'A Game of Thrones'

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 () - December 5, 2011 - 12:00am

If you are watching the HBO cable TV channel, the “A Game of Thrones” is the title of its popular drama series. It is based on an American medieval fantasy book created into a TV series for HBO. George R. R. Martin wrote the best-selling “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels, the first of which is “A Game of Thrones.”

In fact, it got 13 nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. “A Game of Thrones” chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the fictional kingdom’s noble families for control of the Iron Throne.

Following the plot of this HBO series, Chief Justice Renato Corona could be likened to one of the major characters in this high drama that is called the Arroyo-Aquino battle. While perceived to be one of the most troublesome antagonists by the ruling party now in power in the kingdom called Malacañang Palace, he has an omnipresence – silent, yet pervasive. Rightfully and respectfully so.

Attacks had been thrown at the image of this man lurking in the deep recesses of Padre Faura. Corona, knowing fully well that he has to protect his institution from nonsense fodder, chooses not to talk. This was after the Chief Justice said his piece already before the gathering of the Philippine Judges Association last October when the Corona Court took the stand: “Right is right, Wrong is wrong.”

Less talk is not what some of his critics have in mind. These are the same critics he has gained just because he was appointed by the most unpopular person in the country, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who stepped down from office with double-digit negative trust and approval ratings in opinion polls.

Enter Senators Franklin Drilon and Kiko Pangilinan, who are known allies of probably the most popular person in the country right now, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. The two Senators recently took up the cudgels for their Liberal Party (LP) chieftain to urge Corona to inhibit from all cases related to ex-President Arroyo. Corona could not be trusted with his judgment, having been closely associated with Arroyo during his days as her chief of staff, they chorused.

But now, Corona is already a magistrate, the chief or head of the highest court of the land. It is his mandate to turn a blind eye to the needs of his former boss. Having gained an institution that is and can only be answerable to the public, this so-called loyalty stopped when he became a member of the 15-man Supreme Court (SC) in April 2002, contrary to the well-oiled smear drive against him.

Corona does not have to inhibit, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago countered. The two most brilliant legal minds of the Senate cited Corona’s primordial duty to lead the court to interpret laws based on the Constitution, and not on the say-so of those in power. Those at the Palace now have all the power to exhaust all means to prosecute Arroyo, including the legal ones, if only they put their hearts and minds into it.

Legal professionals and law students were taught that the late United States Chief Justice John Marshall never inhibited from all the cases that passed through his court in the more than 34 years of his tenure. More than three decades could well be characterized by criticisms of perceived biases from a number of US Presidents who lived in the White House. Yet, Marshall stood his ground and went on to become the greatest chief justice of the US.

Corona is barely two years in the job, but he has already been savaged by politics-driven public opinion. Then again, even before he came into position as chief justice, his rivals had already been on the attack – spurring the public to believe the same theory. It is the same theory that if the critics must prove true, should also be equally applied on the justices appointed by no less than President Aquino.

Corona’s only fault is becoming chief justice, a job that law students are supposed to aspire for and achieve as the “crowning glory” of their career in the legal profession. Pun intended, Corona’s being appointed as SC chief justice by ex-President Gloria was his “crowning glory” to aptly cap his career. Now, it could not be said for sure since the job already entailed acquiring the fury of those in power at the Palace that is driving the public opinion against the SC, a co-equal branch of government.

In a speech before the Makati Business Club last week, P-Noy stepped up the offensive against the SC when he practically delivered the government’s oral arguments against Arroyo’s pending petition on her travel ban. As Chief Executive of the land, P-Noy should be the last person to talk ill of the SC, especially more so in his situation where his family-owned Hacienda Luisita recently lost the case in favor of their sugar workers.

Corona chooses not to talk amid all these attacks against his person and his position. He can, but his job is to protect first his institution from political predators. This is not about Mrs. Arroyo but everything about the oaths that Corona and the rest of the SC justices took to do what is right and to defend the Constitution and civil liberties of the citizens.

As Senator Santiago puts it, the call for Corona to inhibit is an “attitude that is (not) conducive to judicial stability. If that is the way we look at it, then our SC will be politicized. The most important is the independence of the judiciary. The nation should be the primordial concern, not the appointing power.”

The two LP Senators have thrown caution to the wind, opening up the judiciary to further attacks. The same forecast can be said for senator-in-waiting Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who chose to defy a legitimate ruling from the SC to the resounding hurrah from the public who wants Arroyo in jail.

Their role in this local tele-novela called Philippine politics is reminiscent of Varys, a character in the cult classic “A Game of Thrones.” A eunuch, Varys is called the Master of Whisperers or Spider. The nobles he associates with and whispers to find him untrustworthy.

Varys claims to have the best of the kingdom in mind, only to turn away when the going finally gets tough in “A Game of Thrones.” Varys said it more succinctly, “a eunuch has no honor, and a spider does not enjoy the luxury of scruples, my lord.”

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