Thursday, April 19, 2012

(A) Justice On Trial: Part 1

As an expatriate residing in the Philippines, I believe it behooves everyone including non-citizens to keep up on local current events, including (especially?) those of a political and economic nature, and then draw conclusions about them.  After all, our lives here are often impacted such issues. But whether or not we are directly affected, I think that keeping informed shows respect for our host country. Following is a topic that has had the nation buzzing.

First some background. The administration immediately preceding that of the current leader, President of the Philippines, Benigno "Nonoy" Aquino was one marked by corruption and abuse of power by then President Gloria Arroyo. One of  her acts as outgoing chief executive was the controversial "midnight" appointment of the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona who readily accepted this position..

President Aquino, who ran on anti-corruption platform,  urged Congress to institute  impeachment proceedings Corona. The House of Representatives approved this action, and  the Senate has begun trial phase.

Aside from Corona's accepting the midnight appointment, which he knew full well was questionable to say the least, Aquino's biggest grievance against the Chief Justice was the Supreme Court's issuance of temporary restraining order against the Justice Department's hold departure on Arroyo, who was about to flee the country in order to avoid prosecution for her misdeeds while in office. Justice Department Secretary Leila De Lima defied the TRO and Arroyo was subsequently arrested for electoral fraud.

(A side note: This trial is an instance in which the Philippines can teach the U.S. about how to deal with our own biased and venal Supreme Court justices who have rendered such bonehead decisions as in  Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ,or Bush vs. Gore , Then there is the sphinx-like Justice Clarence Thomas [ never participates in oral arguments before the Court] who has yet to recuse himself regarding a conflict of interest regarding his wife's involvement in paid fund-raising and lobbying for an organization that opposes President Obama's health care reform plan which the Court is now considering.)

The impeachment trial, which has been televised live and has a wide following, is in recess until May 7. But whatever the outcome, based on various revelations including those in Corona's own testimony such as his unexplained wealth, inconsistencies in his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth), and according to Pulse Asia a loss of confidence and trust by the people, he might already be damaged goods. Under these circumstances, it would seem to be in Corona's  best interests to resign in order to salvage the remains of his dignity which has already been greatly diminished by his unconvincing replies to the Senate's questions. More importantly, Corona's stepping down would also enable the Supreme Court to emerge from the shadow which this affair has cast on its reputation.