Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Corona pledges to fight impeachment; now beyond GMA, this is about the survival of the highest court of the land and the rule of law

Yesterday, the third Sunday of Advent, was celebrated throughout the Catholic world as “Gaudete Sunday”or the Sunday of “Joyous Expectation” over the coming birth anniversary of Jesus Christ. In contrast to the two previous Sundays which were a time of penitence for our sins and cleansing of our hearts, as symbolized by the purple candles in the Advent Wreath, yesterday’s candle was pink or rose-colored, symbolizing gaudium or joy. But the nation was not in a joyous mood for a number of reasons.

former Pres. Arroyo
from bbc.com.uk
Former President Macapagal Arroyo was transferred to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center from St. Luke’s Hospital without any untoward episode, but the harsh treatment continues. While she is under “medical arrest” in the presidential suite of VMMC, she could very well be in prison, as she is totally deprived of use of cellphone, laptop, radio and TV.
GMA’s lawyers have protested to Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas that she has not even been  arraigned yet, much less convicted, but is only on “custodial detention”--- i.e., the court just wants her around in case it needs her. Yet in that condition she's totally deprived of the tools of communication she needs to carry on her duties and functions as duly-elected representative of Pampanga. She's treated like a hardened criminal.

To be deprived of a cellphone and laptop is quite harsh, for as media who had seen her at work know, GMA is very techie and worked efficiently with these devices when she was healthy. But depriving her of a radio and TV in her hospital room is obviously designed to cut her off completely from the outside world, which is so cruel. But most cruel of all for this devout Catholic was that today she was not allowed to attend the mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hospital chapel, with its controlled security. Wow, ano ba ito?
from www.philstar.com
It's obvious that the P-Noy administration is persecuting GMA far beyond the bounds of reason and law, and many people who had voted for him are now realizing this.


Justice del Castillo
Yesterday was not Gaudete Sunday for Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona either. Over the past days reports swept media that the administration had firmed up its plan---despite P-Noy’s refusal to divulge details---to push the CJ’s impeachment and that the House justice committee’s vote the other day to impeach SC Associate Mariano del Castillo was mere decoy. Del Castillo’s plagiarism case had slept in the committee since last May due to a dismal 11-10 vote, but suddenly last Dec. 7, even committee chair Neil Tupas was “surprised” as it was suddenly voted upon, garnering 40 votes from the LPs and their allies, vs. 7 from the opposition.


Rep. Neptali Gonzales
Media reports said that last night the LPs met with members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) at the residence of Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez Jr., to solicit the NPC’s votes for Corona’s impeachment. Apparently the CJ was fully aware of the plot, as Court sources indicate that he asked all officials, including the associate justices,  and personnel to attend this morning's regular flag-raising at the SC Quadrangle. Court employees thought the CJ was going to deliver the customary Christmas message and give out bonuses, but he said the goodies would be handed out this Friday, after the early morning Christmas mass to be celebrated by newly-minted Manila Archbishop Chito Tagle.

The CJ said that he gathered them all this morning to make a very serious announcement---that there are moves to impeach him in the House. Corona stressed that his silence on the attacks on the SC and his person has been construed as weakness on his part;  but speaking in a mix of English and Pilipino from a five-minute prepared speech, he vowed to fight the  impeachment all the way and to defend the Court and its precious independence, and the rule of law at its moment of greatest peril. Corona called on his colleagues and the personnel to be united with him ("I am in command") and remain vigilant against the Court's enemies. 

At that point all the magistrates were present and intently listening, except for Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno (who are generally identified as pro-administration) and Del Castillo (probably busy preparing his own defense) who all failed to show up. Significantly P-Noy's two most recent appointees, Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, came. 

Corona was his usual calm and unruffled self with his trademark half-smile, but he left no room for misinterpreting his intent---- he's prepared to defend the Court and the rule of law. The personnel, however, were not prepared for the CJ’s shocker and one could hear a pin drop in the Quadrangle.


Various groups in the House have been meeting today over the impeachment plot against Corona and this afternoon there will be a multi-party caucus led by the LP and its coalition allies, namely the Nationalist People’s Coalition, whose leader, Henry Cojuangco, is very pro-Noynoy, the National Unity Party composed of Lakas breakaway solons led by Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, and some party-list groups. Their target is to get 90 votes which would be sufficient to send the impeachment complaint straight to the Senate for trial---bypassing the House committee and plenary vote. Informed sources said the Corona Impeachment Express will chug tomorrow. 

P-Noy’s paranoia seems to stem from the fact that the High Court would be ruling soon after the New Year on the constitutionality of the joint DOJ-Comelec panel that investigated the alleged electoral sabotage case vs. GMA. If the Court rules it unconstitutional, then GMA goes free, since the Comelec’s electoral fraud charge was the basis of Judge Mupas’ finding of probable cause and arrest order. But the Ombudsman has already prepared a number of graft cases against GMA for filing with the Sandiganbayan, so that the latter's freedom could be short-lived.


Some House members are in a bind as P-Noy has also decided to push passage of the RH bill which has been pending. Some solons, such as Pabling Garcia and prominent LPs are very much anti-RH, but they also are allies of P-Noy and right now there seems to be a fusion of the two issues: the RH bill and Corona's impeachment. 

Some solons would truly be in a dilemma about this fusion, but this is a high-stakes game and if past history is a gauge, it will see many millions in PDAF flowing as well as some really tough political brasuhan. One tactic House members adopt to escape being caught in the middle is to be absent at voting. This was done by Justice Del Castillo’s fraternity brods in the Aquila Legis frat of the Ateneo Law School at last May’s voting in the committee---they just stayed away. Will Corona’s brods in the Ateneo frat Utopia do the same?


Some weeks back P-Noy reportedly called for a religious leader to sound him out on his plan to impeach Corona, but instead of getting the response he liked, this leader warned him to think out that move super-carefully as it could be a “double-bladed thing.” P-Noy was said to be quite upset about this suggestion, that he unleashed his recent tirades against Corona and the SC at the Makati Business Club and later at the Judicial Summit where CJ was just two feet away. 

But those twin attacks reaped even more tremendous criticisms on P-Noy, so that he was said to have gone ballistic. He summoned Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez Jr. to the Palace and was said to have angrily emphasized to them that “This cannot go on---not while I’m President of this country. I’ll show them who’s the power here.” The result was the Del Castillo Impeachment Express and now the plot to get Corona. 

It's not a Gaudete week for our country.

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