The Philippine Civil War: Corona, Aquino, and the Impeachment

Right now, the Philippines is experiencing a tumultuous event never before seen in its legal history.  All eyes are riveted at the sensational trial of no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Philippine Civil War: Corona,
Aquino, and the Impeachment

Right now, the Philippines is experiencing a tumultuous event never before seen in its legal history.  All eyes are riveted at the sensational trial of no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

A quick history is in order:  the first impeachment to ever occur against a public official was against a weak-willed President, Joseph Estrada.  Before him, it was the President who bullied the Supreme Court, Congress, and corrupted the different sectors of government to suit his needs (Marcos).   It was Marcos who ignored the Supreme Court when it issued a TRO on the violation of a civil right of an individual.   It was also Marcos who circumvented the Congress to have his Martial Law proclamation ratified.

The impeachment of Estrada was presided over by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Hilario Davide.   Like all Filipino political soap-operas, it ended abruptly with a walkout, a demonstration in EDSA, and a coup.   The impeachment against him was an instrument made popular by the post-Marcos Constitution to guard against future Presidential “bullies”, so to speak.   Gloria Arroyo, to that end, was attacked with multiple impeachment cases.

The first real feud between the branches of government (and correct me if I’m wrong), was when Congress decided to file a case against the son of Chief Justice Hilario Davide.  The Supreme Court ruled to protect the son, and ironically set a precedent that was used later to trash the cases of impeachment against Gloria Arroyo.

Now, as you read the history, you can see a recurring pattern: impeachment against Arroyo, and Arroyo as the enemy.   At the heart of the Corona impeachment is the subsequent trial against Gloria Arroyo.   This might not be the case for all the parties involved, but it is as the public is concerned.

Gloria Arroyo is a brilliant chessmaster.   She played various factions against each other when she was President.  She quashed various insurrections by appealing to the middle class, the Church, and the top brass of the military.    She stopped several impeachment cases by keeping a tight “rubber-stamped” Congress at her side.  And right before she left office, she appointed Renato Corona as Chief Justice against standard protocol.   This was a very legal move, and a very brilliant move that made sure she would not be successfully prosecuted by the new, grudging government.   Corona did not disappoint.  The Supreme Court issued a TRO against a travel ban against Arroyo, almost letting the couple escape, if it not for the disobedience of the Department of Justice.

Noynoy Aquino, by contrast, is not very subtle.   His actions are akin to the time when Boris Yeltsin in Russia laid siege to the Parliament with a tank and a political coup de’etat when they did not agree with him.   He is reacting to Gloria’s chess game by sweeping the chess pieces frustratedly with one arm and crying foul.

His actions, however, has created a legal crisis that would reverberate for future governments and generations.   The Supreme Court was always the final arbiter in law, and the final interpreter of the Constitution.   When a Chief Justice was impeached, it paved the way for a precedent to pressure the Supreme Court.   It also paved the way to overthrow an otherwise impartial and supreme arbiter of law.   The Supreme Court is now being defied because of its present political affiliations.

It has gotten worse.   With the Legislative body handling the careful act of deliberating over the ouster of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice in turn has appealed to the Supreme Court to stop the impeachment.   Aquino first created a crisis by using the Executive Branch to defy the Supreme Court against Gloria, and by directly attacking it through impeachment.   Now, Corona is using the same tactic to use the Supreme Court to attack the Legislature’s jurisdiction of impeachment.   “Political questions” and the separation of the jurisdiction of the three branches are being violated all the round.

All because of Arroyo, the political Devil incarnate.   She sired a demon that would eat away at the very fabric of Constitutional Democracy, all so she could survive.  For the stakes are clear: if Corona is acquitted or saved by the Supreme Court, she will have the ultimate power to walk free from her jail cell and public guilt—the Supreme Court is hers.   And meanwhile, the public is left to gnash their teeth at another Marcos slipping away from their fingertips.

What we have, for all intents and purposes, is a political civil war: nobody wants to own up to it, but they have thoroughly divided government.   And it’s not just for today—their actions are setting precedents for future generations to follow.   The way Marcos set a precedent for Gloria.   And the whole crisis is not over, waiting for other woefully regrettable precedents to be made.

 

For the full text of the impeachment complaint, click here.