1. Shadow of Doubt Excerpt - On the power of the Courts

    Peru…was a stunning example because it was its own Supreme Court that went after a Former President. This trial was so important because international tribunals, The New York Times wrote, were ‘unlikely to have the cleansing or educational power of a country’s own judicial system affirming the primacy of law.’

    In a landmark human rights case, a Peruvian Supreme Court three member panel in April 2009 sentenced former President Alberto Fujimori to twenty five years in prison for his involvement in a military death squad during a conflict with guerrillas in the 1990s. The verdict came after more than a year of trial that was broadcast on national television.

    In 2000, facing corruption charges, Fujimori fled to Japan. But he flew to Chile in 2005, with plans to make a comeback. Instead, he was extradited to Peru.

    'Justice was finally delivered - by one of our own courts,' wrote Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno of Human Rights Watch. 'This suggests that next time Peruvians may be able to put their trust in democratic institutions.'

    What happened in Peru hit close to home. It told us that our own legal systems - led by the Supreme Court - can take on the powerful. This may have been a big reason that President Arroyo packed the court.

    Marites Vitug, Shadow of Doubt, pgs 119-120

     

  2. "The object of the process is not to punish but only to remove a person from office. As Justice Storey put it in his commentary on the Constitution, impeachment is “a proceeding, purely of a political nature, is not so much designed to punish an offender as to secure the state against gross political misdemeanors. It touches neither his person nor his property, but simply divests him of his political capacity.” Put differently, removal and disqualification are the only punishments that can be imposed upon conviction on impeachment. Criminal and civil liability can follow after the officer has been removed by impeachment. Prosecution after impeachment does not constitute double jeopardy.
    The present Constitution has expanded the list of impeachable offenses to include “graft and corruption” and “betrayal of public trust.” The mention of these two categories might give the impression that impeachment has been trivialized. But the way the provision is worded is significant. It enumerates the grounds for impeachment as “culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” The word “other” is significant. The rule in the interpretation of laws is that when the law makes an enumeration of specific objects and follows it with “other” unspecified objects, those unspecified objects must be of the same nature as those specified. Thus, for “graft and corruption” and “betrayal of public trust” to be grounds for impeachment, their concrete manner of commission must be of the same severity as “treason” and “bribery.” These offenses strike at the very heart of the life of the nation."
    — Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ, Eyes on the impeachment process, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 21, 2011.
     

  3. "

    Bernas is of the opinion that the next President after the May elections should be the one to appoint the next chief justice.

    He said that even with the constitutional requirement that a President has to appoint a new Chief Justice within 90 days after the vacancy, the next President still has 45 days to make the appointment when he or she assumes office on June 30…

    He said any person who accepted the post of Chief Justice from Ms Arroyo would open himself or herself to impeachment by the next Congress.

    "
    — Bernas: Arroyo Appointment may destroy SC Credibility, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 23, 2010 (via @aupijuan)
     

  4. "In which branch of government would corruption have the most harmful effects on the country? The answer of most would be the judiciary, and with good reason: a corrupt judiciary would necessarily mean that the legal and institutional mechanism designed to curb corruption in other branches would be seriously compromised. It follows that the judiciary should come under even more intense scrutiny than the other two."
    — Philippine Human Development Report (2008/2009) via Shadow of Doubt.
     

  5. Shadow of Doubt Excerpt - On Corona’s Appointment

    It later became apparent, as Malacanang officials pushed for the early appointment of a Chief Justice, what the rush was all about. Defensor’s move was aimed at making President Arroyo appoint the next Chief Justice before the ban on appointments began - which was sixty days before the May elections and until the end of her term. The Constitution prohibits midnight appointments because, as the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) said in its letter to the JBC, the outgoing President ‘becomes a mere caretaker administrator tasked only with preparing the peaceful and orderly transfer of power after the elections.’

    Various groups, like the Supreme Court Appointments Watch and the PBA, objected to Defensor’s initiative and pointed out flaws in his arguments. First, the history of the Court showed that it had functioned with a Chief Justice in many instances. In 1966, Cesar Bengzon was appointed CJ three months after the post was vacated; Querube Makalintal (1975), six months; Enrique Fernando (1985), two months; and Claudio Teehankee (1986), twenty six days.

    Second, the Court could go on with its normal work under an acting Chief Justice who presides over deliberations and certifies decisions. ‘Whenever the Chief Justice is abroad or on leave, the most senior Associate Justice becomes acting Chief Justice and certifies all decisions. This has been the practice under the 1935, 1973, and the present 1987 Constitution.’ SCAW said in its letter to the JBC.

    Third, both groups assailed what was at the heart of Defensor’s move, 'Judicial independence, the very purpose of the JBC, is now under threat by the eleventh hour proposal (of Defensor),' the lawyer’s group, PBA, said in its well-argued letter, calling the proposal ‘brazen’ and ‘unconstitutional’ and citing a Supreme Court decision in 1998 that annulled appointments to the judiciary made during the ban. Puno voted with Chief Justice Andres Narvasa and the majority in this case.

    The SCAW was equally forceful, calling it a ‘naked attempt to allow the appointing power to circumvent the presidential appointment ban.’

    - Marties Vitug, Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, pg. 244.

    The Defensor referred to was Representative Matias Defensor, a known ally of then President Arroyo.

    We know how this little saga ended: Corona was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court right in the middle of the ban on midnight appointments to the executive and judiciary.

    At the heart of the impeachment of Corona is the prior subversion of our institutions. Yes the timing may be suspect, yes I would also like to see Aquino using his political capital to push through certain legislative measures. But we should not forget that there is merit behind Corona’s impeachment (even if it’s buried amidst political whining and bullshit). Even the irregularities surrounding Corona’s wife are grounds for questioning.

    I have my own qualms about this move and some of the suspect motives behind it. But, why should we wholesale defend Corona? The new public construct of Corona and the SC as unimpeachable (heh) and untouchable is antithetical to the concept of accountability. If we can call into question the integrity of our elected officials, why should our appointed officials (who without a doubt suffer similar ethical shortfalls) be exempt? The question that should be facing us now is if there actual merit in the impeachment?

    What is disturbing is how quickly we have forgetting the circumstances surrounding his appointment; more to the point, how quickly people who assailed Arroyo for appointing Corona are now turning on Aquino for doing what many have called for: Bringing accountability to the judiciary.

    Are we gun-shy? Or are we so wrapped up in oppositional politics that we forget eventually you have to stand for something?