Badly damaged
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison () - November 25, 2011 - 12:00am

P-Noy really looks sincere and determined in his relentless drive to pin down former president Arroyo and others for their alleged misdeeds and wrongdoings during her administration. This is truly an admirable stance and a big plus factor in ridding the government of corruption and other fraudulent practices. No past administration has been so tough and unflinching against this menace plaguing our public service since we became an independent Republic. Hopefully it can be sustained until at least one “big fish” is caught and jailed.

To sustain such stance P-Noy should stop or at least minimize “playing to the gallery” like what the Arroyo camp is doing. He should not worry so much about the people’s approval of his moves. As it is now turning out, Arroyo simply could not generate any semblance of public support and sympathy even with her harrowing experience at the airport and her humiliating arrest at St Luke’s hospital. It seems that she has not regained the credibility she lost during her tumultuous nine years reign when so many anomalies and scandals were exposed but never conclusively resolved and when the legitimacy of her rule was even put to doubt because of election cheating in the 2004 as confirmed by the “Hello Garci” tapes, and in 2007 as confirmed by Koko Pimentel’s victory in the electoral protest he filed against Zubiri who had to give up his Senate seat.

At this stage P-Noy and his team trying to get Arroyo and others to account for their alleged wrongdoings should concentrate more on the legal front where this battle should be fought. People are really eager to find out the truth and to see that justice is rendered to those who may be found guilty of fraudulent and corrupt acts. But there must not be any cloud of doubt as to the legality of the steps taken to attain truth and justice. In other words the P-Noy administration should not give the Arroyo camp even the slightest reason or cause to repeatedly go to the Supreme Court (SC) for relief allegedly because of violation of their rights. They should avoid the legal stumbling blocks put up by Arroyo while still in office precisely to cover her tracks or escape prosecution when already out of power. They should avoid the same situation where Secretary De Lima was constrained to disobey the SC order so as to prevent the Arroyos from leaving the country and escaping prosecution because no charges have yet been filed against them. They should act more expeditiously but not hastily to avoid being described by critics and constitutional experts as “cruel” for preventing the Arroyos to leave the country and seek treatment abroad.

Indeed at this time, the democratic institution being badly battered is the SC simply because there are many petitions filed before it especially by the Arroyo camp. The immediate public impression created by these moves is that SC has become the refuge of the Arroyos since majority of the justices (eight of the 15) now sitting there are Arroyo appointees. Its issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the DOJ Watch List Order (WLO) bolstered this impression even more because the eight justices who voted for it are the Arroyo appointees including the Chief Justice himself who was appointed when Arroyo was already on the way out. In other cases and under ordinary circumstances, the issuance of a TRO before hearing the other party is an accepted practice especially if the Petition is sufficient in form and substance. But here, the issuance of the TRO became so controversial not only because the 8 Arroyo appointees voted for it but more importantly because the government requested the court to hear them first before issuing the TRO. The SC action indeed seemed to have been done in haste to favor the Arroyos who were then preparing to leave the country already. It could have been less controversial if they heard the government first and issued the TRO anyway since there is apparently enough constitutional basis for issuing it.

And the Arroyos further reinforced this public perception when they book flights to Singapore even before the SC announced the issuance of the TRO. They seemed to be so sure that the SC would issue the TRO on that day as they were already prepared to comply with the conditions of the TRO imposed by the SC immediately upon its release. One cannot really help but suspect that they have strong “connections” inside the SC.

Another damaging aspect in the SC move is in their voting. It was clearly done along “partisan lines” between the Arroyo appointed Justices and the non-Arroyo appointed Justices. They were really divided along this line during the deliberation and there were even reports that discussions became so heated with emotions running high during the en banc session. The bickering was further exacerbated by the public censure of the SC spokesman Midas Marquez by one of the staunch dissenters Maria Lourdes Sereno because the former did not accurately report the SC ruling on the Motion for Reconsideration of the government. It was pointed out that the SC did not actually deny the motion for reconsideration and upheld the TRO by a vote of 8-5 but suspended its effectivity by a vote of 7-6 because there was a defect in the document submitted in compliance with the second condition. This kind of discord over this single case is not really good for the judiciary. It has undoubtedly eroded the people’s trust and confidence on the highest court of the land.  

The SC and the P-Noy administration should therefore take immediate steps to prevent the further deterioration of the situation.

ARROYO CHIEF JUSTICE HELLO GARCI KOKO PIMENTEL MARIA LOURDES SERENO MIDAS MARQUEZ P-NOY SECRETARY DE LIMA ST LUKE SUPREME COURT TRO
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