POSTSCRIPT / February 21, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Impeachment exposes cancer devouring gov’t

CANCER: The impeachment trial in the Senate has exposed the advanced stage of the cancer eating away at the three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

Beamed to us on nationwide TV and other mass media is a picture of a sick bureaucracy, an indication of a sick nation, and possibly of some sick officials.

The corruptive cancer cells have imbedded themselves, or are crawling, in the body politic. But seeming to be in remission, we take our usual unconcerned attitude and pretend that the deadly disease might go away by itself.

I doubt that. The ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona for high crimes indicates that instead of going away, the cancer may have metastasized and may gobble up the patient in time.

* * *

JUDICIAL MESS: The impeachment of the Chief Justice, the supreme head of the judiciary, has brought to the fore the need to clean the courts of corrupt judges and the shielding of the system from corrosive elements.

Without presuming to pass judgment on specific judges and magistrates, we dare say here that the judiciary has been infected with the cancer of corruption. We go further to say that corruption, evident in lower courts, has reached even the highest levels of the judiciary.

Too often we hear of Temporary Restraining Orders on sale, of rulings being merely rewrites of the brief of the winning party and of decisions going, going… gone to the highest bidder.

Hopefully the lessons of this impeachment process will muster public opinion for checking the spread of the cancer and the cleansing of the Augean stables of the judiciary.

(This is not to say that Chief Justice Corona is corrupt or guilty as charged. He is presumed innocent until convicted.)

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SENATOR-PROSECUTORS: In the Senate, we are treated to the spectacle of senator-judges gathering evidence for congressman-prosecutors who apparently came to the court without hard document to back up many of their impeachment charges.

Most of the articles of impeachment are criminal in nature, but the rules of evidence that should normally be applied have been diluted or relaxed — not in favor of the accused but in favor of the ill-prepared House prosecutors.

The concession that the trial is more political than legal has given the politicians, including some senator-judges, a holiday in drawing out evidence and testimony from witnesses to conform with their political bias.

Clearly, the public process meant to render justice has been subverted by the cancer of politics.

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CLEAN HANDS: The demand that the accusers and the senators sitting in judgment should also disclose their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth is meant to avoid the possible unfairness of an accused having to face unworthy accusers and judges.

Parenthetically, an accuser must come to court with clean hands. In this case, however, it seems that the accuser-congressmen came with empty hands.

The senator-judges themselves are pressed to disclose their own SALNs and other financial documents being required of the Chief Justice. For, indeed, how can anybody objectively and fairly judge another if he suffers from the same infirmity as the accused?

We would rather that a doctor who is called to cure a patient does not carry in him the very germs or virus of the disease he is treating.

Hence the cry for both the accusers and the judges, of both congressmen and senators, to similarly disclose their own financial records and entanglements.

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LEAVE IT BE: Even with the relaxation of the rules, giving the process a political flavor, the trial would have gone through a reasonably objective path if the judges only reined in themselves to follow a modicum of fairness.

All those involved in the trial, except the accused and the watching public, are politicians. That is given.

But the occasional political pulling to one side would still be tolerable – within the court, not outside – especially under the firm direction of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. In a general way, the process LEFT TO ITSELF could be acceptable.

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PRESIDENTIAL SALVO: But there were tremors felt when out of the blue, the Chief Justice and President Noynoy Aquino came out firing at each other – outside the court.

The President is not a party to the case initiated and now being tried by the Congress, an independent branch, as provided by the Constitution.

From the safety of his office, the President has been firing salvos against the Chief Justice with the obvious objective to influence the public and the court to convict the accused.

This in unseemly, especially so because the meddling comes from no less than the highest Executive official of the land commenting on a process outside his political and legal sphere.

This off-track move of the President seems to indicate that the cancer we have been talking about may have affected even the Executive.

* * *

PSYCHO RECORDS: Such intrusion has prompted some quarters to take issue with the President and to use his interference as reason for questioning his motives and his competence, not only to ask questions but also to lead the nation.

Chief Justice Corona himself has launched an oblique attack on the psychological fitness of Mr. Aquino to attend to the duties and responsibility of his exalted office.

The public is now discussing the alleged psychological records – copies of which have been circulating in the Internet. The supposed records were also circulated during the 2010 presidential election campaign, and supposedly forgotten.

It is significant that Malacañang has been denying the existence of the alleged medical record – but not the alleged mental disorder itself.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 21, 2012)

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