Corona’s rhetoric full of contraries

To Take A Stand
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

To Take A Stand
By Oscar P.

After he was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona said, “My heart is in the right place and its loyalty is to the Constitution alone. Only by the standard of this forthright sworn fidelity am I willing to be judged in the times to come.”

Civil society’s judgment came down immediately after Corona made that statement -- that his loyalty to the Constitution is flimsy. His very acceptance of his appointment as Chief Justice manifested his cavalier regard for the Constitution. Days before his appointment, various groups including several Integrated Bar of the Philippines chapters, law school organizations, association of deans of Law schools called on the aspirants to the position of Chief Justice to forego their personal ambition by refusing an appointment by President Arroyo as Section 15, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution prohibits the President from making an appointment two months before the end of her term.

He continued to trifle with the Constitution when he swayed the Court to uphold the act of Congress to break up the 1st District of Camarines Sur into two to allow both the politically influential Rolando Andaya and presidential son Dato Arroyo to be in Congress. Now the district, formerly represented in Congress by one congressman, is represented by two whereas the two larger districts are represented by only one each, in contravention of the constitutional provision that representative districts shall be apportioned in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio.

Corona also said after being sworn in, “Undaunted by man or circumstance, and unswayed by praise or criticism, in me right will find a sanctuary and wrong will find no refuge.” But the academic world practically accused Corona and 11 other members of the Supreme Court of intellectual dishonesty and thievery of intellectual property after clearing Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo of plagiarism charges. The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, an association of 1,290 Catholic schools, colleges, and universities, said the Supreme Court’s decision “abets a culture of intellectual sloth and dishonesty. For plagiarism is not only a legal issue but more importantly, a moral one.”

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, the umbrella organization of the various associations of schools, colleges, and universities in the country, asserted that “plagiarism is intellectual dishonesty. It is thievery of intellectual property. In the world of the academe, it is punished most severely. To treat plagiarism in a cavalier fashion is to fling the door wide open to flagrant violations against intellectual property and invite intellectual thefts without fear of punitive sanction.”

And just last week, the Corona Court, acting on a mere letter from lawyer Estelito Mendoza, recalled a decision reached with finality and no further pleadings shall be entertained. The same court had summarily dismissed pleadings from Harvard Law and Yale Law graduate, former Law school dean Jovito Salonga and from retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilarion Davide. I wonder what daunted Corona -- Mendoza, the circumstance that it is Lucio Tan’s interests at issue, or both.

Following the recall of that decision, Corona warned, “Let not those who pervert democracy and the Constitution for their selfish political ends mistake our judicial decorum, wisdom of silence, and sense of dignity as signs of weakness, for nothing can be farther from the truth.” What judicial decorum, wisdom of silence, and sense of dignity is he talking about?

After clearing Justice del Castillo of plagiarism charges, the court issued a show-cause contempt order to UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen and 37 members of the faculty and gave them 10 days within which to explain why they should not be sanctioned for demanding the resignation of Del Castillo. But as then Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales said, the court’s show-cause order was “nothing but an abrasive flexing of the judicial muscle.” Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also pointed out that “it is not the place of the Court to seek revenge against those who, in their wish to see reform in the judiciary, have the courage to say what is wrong with it. The Court finds its legitimacy in demonstrating its moral vein case after case, not in flaunting its judicial brawn.”

On the occasion of the first anniversary of his assumption of the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Corona wailed over his perceived snub he got at the inauguration of President Benigno Aquino. “Did I feel bad? Yes, I did. Did I get insulted? Yes, I was insulted. Did I get offended? Yes, I was offended,” lamented Corona.

But nobody insulted or offended him. First of all, protocol does not call for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to swear in the incoming president. Second, Justice Corona should not have been Chief Justice at the time. If we go by the provisions of the Constitution, there should not have been a chief justice on June 30, 2010. In fact, it was President Aquino who was ultra-Christian toward him. He invited him to the inauguration in spite of the fact that Corona, by accepting his appointment by Gloria Arroyo as chief justice, had in effect denied the President his constitutional right to appoint as chief justice the man of his choice.

Reacting to the criticism from Malacañang and Congress, Corona also gave notice that while the executive branch of government has the power of the sword and Congress the power of the purse, “the judiciary will not hesitate to use the power of the pen to strike down what is illegal, unconstitutional, and patently immoral.” The citizenry is familiar with that power of the pen for the Corona Court has wielded its mighty pen to also strike down what is also legal, constitutional, and patently moral.

“Right is right. Wrong is wrong. In the Supreme Court, under my watch, right will always find a sanctuary and wrong will never find refuge,” declared Corona. Well, sometimes, right has turned out wrong and wrong right in the Corona Court. So, there have been instances when right was denied sanctuary and wrong found refuge in the Corona Court.

“Never before has the entire judiciary, even in the days of martial law, been subjected to so much disrespect and lack of civility from sectors we sincerely consider to be our partners in nation-building,” Corona groused. He has only himself to blame.

Aquino: State burial for Marcos an injustice to Martial Law victims

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday reiterated that he will not allow a state burial for the late President Ferdinand Marcos as the move would allegedly be an injustice to Martial Law victims.

“It really would be, I think, the height of injustice to have any honors to the person who was the direct mastermind of all of their sufferings," Aquino told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) in Makati City.

He said the victims of Martial Law have not been accorded apology and the bill providing for their compensation is still pending before the Congress.

Aquino said Marcos state burial will not happen under his watch.

For years, the family of the former dictator and their supporters have been asking the government to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Those who are buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani are military personnel who died in line of duty or were honorably discharged, Filipino veterans, former presidents, government dignitaries, statesmen, and national artists.

Aquino’s father, Senator Benigno Simeon "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was a senator who belonged to the opposition during Marcos' term.

Ninoy was assassinated at the Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983. The airport was later renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in his honor.

Marcos was ousted in a bloodless revolt that catapulted Aquino’s late mother Corazon Cojuangco Aquino to the presidency in 1986.

Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989. His remains were brought to his northern Philippine hometown in Batac in Ilocos Norte in 1993.

Aquino earlier asked Vice President Jejomar Binay to study the issue.

Binay recommended the burial of the former strongman with military honors in his hometown in Ilocos. - VVP, GMA News

FrEEDOM by Isagani Zarate


1share60 60

Not even the foreshadowing ferocity of Typhoon “Pedring” concealed the immense delight of Maricon Montajes and six other political detainees inside the Batangas Provincial Jail, as they shared their stories to our group of lawyers and paralegals who visited them last Wednesday.

The 21-year-old Montajes, a native of Davao City, was a Film and Audio Visual Communication student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman when she was “illegally arrested” together with two other youths last June 3, 2010 by elements of the Philippine Air Force while on an exposure and integration trip with farmers in Taysan, Batangas.

Accustomed to the nurturing environment of a close-knit family back in Mindanao, the diminutive Montajes, also known as “Eedom” to friends, has since learned to lean on her fellow political detainees and share her joys and tears with them. “Sa kulungan, ang pagsuko ng malayang kaisipan ang pangunahing kalaban na dapat talunin (In prison, the temptation to surrender the freedom to think independently is the No. 1 enemy one must conquer),” she said.

The howling rain almost drowned her accounts of seemingly endless, rough interrogations and “torture” that she and her friends suffered after they were arrested; and, her lament over the slow resolution of the cases filed against them.

Eedom decried the government’s “criminalization” of their status, an irony that was not lost on her. As it was before, it is still so now. “We were falsely presented as NPA rebels, but we were charged with common crimes,” she bewailed. They are facing such charges as illegal possession of firearms and explosives, election gun ban violation, and frustrated homicide.

The charges shocked her childhood friends in Davao City, where she is known as someone “who would never do anyone or any living organism on earth any harm.” Consistently a student leader, Eedom spent her elementary and high school years at the city’s Stella Maris Academy, where she was a “grand slam class president from elementary to high school, became vice president of the Student Coordinating Council and president of the Social Studies Club until she graduated with academic honors in 2007.”

“Young as she was, she already manifested a strong sense of justice and unwavering leadership among her peers, the embodiment of a Marisian leader possessing the kind of faith in God’s people,” said the academic community of Stella Maris in a statement calling for her and her companions’ release. “Maricon’s passion for what is good and just is clearly expressed in her art, in her dances, music and poetry, where she knows no bounds but freedom in relaying the kind of social consciousness expected of a true Marisian.”

Earlier that day, in a meeting, our delegation from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) brought the cases of Montajes and her companions to the attention of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Records of the rights watchdog Karapatan show that out of the country’s 360 political prisoners as of August 2011, at least 303 (84.17 percent) have been charged with common crimes. Only 15 (4.17 percent) have been charged with rebellion. Twenty others have been charged with common crimes in addition to rebellion and two are charged with “terrorism.”

“This phenomenon continues despite the fact that even the testimonial and documentary bases—spurious or otherwise—submitted to the prosecutors show that the alleged acts are obviously in furtherance of one’s political beliefs,” stated an NUPL aide mémoire submitted to De Lima during the meeting.

We also presented to De Lima the rampant and improvident use by prosecutors of the “John Doe” information in court, in violation of the justice department’s Circular No. 50, which mandates, among other things, that other appropriate descriptions of a particular “John Doe” must be elicited from supposed witnesses, to distinguish him or set him apart from the others.

The October 1999 department circular also directed public prosecutors “to place a new name in the Information in lieu of a John Doe only when the description of this John Doe as appearing in the sworn statement of a witness substantially tallies with the description of the person in John Doe’s stead.” Yet, despite these clear directives, public interests lawyers are still “confronted with this frustrating and unjust practice and the same continues to be violated and not strictly complied with.”

“There is from our experience on the ground, a continuing trend to indiscriminately file charges and secure warrants of arrests against our clients who are invariably leaders, members of legal mass organizations, NGO workers, party-list groups and even human rights advocates by means of ‘John Doe’ cases, which are intended to silence or neutralize them and deter others from joining their causes,” the NUPL noted.

We hope changes are forthcoming. De Lima said she “agreed” with the NUPL’s “legal posturing” and committed to immediately form a committee to draft guidelines relating to the criminalization of political offenses and the use of John Doe charges. “It is just a question then of how to operationalize (these guidelines) and make our public prosecutors understand,” De Lima said.

Indeed, it is the height of irony that Eedom and other political offenders continue to languish in various jails, while those who sponsored and promoted the culture of impunity in our country remain scot-free in this supposed era of “matuwid na daan”—shamelessly enjoying their plundered riches and flaunting their residual power and influence.

But, as political detainee and teacher Charity Dino noted during the meeting: “Mga katawan lang talaga namin ang puwedeng ikulong ng mga rehas na bakal (It’s only our bodies that they put behind a jail’s iron bars).”

Free Eedom. Free them all.



by Cheryl L. Daytec

Love is patient, but should it be gullible, too?

Several minutes after the appointed time

A second resembles an ominous eternity

The gates are still gaping, bolts clutching

at the last hair-thin straws of their patience

The piqued microwave grudgingly stands by

to rescue carefully prepared food from cold

Sympathetic walls glow with motley reflections

Of her; he sees them with a content inner eye

Even the monochromatic curtains pirouette

With an endless stream of happy memories

He savors each one, each one, till they run out

The gardening magazine in his hand thickens

And the mundane articles seduce his attention

till his anxiety vanishes in the colorful pictures

Of course, she will arrive when she will arrive

But the gentle breeze from the open window

Diffuses a fraught whisper of rebuke, taunting,

Counting the big mugs of coffee he consumed

Counting the sticks of cigarette turned ashes

Counting the times he glanced at the clock

The times he dialed a number beyond reach

The many times he was let down in days past

Love made him forget the rudiments of math

Slowly, the wide room becomes too narrow

for the sudden flood of his tormented thoughts

The walls mutate into a boring vision of white

Till they morph into a brilliance of grim reality

With the speed of a lover tailing his beloved

He scurries to the long-agape wide gates

And locks them./ chytdaytec