WHILE THE IMPEACHMENT by the House of Representatives of Chief Justice Renato Corona is a welcome accomplishment – the PLM (Partido Lakas ng Masa) insists that the entire membership of the Supreme Court should resign, that the government review the appointment powers of the president of the Philippines, and that a democratic method be put in place to replace Supreme Court justices.
The impeachment of Corona highlights the long-standing tension between the executive branch and the judiciary, or the two co-equal branches of the government. The tension between President Noynoy Aquino and the Chief Justice began right after the midnight appointment of the latter by former President Gloria Arroyo a week after the 2010 presidential election. It was exacerbated by the rejection of the Corona-led Supreme Court of President Aquino’s project of convening a Truth Commission.
But we believe the issue that got the President’s ire is not only the earlier ones nor the TRO (temporary restraining order) granted by the Supreme Court in order to aid the escape of the Arroyos to a foreign country during the NAIA stand-off. It was the Supreme Court’s latest decision to distribute the 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita (owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan) to 6,296 farmworker beneficiaries.
While the decision is commendable, we believe it has long been overdue and has been used as a mere scoring point against President Aquino. This decision, whose practical implementation will likely be stayed by more court litigations, comes in the heels of pro-capitalists’ and pro-landlords’ decisions made by the Court. These include the decision to grant the multi-billion peso coconut levy fund, collected from the coconut farmers during the martial law period, to Marcos’ crony Danding Cojuangco; and the reopening and reversal of a favorable Court ruling on the flight attendants and stewards’ case (Fasap case) based on a mere demand letter sent by Lucio Tan’s lawyer.
This Supreme Court has long been tainted as a court that does not serve the interests of the workers and the poor people, and a court that only curry favors for factions of the ruling elite, be it the Arroyos, the Lucio Tans and Danding Cojuangcos of the land.
We believe that it is not only Chief Justice Renato Corona who should be impeached. To spare the people from further machinations of an Arroyo-controlled Supreme Court and a court beholden to the ruling class’ interests, we call for the resignation of all the Supreme Court justices.
The government should be given a clear hand to choose new justices who have proven integrity, competence, probity, and independence; justices who have clear track records of serving the interests of the people, not factions of the elite.
But we also believe that the appointment power of the President of the Philippines over Supreme Court justices is one of the main reasons we always have a factionalized Supreme Court. The Court has become a plaything or a stamping pad for the president’s wishes.
While it is true that members of the Supreme Court come from a list provided by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the JBC itself is composed of appointees by the President and confirmed by the Commission on Appointments which is, in turn, controlled by whichever is the ruling party in government.
To ensure that the court will be independent from the executive and legislative branches of government, the President should adopt a transparent approach in choosing the new justices. This can be done in a process that integrates public nomination, consultation and hearings. Independent people’s organizations, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, human rights groups, civil society groups, and others should be asked to nominate members of the Supreme Court based on constitutional requirements.
The impeachment by Congress of Chief Justice Corona can really be a ‘historic act’ if it is coupled with an independent, graft-free, democratic methods of choosing the new replacements. Sonny Melencio, Chairperson, PLM