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Chaotic Justice

I set off for work earlier, catching a glimpse of today’s headlines on the newsstands. Here’s what was screaming on Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s cover page: ‘Corona’s penthouse bared’.

Inquirer Cover Page, Jan 4, 2012My initial reaction was, “What the hell? Pati ba naman penthouse ni CJ Corona, pinagdidiskitahan? Lahat ba ng mahal na kayang bilhin ng mga government officials, anomalous na? ‘Di ba pwedeng pinag-ipunan muna para mabili? Laki kaya ng sweldo nila. Look at the timing, too. Kung kailan ma-i-impeach si Corona, saka lang lalabas ‘yan para madiin siya lalo?

I am defending Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona to an extent here because his “public persecution” and the “swift” chain of events leading to his impeachment is somwehat unfair to him. It’s somehow ironic that the government intends to “correct” the justice system by targeting the head of the judicial branch himself, and then air his supposed “dirty linens” in public outside of formal impeachment proceedings. Isn’t that meddling with the “wheels of justice,” making a mockery of the system?

Such is the “drama” here in the Philippines. Soap operas on mainstream TV become true-to-life; the leading actors are the politicians themselves. Erap’s impeachment trial, Gloria’s ongoing persecution, Noynoy Aquino vs Renato Corona, Jojo Binay vs Mar Roxas: the list goes on and on. And all the while, the nation gets dragged into the drama, and its progress stays on the sidelines, brought into the spotlight from time to time by these politicians only when they can make use of it.

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When I got to the office, I read the headline’s details: that the penthouse might not be declared in CJ Corona’s SALN (it was transferred to Corona and his wife only in January 2010) – a supposed evidence for graft. A valid argument indeed, but the timing of the announcement is somewhat fishy.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas even declared that the prosecution team has got more “aces” versus Corona. Now, Tupas is asking what’s wrong with disclosing evidences to the public, who deserves to know the truth. Well, Rep. Tupas, the public will get that chance during the impeachment proceedings. Can’t it wait? What you are doing is the classic “jumping the gun” approach: publicize the evidences to win the public’s sympathy. When things don’t go the prosecution’s way, they’ll have a “supportive, misguided” public to turn to.

It’s my main complaint here in the Philippines: the courts are disregarded, deemed as “untrustworthy”. All cases involving politicians are brought into the “people’s court”. It’s not that I belittle the public’s intelligence; it’s just that these politicians twist the story in their favor most of the time. They utilize the media (and social media) to spread their agenda. The merits of the cases are pushed aside in favor of their own side, enveloped in appeals for pity and support.

How can we have an effective justice system if we have already called a person guilty of a crime before examining the evidences against him? Isn’t that unfair? It’s not Rep. Tupas’s, the Aquino administration’s, or even the public’s job to interpret the law or mete out punishments; it’s the courts’ job. The judges are beholden to the law agreed upon by the legislature and by the people. The courts weigh the merits of the cases, and prevent themselves from heeding to the wishes of the majority of the populace, which may be swayed by persons with vested interest. Fifty percent plus one is a majority already, and their opinion is not always the same as whole populace.

It brings into mind one person who is brutally put to death, as per the wishes of an angry mob, for a ridiculous crime he did not commit. An innocent Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross two millenia ago, yet it seems we’re not learning our lessons. Let’s wait for the courts to tell whether Chief Justice Renato Corona is innocent or not. Let’s follow the proceedings. Let’s point out what might be wrong in the process, not the situations of the persons involved. Actions, not emotions. Rules, not assumptions.

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If we worry about judges (or in the case of Corona’s impeachment, Senators) being bribed, the truth will come out eventually. They’ll receive their punishment in due time. It’s important that the public is informed regularly by a trusted source which sticks to the merits of the case and filters out unnecessary drama. An impartial court, an independent media, and an intelligent populace: the three I’s of a fair justice system.

Sadly, the majority rule also applies in courts, especially in the Supreme Court. For now, I put my trust on the Senate, which seems to be fair and non-partisan. The Senate has 23 members, as compared to the SC’s 15.

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To end, here’s a statement by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is apparently fed up with this unjust system the same way as I do.

“As a senator judge, I cannot sit idly by and watch blatant violations of our Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials that unambiguously prohibits senator judges as well as prosecutors, the person impeached, their counsels, and witnesses from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial. If we allow such undisciplined public presentation of evidence by any party in utter disregard of the ethics of their legal profession to continue, the Senate may lose control of the situation and I am certain it will damage not just the Senate as an impeachment court but the sacredness of the whole impeachment process as well.”
– Sen. Panfilo Lacson

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The above image is retrieved from the Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s e-paper site at PressDisplay.com.

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