Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Choosing One's Battles

When it comes to political issues,  as my posts indicate I'm usually rather opinionated.  But in the case of outgoing Philippines President Gloria Arroyo's last-minute naming the Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the  Supreme Court I can see both sides of the argument as to whether or not President-elect Benigno Aquino should recognize this "midnight appointment."

Granted that there is controversy in the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Arroyo's claim that it's her right as president to proceed with this appointment and that it's proper for Corona to accept it  But  based on his own record is there any reason to doubt that Corona will be his own man as he professes and that he will not serve honorably? Based on this criteria, is there any cause to be skeptical that he will not simply be Arroyo's insurance policy to block legal action against her for her misdeeds that she committed while in office--or in order to achieve that office?  If not then perhaps Aquino should be a bigger person than Arroyo (no pun intended) and drop the matter for the sake of  continuity and the good of the country rather than provoke a constitutional crisis.  He will have enough on his hands putting his policies into place without having this issue as a distraction.

Yet it must be acknowledged that Corona is not Arroyo's only appointee to the Supreme Court. That branch is packed with justices whom she placed there. And after all, an overwhelming  majority of them did recently vote to reverse the decision that had initially blocked Arroyo from being allowed to fill any vacant government positions, which according to the Philippine Constitution the President may not do in his/her final days in office.

In America we also know what a biased Supreme Court can do. Recall the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections when the Republican dominated Court ordered Florida to stop the ballot recount that probably would have tipped the election in favor of Al Gore.  What a different  history America would likely have had without George Bush as President, especially considering that his first term for that office may have been bogus.

Then there is the possible scenario as painted by one newspaper columnist:  Suppose the Supreme Court justices rise above their political debt to Arroyo and instead  live up to their mandate of impartiality. In doing so, further suppose that they find the Ampatuan clan guilty as charged for the hideous massacre of 57 journalists and others last November.  In response to this verdict the leaders of that family may take their revenge by spilling their guts and revealing everything about their erstwhile beneficiary, Arroyo, for whom they delivered votes in their locale by hook or by crook in exchange for free reign and full control of their province, and confirm that she in fact was guilty among other crimes of fraudulently securing the office of the presidency in 2004.  In turn this would call into question the not only her legitimacy as President (like Bush?) but of all her appointments including that of Corona.

Yet if Aquino somehow manages to successfully challenge Corona's position as SC Chief Justice, would that in itself  necessarily stop the Ampatuans from singing like canaries if finally convicted?.  And in that case, what about Arroyo's other Supreme Court justice appointments for whom there was no midnight appointment controversy.  Wouldn't they still be tainted by the her guilt?  In fact wouldn't every law that Arroyo signed and every policy that she enacted since "assuming" office be up for the question of legitimacy?

If Aquino sincerely believes that in order to uphold  the honor of his office and of the Philippines as a whole he has no choice but to press for Corona's dismissal, then it's understandable that he must pursue this campaign to the bitter end. Yet, on the other hand, by vigorously protesting Corona's appointment as he has already done, Aquino has made his point. Now maybe it's time for him to strike some kind of compromise and and move on.

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