May 31, 2012

Change or more of the same

The impeachment trial has been hailed as historic because it is the first time an erring high public official, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court no less, has been tried before an impeachment court, the trial completed and a conviction rendered in accordance with the Constitution and in consonance with the public demand for justice and accountability.  But already many are asking how much of a change can Corona’s removal from office really bring about?

Recent history itself reminds us that the removal from office of the highest public officials guilty of plunder and gross abuse of power, while desirable, righteous and even imperative has not led to any significant reforms nor resulted in the general improvement in the quality of our people’s lives.

The Corona conviction by a vote of 20-3 is being touted by Malacanang as a victory for President Aquino’s quest for good governance including an honest, fair and independent judiciary.  It is also being held up as a testament to the vibrancy of Philippine democracy and that this augers a “paradigm shift” in the country’s political culture.

We are asked to believe that from a political system that has always been debauched and profited from by the entrenched political and economic elite in this country we are now on the road to one where corruption will be stamped out and where the ideal of “public office for the public good” will be realized.

Unfortunately the propaganda spin has not much to stand on.

This prettified, sanitized version of what were the stakes in the Corona impeachment trial, who were orchestrating the moves of the Prosecution and the Defense, the actual arbiters in the decision-making of the Senator-judges, and the intended and unintended consequences of the Corona ouster from the SC is not derived nor can it be sustained by the facts and circumstances of what actually transpired whether already of public knowledge or still to be pieced together from information or commentaries slowly filtering out.

From the start, the Aquino-LP-led campaign to oust Corona from the Supreme Court was spurred by clashing factional interests within the ruling elite.  Aquino’s move to neutralize Arroyo’s appointees in the Supreme Court is not entirely for the declared intent of ensuring an independent Court and removing the obstacles to the prosecution of Arroyo for her crimes. The apparent lack of resolve to prosecute Corona for favoring Arroyo and using his position to allow her  to leave the country shows that the Aquino-LP clique have other more important reasons for removing Corona and reinforcing their own  influence over the Court.

The excessive focus on Article 2 and the dropping or dowplaying of the other charges against Corona reveal the objective of using the impeachment trial to highlight and revitalize Aquino’s anti-corruption rhetoric.

The Senators’ vote similarly reflected partisan lines and quid pro quo as well as keen awareness of  2013 elections. Many of the Senators’ speeches dealt at length and unnecessarily on their own personal concerns and interest, while some embarked on calls for accountability, honesty, etc. as though in an early campaign speech. Not a word was uttered by any of them on the more urgent and imperative tasks with respect to the original declared impetus for the impeachment trial – bringing Aquino and her accomplices to the bar of justice, and paving the way for fundamental political and social changes.

Having said this, it must be pointed out that Corona’s trial and conviction has objectively provided unusual openings for the pursuit of a degree of political reform.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Corona’s second unconditional waiver provides a standard by which to challenge and set the bar for other high public officials not least of whom are President Aquino, his  Cabinet members, the House of Representatives starting with the congressmen who voted to impeach Corona, and the Senate that convicted him.  Will they follow suit or will we hear only excuses or reasons for exemption?

The unusual zeal by which Malacanang, the Aquino-appointed Ombudsman and Aquino’s allies in Congress were able produce the evidence to bring about the conviction of Corona must be similarly demanded in connection with running after Arroyo and her cohorts for the more grievous crimes of plunder, human rights violations, electoral fraud, etc.  In this Aquino’s track record remains dismal thus the clamor for concrete results must be amplified.

The public should be on the look-out for who Aquino will eventually appoint as Chief Justice and whether such an appointee will exhibit the probity, independence and fairness that was supposedly lacking in Corona.  Vigilance is needed to ensure that the erstwhile Arroyo Court is not simply replaced by one more pliant to the pressures and demands of the Aquino presidency.

Finally, the people must be wary of and oppose the way the reactionary elite with their vested interests utilize the Corona conviction to shore up the status quo with the myth of elite democracy at work and that they are champions of that democracy.

The people must be forewarned that this mystique will be used by the Aquino administration  to manipulate public opinion and  push for anti-people policies and the further consolidation of power by his clique, immediately, with the 2013 elections in view.

Rather than set the tone for reforming the political system, the Corona conviction, if left to these reactionary interests to capitalize on, will only become a tool for further deceiving the people and change nothing. #

Published in Business World
1-2 June 2012


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