Noynoy Aquino may not have been officially proclaimed the new president yet, but are we already getting an glimpse of what his first few weeks and months will be like? This question is asked because of pronouncements made by him and his camp.
Needless to say, many challenges need to be addressed in a post-Arroyo presidency. Noynoy and his new government will need to unite a country that has been highly-fragmented by a very divisive campaign. He will need to get the support of lawmakers in order to push his own legislative agenda forward. He will need to rebuild the democratic institutions damaged during the Arroyo regime. All of these — on top of solving poverty and hunger nationwide.
The problem is, this early, Aquino and his team are showing that they are getting distracted by politics as usual. First case in point: his very vocal position against the appointment of Renato Corona as the new chief justice. Surely, there are many arguments and counter-arguments to whether outgoing President Gloria Arroyo was right in appointing a new chief justice considering the law.
But the Supreme Court — a co-equal branch of government — has decided in favor of appointing a new chief justice. Let’s also not forget Corona’s appointment was not solely Arroyo’s decision making. It went through another the Judicial Bar Council, another democratic process.
Still, Aquino is standing his ground. No problem if he doesn’t want to be sworn in by Corona. But does he want to start his presidency by pushing for the impeachment of Corona? Personally, I am concerned about what this will do with the bills that will be filed by the new congress, which will deliberate on the issue. Starting the presidency with an impeachment and dragging congress into it at the start of a new term is highly-divisive and counter-productive.
There have been many concerns about all Supreme Court justices being Arroyo-appointed. This, of course, has been criticized. And the challenge is for each justice to prove his or her independence — especially from Arroyo. But to criticize the SC carelessly and without evidence and basis just because they are all Arroyo-appointed is not a very intelligent and presidential pronouncement.
I believe the more appropriate thing to do — which Aquino’s camp has not been doing and explaining — is to see the merit of every case each Arroyo-appointed justice has decided on, and to dissect each case they will decide on later on.
Another important question: does Aquino’s pronouncements mean he will not honor all Supreme Court decisions that are against the executive branch because all justices are Arroyo appointed? Aquino’s camp is sending bad signals very early — signals he needs to clarify. We might just find ourselves in a constitutional crisis come June 30 onwards. And the irony of it all — we’d be in a constitutional crisis under the 1987 constitution, the legacy of Noynoy’s mother.
By ignoring the Supreme Court decision, Aquino, by his pronouncements, is waging war against a co-equal branch of government. Which brings the argument: How different will Aquino now be from Arroyo who did not respect the independence of the Congress with tactics such as the infamous Executive Order 464?
So is Noynoy going overboard this early? Reynato Puno, now a former Chief Justice, has advised the incoming president to respect the law, and the Supreme Court decision.
The easiest and cleanest way out is for Corona to heed the call of not accepting his appointment. Perhaps Puno should have even resigned before his retirement so that an appointment could be made — though I would not recommend this. And of course, there was that option for Arroyo not to make any appointment, but she still did. But all of these are just remedies. If we are unhappy about the Supreme Court ruling and Arroyo’s subsequent use of power, then we don’t need a remedy but a long term solution — that is, to review, revise, and clarify provisions that brought us into this mess to begin with.
Apart from the Supreme Court, Aquino and his allies have repeatedly promised to make Mrs. Arroyo accountable for her “sins”. This is, of course, expected. And we also know that a huge part of the mandate given to Noynoy. Then he should keep his promises. But it should be grounded and anchored on the constitution says. And the constitution is for rule of law, and not just power. It is sad that the allies of Aquino seem to be more interested in using and influencing in the “enormous powers” and power play used rather allowing the democratic processes to properly do the work.
The same enormous powers are expected to be used to block incoming Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, CGMA, from being speaker. Given the latest figures of Lakas-Kampi and the dynamics of the balimbing system, as of now, I still doubt that Arroyo will make it as speaker. Whatever the outcome is, I hope the race for speaker — and that of Senate president — will not isolate Congress as well. If this were to happen, Aquino would have successfully managed to wage war with both the judiciary and the legislative branches of government. And will the new tenants of Malacanang dangle pork as well in exchange for votes for Sonny Belmonte — just as pro-Arroyo forces are expected to be using money as well?
The clamor to make Arroyo accountable is clear. But it should not take precedence over unifying the country. It should not take precedence over the urgent concerns. It cannot be politics as usual on June 30 onwards, and we trust that Aquino will not just work hard but be wise in his decisions and pronouncements. We, after all, want him to start off on the right foot — because whatever step he makes affects the lives of 90 million Filipinos who are under and behind his leadership. And yes, Noynoy can count on ordinary citizens to make his government — our government — work.