The Pros and Cons of impeachment

Jan. 25, 2012

As Corona’s impeachment trial continues, the Philippine judicial system is under public scrutiny for its perceived corruption and as a flunky to whoever sits in the Malacañang. The Davao judiciary is worried that Corona’s public trial may do more harm than good for the justice system. Progressive groups, on the other hand, welcome it as either remedying or as a rabble-rouser.

Davao Today

Posters affirming support to Chief Justice Renato Corona

ALL-OUT SUPPORT. Posters affirming support to Chief Justice Renato Corona are prominent outside the Davao courts in Hall of Justice, Ecoland. RTC-XI Executive Judge Pelagio Paguican said “all judges and court employees are in full support of the Chief Justice.” ( photo by Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — “Sus, walay mapili sa inyo, pareha lang mo mga kawatan!” (You’re all the same, thieves!) says Silvestre Alforque, 62 and a welder, as he watches the latest teleserye, the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Alforque insists Corona is a “bata-bata” (lackey) of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo. “They’re all the same, even the lawmakers are also guilty of those same accusations,” Alforque adds.

As Corona’s impeachment trial continues, the Philippine judicial system is under public scrutiny for its perceived corruption and as a flunky to whoever sits in the Malacañang. The Davao judiciary is worried that Corona’s public trial may do more harm than good for the justice system. Progressive groups, on the other hand, welcome it as either remedying or as a rabble-rouser.

Judge Pelagio Paguican, executive judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)-XI is worried that with the impeachment trial, “Ang atong mga judges, empleyado basig ma-demoralize, basig mawala ang kumpyansa sa mga tao sa atong mga korte, mawad-an og pagsalig ug basin ang mga mando sa korte dili na sundon sa mga tawo.” (Our judges and employees might be demoralized. And the public will lose their confidence and cease to rely or to respect the courts.)

The judiciary’s survey ratings have been low for a long time, according to lawyer Neri Colmenares, of the progressive partylist block at the Lower House, and one of the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice. “Walang ilusyon ang mga tao na malinis ang hudikatura. In fact, ang mabagal na hustisya ay isa sa mga dahilan ng rebelyon sa ating bansa,” (The people do not have illusions that the justice system is clean. In fact, the slow wheel of justice is one of the reasons for the rebellion in our country) he said.

Judge Paguican said the impeachment is “not only an attack against the person of the Chief Justice but also the independence of the judiciary.” All judges and employees of the judiciary are in full support of the Chief Justice, “no ifs and buts,” Davao’s executive judge said.

Colmenares said, “for the first time, nabigyan ng pag-asa ang mga mamamayan na may mga mekanismo para mapanagot ang mga nasa hudikatura.” (The people are rewarded with a hope. There is a mechanism that they can avail of to hold the judiciary accountable.)

Best justice system?

In an interview with Davao Today, Judge Paguican dismissed the perception that the judiciary is corrupt, “As far as we are concerned, Davao judiciary is not corrupt.” He added the justice system is working for as long as it is independent, “kanang walay manghilabot ba” (where there is no one interfering it).

Lawyer Antonio Arellano, head of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office-XI, said there are corrupt judges in the same vein that there are corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Laywer Antonio Arellano regional prosecutor

GOOD JUSTICE SYSTEM?. Laywer Antonio Arellano, regional prosecutor, says the country has a good justice system because we “don’t allow anyone to be above the law.” ( photo by Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan)

“We have a good justice system. The fact that we’re impeaching a Chief Justice means we’re okay because we’re not allowing anyone to be above the law,” Arellano said.

“The fact that we’re not shooting each other, we do not kill each other just because we disagree, we still go to court and trust lawyers and we don’t take the law in our own hands, that means people believe in the rule of law,” Arellano shared to

For lawyer Francis Calatrava, Director of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)-XI, the Philippines has one of the best justice systems. “We have good laws and system, the problem is with the enforcement. In practice, daghan apan,” he told

Calatrava likened the judicial system into building a house, “You already have a plan. The problem occurs when the persons you hire to build the house are palpak, not good.”

Other groups are not as optimistic.

“From the collective people’s experiences, most of the decisions made by Philippine courts favor those who have the resources,” Franchie Buhayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general, said. “With the court’s highest official now facing impeachment trial, it has become clearer that corruption is also in the judiciary. Individuals can be appointed to defend the interest of the ruling class for industrial or corporate interest,” she said.

Turning the wheels for the few, not turning at all for the many

“Their statement is not supported with concrete indicators wherein the conviction rate is low, the wheels of justice are very slow and extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are still happening with impunity. Their statement is their way to cover for their ineptitude,” Hanimay Suazo, human rights group Karapatan secretary general, said.

Hundreds of thousands of victims of political and civil rights since Marcos dictatorship still quest for justice. Past administrations up to the present have yet to face accountability for the many victims of their counter-insurgency plans like Arroyo’s Bantay Laya and President Benigno Aquino’s Bayanihan. The Supreme Court has cleared the Cory Aquino government from its responsibility in the Mendiola massacre. And nobody has been finally prosecuted for the Ampatuan massacre. In Davao City, justice remains elusive for the many victims of summary executions who are mostly minors.

Judge Paguican tells Davao Today that with the slow process of trials, people are discouraged to seek help in the judiciary for their cases. “Mao nang makawala og tiwala kung dugay ang mga kaso,” (That’s why, people lose faith when the case runs so slow) he said adding that “speedy trial and impartial judgment must be strengthened.”

Last year, 10 judges from the RTC and seven from the Municipal Trial Court in Davao City attended the Judicial Dispute Resolution Inventory and Internship, purportedly to strengthen settlement to speed up the resolution of the cases.

Booting out CJ Corona

If it’s proven that Corona is not fit to be a Chief Justice, is removed and convicted, would it change our justice system?

“It can help. By removing a very questionable public officer who is at the top of the judicial system, somehow you’re giving the judicial system a new lease in life so that whoever will be the new leader, will now lead the judicial system towards a more transparent, credible stature which can gather more support from the public,” PAO’s Arellano tells Davao Today.

Calatrava hopes that “whatever the outcome is, it will be for the good of the country and it will be accepted, otherwise, there’ll be no peace.”

For Executive Judge Paguican, he said he is doubtful that if Corona is impeached, it could bring reforms to the judiciary. “Depende. As long as the judgment is credible, it is fair, impartial and based by law and the evidence submitted by the parties, any person may accept the decision,” he said.

“If Corona would be convicted, only one of the stumbling blocks in prosecuting Arroyo will be removed. The objective of the Aquino administration is to replace Corona with a Chief Justice under the control of Malacañang,” Buhayan said.

Suazo shared Buhayan’s opinion adding that President Aquino wants to reverse the SC ruling on Hacienda Luisista and to “push anti-people policies such as Charter Change.” (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/

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