyrant than a peon or serf to his manorial lord?
Behold a Chief Justice that is unblemished and independent. Unblemished by principle and independent of decency.