But for practical purposes, CJ Corona was no less equipped for such eventuality. He was reputed to enjoy the backing of the two most powerful churches in the country, the Catholic Church and the Iglesia ni Cristo. Should, therefore, President Aquino have chosen to play his people power card in the event of a Senate acquittal, or anything to that effect, of the Chief Justice, the country was up for a head-on collision among millions of warm bodies.
All the paragraphs below until the end appear as I wrote them at the time the Corona impeachment drama was happening.
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Such a violent turmoil is just what any President would need to justify a declaration of martial law: chaos and anarchy. Under the Constitution, the President may declare martial law in the face of “lawless violence and rebellion.”
This was the picture Senator Joker Arroyo must have been already seeing but, for some reason, could not quite paint as yet when he took the floor at the impeachment trial, voicing apprehension that the proceedings against CJ Corona would lead to a discrediting of the Supreme Court and that after such attack on the High Tribunal, the next logical target [of Aquino]would be the Senate.
Senator Arroyo seemed to be worried only about the independence of the Senate falling victim of the Corona impeachment.
CJ Corona has the worst of fears: the death of democracy in the country.
Once President Aquino chooses to play his people power card and CJ Corona decides to counter it head-on in the name of democracy, the Chief Justice may have moral law in his favor, but will he have US support?
Either way the Corona impeachment goes, martial law is its inevitable offspring. And any which way it goes, President Aquino alone gets the sole prerogative of entering into a new bases agreement with the United States unencumbered by constitutional rigmarole.
Surely the Philippine Constitution provides that even under martial law, the Constitution continues to operate. But that’s the theory of it. In practice, how do Congress and the Supreme Court put up against a President completely asserting his powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines? The blitzkrieg fashion by which 188 members of the House of Representatives crafted the 8 articles of impeachment against CJ Corona presaged a pliant Congress in the event of an Aquino dictatorship.
Putting the matter now in an overview, it is the vortex of the US storm in Asia-Pacific that the Philippines finds itself in. Under the circumstances of its conflict with China over the Spratlys, it seems to have not much choice but to kowtow to US wishes. One such wish, the re-establishment of US bases in the country. Reviving Clark and Subic and other previous US military installations in Luzon is out of the question, given restraints under the Philippine Constitution. But in the event of the implementation of MOA-AD in Mindanao – which is the core demand of the MILF in the ongoing peace negotiations – those restraints are effectively overcome. Much-needed US military bases could certainly be established with dispatch in an area no longer strictly falling under Philippine sovereignty. It could be a done deal from the Kenney-Murad meeting back in 2008, a deal confirmed in the Aquino-Murad meeting in Narita, Japan July 2011, and a deal that needs only one last card to play to get implemented ultimately.
It’s just too bad for Chief Justice Renato C. Corona that he happens to be that one last card.
As pointed out at start of this piece, no conflagration ever took place as a culminating point of the Corona walkout in his impeachment trial. Yet I shudder now as I realize that I have not gone wrong at all in my assertions. What I had begun to observe and write about beginning 2012 was a phenomenon no less mystifying than the coming into being of a butterfly. It is not obvious in the beginning, being laid first as an egg, then hatched into a larva, which goes on a binge of devouring vegetation of all sorts before it wraps itself within its silky nest where as a pupa it undergoes a period of hibernation after which it ultimately transforms into that beautiful winged creature whose most mystifying metamorphosis hasn’t been quite explained by human thought.
In comparison, though equally wondrous, the concentration of government powers in Aquino’s hands has not been really that mysterious as to defy human discernment. The defiance of the Supreme Court TRO on the travel ban on PGMA was not an attack on the lady president; it was a serious fracture in the co-equality principle between the executive and the judiciary. Come the crafting of the 8 articles of impeachment against CJ Corona, the fracture cracked even more toward the legislative. Imagine eight articles of impeachment approved by 188 house representatives in a record three-hour duration of plenary session. That’s less than a minute for each congressman to do the whole gamut of perusing, studying, and finally signing the articles of impeachment. This one’s surely for the Guinness Book of World Record. And when, contrary to Senator Ernesto Maceda’s analysis that CJ Corona would easily get an 8-senator-vote acquittal, only the Innocent Three (Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Bongbong Marcos and Joker Arroyo) passed that verdict, the Guilty 20 did Corona in. According to Senator Jinggoy Estrada, each of the Guilty 20 were dangled upon with 50-million-peso DAP consideration in exchange for their guilty verdict.
Has anybody realized it that as early as the Corona impeachment, Aquino already did democracy in as well? I remember coming across an article by Senator Kit Tatad in his Blog First Things First at about that time that under Aquino the country was inclining toward one-man rule. How I wished Kit’s kind were many as early as then. The yellow butterfly of despotism would not have fluttered to seemingly unstoppable dimension to which it has metamorphosed by now.
Aquino must stay in power. The BBL has been given up for lost under his term, and as Secretary Deles had admitted back in 2012, it is the Aquino administration’s main reason for being. The next government will have a new congress to contend with for its passage, which is why putting in place a new US-friendly president cannot be the main effort for ensuring the ultimate passage of the BBL.
From the looks of it alone, the LP campaign is evidently not meant to win the elections. Just look at how unabashedly the black-on-yellow Roxas-Robredo tarps are being fluttered along main highways and thoroughfares early on in the campaign period, each proclaiming a continuance of Daang Matuwid, that already much-pilloried, much-maligned political spiel that in normal circumstances would have lost credence and discarded as trash lest it bring down the Liberal Party fight. But no, the slogan is prattled around like it had done something grand for the nation. Actually it’s a taunt, as from, indeed, a butterfly grown to the size of American eagle, daring us all to catch it if we can.
If Aquino is going through the rigmarole of a political campaign, it can be all for a show. Like a thief who strikes in the middle of the night, his coup de grace can catch us all unawares. No despot has soared to full heights except toward the end of his democratic incumbency. A dictator unleashes his despotism when the democratic process offers no more leeway for him to stay in power except through one-man rule.
Marcos did it September 1972, when come the next year he could no longer aspire for a third term under the 1935 Constitution. Aquino, invoking his power to declare martial law as provided for by the constitution, will do it before his term ends in 2016.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay – your call.