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, June 11, 2012

On Pacquiao’s ‘defeat’ and CJ Corona’s conviction by the Senate: “pera-pera lang.” Musings on candidates for the new CJ post.

A columnist of a popular tabloid opines that with the crowning of Timothy Bradley, Jr. as the new welterweight champion, our own champ Manny Pacquiao was robbed of victory by boxing promoter Bob Arum and two judges. Thank God, said this columnist, “hindi lang pala Pinoy politicians ang magnanakaw.”

Another opinion-writer said that just like CJ Renato Corona's conviction by the Senate, the controversy over who won in Las Vegas is “pera-pera lang.” This pundit was referring to the controversy kicked up by the feisty Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who opined recently, to the consternation of her colleagues, that the PDAF was employed extensively by the Palace to buy off senators’ votes against Corona. Similarly, said this pundit, now that loser Pacquiao insists on a rematch set for November between him and Bradley,  the money angle has been raised to more dizzying heights than if Pacquiao had been proclaimed, as expected, the winner in last Sunday’s bout.  A protest and then a rematch are always more exciting for boxing afficionados.

I agree. Pera pera lang talaga in both instances and I think that an overwhelming preponderance of the Filipino people believes this as well.


The nation is now being treated to a ringside view of the process of selecting a new Chief Justice. If the impeachment trial was heart-wrenching because a number of rules on decency, justice and fair play had been thwarted over the six months of trial, the search for a new CJ is proving even more frustrating, given the poor quality of the dramatis personae parading before the nation and criteria being employed in the selection.

The most eager applicant for the post seems to be Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, but the ironic thing is that she is now going on her 5th or so by-pass by the bicameral Commission on Appointments. The legitimate question is, if she repeatedly could not hurdle the CA, how could she be inflicted on the highest post in the judiciary? 

I thought that when CJ Corona was ousted by the "Sanctimonious 20," the bar was also raised for the new CJ; but De Lima's  only qualification seems to be that she is President Aquino’s “Doberman.” Indeed De Lima’s undisputed loyalty to her boss is primordial, but that doesn’t qualify her to be the role model for all the personnel of the judiciary.


There’s also BIR Chief Kim Henares, whom P-Noy extolled recently as one of the two “most feared” officials in his Cabinet, together with De Lima. Henares was quoted recently as saying that if nominated, she would consult with her boss Noynoy as to what to do. Henares and De Lima seem to be the most favored with P-Noy because of their demonstrated dog-loyalty, but Henares is also hounded by a controversy in her career in the private sector, which refuses to go away despite her continuing silence about it.  If she's a serious candidate for CJ, the time is rife for her to explain this controversy. 

There’s a report circulating that she was allegedly fired by the Dutch bank ING Baring Bank in year 2000 as head of its compliance and legal department. In fact, the report says that acting on a replevin case filed by this bank, Makati RTC Judge Oscar Pimentel ordered the seizure of the 1996 BMW 318 company car that the ING had been trying to take back from Henares since her bitterly-contested dismissal from office a couple of years back.

All the public needs is a yes or no from BIR Chief Henares on whether this case is true or not.


Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was quoted as opining that the next CJ should come from within the ranks of the Supreme Court, prompting some observers to conclude that JPE is batting for his Sigma Rho Fraternity brod, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. Actually, a few opinion-makers are plugging outright for Carpio, the most senior of the justices and who has already inhibited from chairing the Judicial and Bar Council because of his nomination. The problem with Carpio, however, is that perhaps he is also the most controversial of the nominees.

Columnist Winnie Monsod has alluded to the rather shady reputation of the law firm that Carpio had founded some years back, popularly known as “The Firm.” But in lobbying for him for the top SC post, Monsod is willing to overlook the popular perception of this firm; she seems ready to bank on Carpio’s reputation for brilliance and his senior experience in the Court which, she opines, would serve him well in administering it.  


The problem, however, is that there's a lot of resistance to Carpio from various law groups and individuals, precisely because of the unethical practices and immense power play reportedly resorted to by this law firm that he founded. It’s said that P-Noy is well-aware of all the talk about this magistrate that has made him quite unpopular---and feared---in the legal community.

Mention “The Firm” in legal circles and some lawyers would automatically roll their eyes heavenward. Possibly this could be due to inggit as this firm is said to have an annual billing of P6 billion, a plush office building in Global City and a fabled lifestyle of the senior partners. But this could also be because of the reputation of “The Firm” for allegedly having bagged juicy appointments to various courts---from justices and judges to fiscals---from various presidencies down to the present. It's famous for behind-the-scenes political power-play. 

In fact, it will be recalled that Chief Justice Renato Corona, in an interview during the pendency of his Senate trial, asserted that it was Justice Carpio and not he who should be accused of closeness to President GMA (Carpio was GMA’s first appointee to the SC after she assumed the presidency in 2001, while Corona was appointed in 2002). Corona stressed that Carpio's firm had benefitted immensely from his relationship with GMA, whereas his own relationship with his one-time boss GMA was “purely professional.”


I had mentioned in an earlier blog that P-Noy’s priority requirement for the occupant of the CJ post would seem to be dog-loyalty and that obviously CJ Corona miserably failed that criterion.  This is because Corona led the SC on November 22, 2011 in decisively ruling (in a unanimous vote of 14 with one abstention, that of Carpio’s) on the distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s nearly 5,000 remaining lands to its farmer-tenants, after P-Noy’s family fought their return for 44 years .  This SC decision was subsequently affirmed as final and executory last April. 

 As Corona has repeatedly opined, that SC decision on Luisita triggered his blitzkrieg impeachment by the House 188.  But his bigger sin was that he also insisted in an SC en banc on pegging the land value to be paid back by the farmers to the Cojuangcos at 1989 prices, or a total of P196 million---as against the valuation advocated by P-Noy’s first SC appointee, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, at 2006 prices, for a total of at least P5 billion for the Cojuangcos. Justice Carpio abstained from that landmark SC decision on Luisita because he was said to have been involved years back with the Cojuangco family in a legal capacity. 


It will be recalled that early on, a beleaguered CJ Corona had pointedly named Carpio as the ringmaster of the huge demolition job on him that led to his impeachment. Thus, on the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Carpio could be a loyal CJ to P-Noy.

And yet again, Justice Carpio probably would be hard to count on for loyalty, for he did turn against his one-time patronness, GMA, when he penned perhaps the most terribly scathing ponencia yet seen in the SC, that tore into the People’s Initiative on Charter Change in 2005.  I recall how the tenor of that ponencia shocked even his colleagues in the Court. The question that lawyers familiar with The Firm's political power-play raised among themselves after this ponencia came out was, hindi na kaya mapag-bigyan ni GMA ang firm?  Did it become "insatiable?"

Far from healing the deep wounds in the judiciary, as former CJ Reynato Puno has advocated, Acting CJ Carpio, I submit, would be very divisive.


I actually have my own candidate for Chief Justice but she’s the type who wouldn’t ever get considered because of her independent-mindedness and rock-like integrity. I refer to Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, a UP honors graduate, who has exhibited consistent brilliance and clarity of thinking about the law.
 I’ve heard lawyers privately salute De Castro as someone they couldn’t presume---or more specifically dare---to call up by phone if they had a case pending before the Sandiganbayan, which she had headed with distinction, and now at the SC. This amiable, soft-spoken lady jurist would pull the Court away from politics and be truly the healing CJ; but unfortunately, folks like her don’t get appointed to its helm.

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1 comment:

  1. I said it then and I say it now that some of the qualifications of an ideal Chief Justice are COMPETENCE, INTEGRITY, MORALITY and HIGH SENSE of INDEPENDENCE all of which Leila De Lima and Kim Henares don't have.