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.

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