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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.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Search for new CJ getting more ridiculous. Was Judge Mupas promised coveted Court of Appeals seat if he hangs tough on bail and permit to leave for GMA? P-Noy should not strain quality of mercy further, and instead heed JPE’s warning about possible adverse repercussions of lack of compassion.




We live in a time when good hearty laughs are getting quite rare, owing to the many problems our country faces and the rudderless leadership we have.  But I must admit that I was never more amused than at reports that among the most recent applicants for the recently vacated post of Chief Justice of the Philippines was a former RTC judge who was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2006 for admitting that he had been consulting dwarfs in deciding cases.



The judge, who calls himself the “Chief Justice of the Universe,” was reported to have personally submitted his 45-page application to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). Among the documents he submitted reportedly were pictures and names of individuals who had witnessed “mystic divine lights” in the judge’s “2 palm eyes.”



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Instantly I recalled Sen. Joker Arroyo’s commentary about how the search for the new CJ has become “ridiculous” and how we seem to have all kinds parading before the Judicial and Bar Council, the constitutional body tasked to sift through the applications and nominations now numbering over 50 already. As Joker put it, “Now every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be Chief Justice.” Indeed, once upon a time, as he noted, every lawyer dreamed of landing in the SC, with the CA as stepping-stone. But now they want to go straight to the very top without earning the proper credentials---including those who claim jurisdiction over the entire universe.  


I agree about how ridiculous the search for the next CJ has become. And it's easy to see that this demeaning of the top judiciary post is the direct result of the unprecedented ruthless demonizing of CJ Renato Corona in the media in the past six months, and the thwarting of the law by the the conscience-less prosecutors and the self-righteous senator-judges at the impeachment trial.


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But while the search for CJ seems to be getting funnier, the laugh may be on the country. The reality is that the parade of candidates for the top magistrate’s post--- with many actively lobbying for it and a good number of them are tainted with scandals or hounded by controversy---is actually a sad commentary on the state of the nation. 

Recall that the “Sanctimonious 20,” in looking for a ground last month to oust CJ Corona as per the script of Malacanang, settled for his  non-impeachable "offense" of failing to declare his bank assets in his SALN; this, even as the  senators themselves are the first to admit that there is rectification for such a failing in the law.  

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After CJ was ousted, however, the senators themselves started to stonewall the public clamor to open their SALNs in the aftermath of the trial’s verdict, and declare their bank assets. It's outright hypocrisy, giving a face to the time-honored adage, “Do not accuse in others what you excuse in yourselves.”


Now that we are confronted with the ridiculous charade of over-eager applicants and nominees to Corona’s vacated post, some of us are led to wonder, was this what the reviewer of French writer Emile Zola’s classic “J”Accuse” meant when he said, “When you break the law to correct flaws in a nation, you break the nation.” 


Certainly the charade before the JBC appears to be a breakdown in propriety and perhaps ethical standards of professional behavior at the very least.



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We citizens are left to wonder now whether the “Sanctimonious 20” feel happy over these developments in the search for CJ Corona’s replacement. Do the senators feel some pangs of conscience in seeing how, in their effort to please Malacanang, they ousted a man who believed that the law is his best defense. How do they feel now that the country is witnessing, to borrow a term from columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, a bastusan never before seen in the selection of a CJ---a ridiculous spectacle that only manages to bring tears to those watching from the sidelines, who are deeply concerned about the direction our country has been taking.   



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On the other hand, the chorus of voices from high and low pleading for more mercy and compassion for hospital-detained former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is increasing as her health continues to deteriorate. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who doubtless seeks to redeem his image that was affected by the conviction of Corona by the Sanctimonious 20 that he led, is the latest to plead for allowing GMA to seek immediate treatment either here or abroad, or at the very least, to grant her bail so she could be under house arrest---instead of moving her to a regular jail as the administration reportedly is mulling.


In this plea JPE is joined by Sen. Pia Cayetano, who may be feeling some pang of guilt as well over her harsh conviction vote for CJ Corona and may also be looking for a way to improve her image.


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Enrile warns of possible adverse political repercussions should anything happen to GMA now, with the seeming nonchalance of the administration to her very critical health problem. He recalled how the Marcos administration where he was a key official allowed Ninoy Aquino to leave at the height of martial law for a heart operation abroad.  


JPE also recalled how the adverse fate of prominent leaders in the past had triggered national crises, such as the assassination of Ninoy which began all the agitation for democratic space since 1983, and finally, the assassination of the Antique hero for democracy, the late Gov. Evelio Javier, in February 1986. Evelio's death became the immediate trigger of the EDSA Revolution later that month.



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Other political leaders such as former President Estrada, as well as Church leaders such as Archbishops Oscar Cruz and Ramon Arguelles are all pleading for more leniency in the handling of GMA.  Their plea has acquired an urgent tenor inasmuch as the electoral sabotage case vs. GMA is considered quite weak as it banks only on the hearsay testimony of the lone witness against her and her co-accused---former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas. He’s perceived as merely inventing tales to escape implication in the Maguindanao Massacre.


Publicly the Palace has been quoted as saying that it’s leaving the decision to act on the plea of Senate President Enrile for more compassion for GMA entirely to Pasay City RTC Judge Jesus Mupas. Meaning, the Palace is hands-off on this issue. Which is a good thing---if it’s true?


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Recall that this judge became the speed-reader of the century when finished perusing in one or two hours all the voluminous documents accompanying the Comelec petition to implicate GMA on electoral sabotage. Recall that Mupas  that same afternoon slapped the prima facie case that enabled Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to maintain the TRO against GMA. 


Mupas  has not been heard from in relation to the Palace stand regarding GMA's treatment abroad or bail, but there’s persistent rumor that a coveted position in the Court of Appeals---the stepping-stone to the SC---is being dangled to this judge, in exchange for keeping GMA in jail.


Let’s hope this is not true, for from what we gather, the former President truly needs medical attention. Senate President JPE was quoted as having heard from sources that GMA is said to be unable to take any solids and that no doctor wishes to take her delicate medical case). President Noynoy has everything to gain by not straining further the quality of mercy shown to his predecessor.








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