Kampi's Convenient Excuse

There is some relief to hear Former Negros Oriental Congressman Jacinto Paras himself washing his hands clean from any involvement to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno amid allegations that he has not lifted a finger to finally decide on the disqualification case against Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong on the grounds of citizenship.

For now, one thing’s for sure: Paras is after his own agenda of getting his wife into the contested seat, which he used to occupy himself.

Whether he is telling the truth about running only after his wife’s seat remains to be seen.  After all, many sectors have already raised the alarm, suspecting that the move to unseat Puno is again the administration’s effort to push for charter change.

For starters, it does not help that Paras is a member of the President’s party Kampi, which is suspected on making the moves to unseat Puno.  Jacinto Paras used to be a staunch anti-Gloria in the first impeachment complaint in 2005, but later made a 180 and transferred to Kampi.  It is said that he made the transfer for conveniennce — to help ensure that his wife would win the seat he was then vacating. After his transfer, he became very vocal against former colleagues in the opposition such as then Representatives Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Jacinto Paras could be telling the truth.  But it will not be a surprise to find out if his party is making the case a convenient excuse and justification to unseat Puno.  If we were to believe the speculations, it would seem apparent that as the months go by, the allies of the administration are getting more and more desparate to extend their terms, and that of the President’s — at the expense of political and economic stability.

Thank goodness, the alarm has been raised.  So true enough, the administration and its many allies have distanced themselves from the impeachment and the Paras case.

More than a forced charter change, what we should worry more about is the constitutional crisis the country would face if Puno were to be impeached, and the damage that is already being done to the Supreme Court — the court of last resort — by again getting it politicized, similar to the opposition’s attempt to impeach then Chief Justice Hilario Davide in 2003.  For sure, the citizenry will not allow this to happen, especially as the 2010 elections gets near.

There is reason for the administration to hate Puno.  Aside from his non-support for people’s initiative and the other decisions he has signed, Puno has been one of the most vocal Supreme Court Chief Justices, having criticized the administration for its alleged human rights abuses and corruption.  Nevertheless, he is one of the few remaining figures in the government who remain fair and impartial — although his critique of the administration may border on being political.

All things considered, the Supreme Court must act to maintain its integrity, starting with the promulgation of the Paras case, and investigating how a draft decision of the Paras case leaked.  Such leakages undermine the SC as a democratic institution.

And of course, looking at the bigger picture of all — whether Puno gets impeached or not, he is still only 1 vote — 1 of 15 justices, seven of whom are retiring and will be replaced by President Arroyo.  Let us not forget to focus vigilance on that and not be distracted too much.

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