Demise Justice System Editorial
Cartoon by Joseph Alvin Tibudan

There is hope for an impartial decision on the impeachment complaint filed against Philippine Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Some quarters had earlier said that whatever the findings of the on-going impeachment trial will be, the senator-judges will still use the stand of their political parties as their basis for the conviction or acquittal of Corona. They point out that the impeachment trial is not only a judicial process but also a political exercise.

This view is contrary, though, to the results in the voting on the question of whether or not the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, should obey or defy the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court. The TRO prohibits the Senate from looking into the dollar-deposit accounts of Corona in PS Bank.

The voting results indicated that the individual senator-judges have independence of mind. This was shown by the fact that they did not vote along party lines. Ten senators voted to disregard the TRO, while the remaining 13 voted to obey the TRO.

Those who voted to follow the TRO were: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senators Joker Arroyo, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Aquilino Pimentel III, Ralph Recto, Ramon Revilla Jr., Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Manny Villar.

Those who voted to defy the TRO were: Senators Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Most of the senators who voted to obey the TRO feared that defiance of the order issued by the highest court of the land might trigger a constitutional crisis. Several of them are political allies of President Noynoy Aquino, who is seeking the ouster of Corona. Among them are Estrada, Pimentel III, Escudero, Recto and Enrile.

Those who voted to defy the TRO include known political allies of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had appointed Corona as Chief Justice. Among them are Angara and Lapid.

Santiago, who voted to obey the TRO, said, “Obedience to the TRO preserves government stability, while disobedience precipitates a constitutional crisis. If we have a choice between stability and crisis, the wiser choice is always national stability.”

Enrile, presiding judge of the impeachment court, said the Senate will ask the Supreme Court to lift the TRO. He also voted to honor the TRO.

So even those who opted to respect the TRO are not exactly siding with Corona but are just fearful of the bleak consequences that may arise from the defiance of the TRO.

This gives us hope that the Senate will come out with an impartial verdict. The social consequences of a biased decision are too dark to imagine.

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