POSTSCRIPT / December 6, 2011 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Palace vs High Court: It’s now bare knuckles

DREAMING: For several nights now, I have been dreaming of a soup kitchen in front of the Manila cathedral with celebrities serving street waifs and pagpag-eaters.

I also dreamed, the other night, that the voice of moderation was heard finally and much of the blabbering on the cases of Rep. Gloria Arroyo ceased after the parties left to the courts the disposition of the charges instead of arguing the issues in the media.

But those were just dreams.

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BARE KNUCKLES: One reality staring us is that a combative President Noynoy Aquino has dropped all pretenses. He is now personally fighting with bare knuckles the Supreme Court, a coequal branch of government.

In a speech Thursday before the Makati Business Club celebrating its 30th anniversary, the President directly attacked the Court for its “confused and confusing” behavior that, he said, has made it difficult for him to do his job as the Chief Executive.

He pointed out in his 1,700-word speech that as an executive he needed “clarity in the rules, consistency in its interpretations, and a modicum of respect so that we can implement our plans.”

“Therefore,” he added, “what confronts me now is a central question: Can the executive fulfill its mandate given the current air of judicial uncertainty?”

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ANOTHER EXCUSE: It now seems that aside from using former President Arroyo as scapegoat, Mr. Aquino has found in the Supreme Court another excuse for his lackluster performance.

Instead of a policy direction speech or an outline of the administration’s business agenda, the leaders of Big Business were treated to more barbs directed at the High Court.

Yesterday, President Aquino intensified his offensive right in front of Chief Justice Renato Corona in a speech before the First National Criminal Justice Summit at the Manila Hotel.

Asked on the spot by media to react, Corona declined in consideration of the advent of Christmas. For her part, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima justified the statements of her boss.

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SUSTAINED FIRING: The “summit” brought together stakeholders of the justice system to reexamine institutional criminal justice issues and map out strategies to improve delivery of justice.

The President blasted Corona to his face, expressing his belief that the former Chief of Staff of then President Arroyo was illegally appointed as SC chief.

Mr. Aquino maintained his line of fire unleashed before the Makati Business Club that the High Court has become a stumbling block in his campaign for good government.

He recited the setbacks he has suffered in the hands of the SC, including the blocking on constitutional grounds of the creation of the Truth Commission and the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order on the justice department order barring Ms Arroyo from going abroad.

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ARBITER: The President told the MBC that there is a balancing interplay among the three branches of government, but that “there is a built-in safeguard, a designated arbiter, when disagreements or questions arise.”

He identified the Supreme Court as the arbiter, but pointed out that “this is premised on a fundamental assumption that it will be objective and nonpartisan.”

Citing the TRO issue on Ms Arroyo, he said the SC normally takes 10 days to attend to motions, but issued the TRO in three. “Who can avoid wondering what she did to merit such speedy relief?” he asked.

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TO THE FINISH?: Will the duel between the Executive and the Supreme Court be a fight to the finish? There are no indications that the President will relent soon. In fact, he has been escalating hostilities.

The Supreme Court is caught in a lopsided battle considering the overwhelming resources and personnel available to Malacañang.

But while the President is openly attacking the Court as an institution and Corona as magistrate, neither the tribunal nor the Chief Justice is hitting back – unless we take SC decisions adverse to Mr. Aquino or his family as retaliation.

It could even be that the campaign to destroy the credibility of the Court was started from way back in anticipation of adverse decisions, such as that one on Hacienda Luisita.

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EMERGENCY RULE: There is another level to this political combat. Malacañang has marshaled forces outside the Palace for a propaganda assault to gain the upper hand in the public mind.

This is ominous, raising the possibility of such extra-judicial moves as street protests or Occupy-SC types of mob action. The extreme action of declaring an emergency could succeed only if public opinion allows it.

To some fertile minds, the escalating attack on the SC could be a prelude to a revolutionary government as mentioned by the defense department spokesman who was forced to resign for saying that.

Making the tripartite republican system look untenable with the Supreme Court pictured as the stumbling block to good government could just be a straight path to an emergency situation.

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TOP PHL BANKS: Despite being just the thrift bank of Metrobank, PSBank was ranked 57th among the 500 strongest banks in the Asia-Pacific region in an evaluation by the financial publication Asian Banker for financial year 2010.

This is the first time PSBank was included among the top 10 banks in the Philippines. The bank reported after tax net income of P1.55 billion for the first nine months of 2011. This translates into an annualized return on equity of 16 percent and earnings per share of P6.44 for the interim period.

Other Philippine banks on the list were Philippine National Bank, ranked 130th strongest and 324th largest; Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., 139th and 317th; Land Bank of the Philippines, 143rd and 264th; United Coconut Planters Bank, 168th and 387th; Allied Banking Corp., 192nd and 384th; East West Banking Corp., 196th and 466th; Bank of Commerce, 207th and 449th; RCBC Savings Bank, 211th and 497th; and BPI Family Savings Bank, 250th and 415th.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 6, 2011)

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