Despite President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s uncelebrated victory over the Iglesia ni Cristo’s recent “mass action” vis-à-vis the threat of legal action from the Secretary of Justice against some INC leaders for the alleged illegal detention, harassment, grave threats and coercion of the expelled INC minister Isaias Samson, two ominous incidents seem to show that the political tectonic plates may have begun shifting, and that PNoy’s stranglehold on political power could soon quickly unravel.
Incident No. 1
The Ombudsman’s decision to investigate PNoy for his alleged abuse of the P150-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court had earlier declared unconstitutional, offers the first grave foreboding. Not many were expecting Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to make this move. She and PNoy were supposed to maintain a particularly close and special relationship. When he assumed the presidency in 2010, he asked her, who was then still with the Supreme Court, to swear him in, instead of the Chief Justice, who normally administered the President’s inaugural oath.
Then he named her Ombudsman, after driving Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s appointee, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, out of office, with a threat of certain impeachment if she did not quit. At the Senate impeachment trial of then SC Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached by 188 congressmen at Malacañang’s behest, even without reading the eight Articles of Impeachment, Morales facilitated the questionable inquiry into Corona’s bank accounts, even without an appropriate court order as required by law, and without Corona having been charged with graft or theft. She has since lent support to the continuing harassment of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, whom Malacanang and the Liberal Party would like to prevent from running for president.
This is the first time the Ombudsman has decided to investigate the President, although not the first time the High Court had ordered Morales to investigate this particular President in connection with the DAP. The High Court had earlier directed all prosecutorial arms of the government to investigate and prosecute all those involved in the DAP when it struck it down, together with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), as unconstitutional and void. But Morales was finally compelled to announce PNoy’s investigation, along with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the real architect and principal implementor of DAP, and so many others, only because of a mandamus suit filed by a group of citizens before the High Court.
The Court’s second order could no longer be ignored.
The investigation appears to collide with the long-established principle of presidential immunity from suit while the President is in office. And this is what the Office of the President has said. However, PNoy will not be investigated for the purpose of filing a criminal case against the Chief Executive, but solely for the purpose of finding out whether there is basis for filing an impeachment complaint against him before the House of Representatives. Criminal prosecution could follow later if PNoy is impeached and removed from office; otherwise he could be charged in court only after he leaves his office. Therefore, his immunity from suit is not violated, even if Morales has him investigated.
On the other hand, Abad and all the others will have to be criminally charged in court as a matter of course, if probable cause is established. These officials constitute the shaky foundation upon which Aquino has hypocritically erected his farcical “daang matuwid” (straight path). They have used this slogan as a sword and a shield not only to corrupt the system, as the National Transformation Council has put it, but to make corruption the system.
Despite Morales’s move to investigate PNoy, Malacañang remains confident no harm would come to him. Through the members of the two houses of Congress whom he had earlier bought to impeach and remove Corona, he remains in control of the impeachment process; his allies and lackeys could be counted upon to throw out any impeachment complaint that may be brought before the House committee on justice.
But there is one thing PNoy cannot be sure about. The High Court’s directive that the Ombudsman investigate and prosecute the 19 senator-judges who had each received P50 million or more for convicting Corona, and most of whom are still sitting in the Senate, could inspire Corona to go to Court himself to secure a reversal of the Senate verdict which now clearly appears to have been the fruit of an odious and criminal commerce.
Properly exploited, this could inflame popular passions, and contribute to Aquino’s political demise, even before he leaves office.
Incident No. 2
The second incident is the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s decision to give due course to private citizen Rizalito David’s petition to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares from the Senate after mysteriously topping the 2013 automated elections in the 60- 30-10 across-the-board formula for PNoy’s senatorial candidates. Under the leadership of Senior SC associate justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Art Brion and Justice Teresita de Castro, the SET has required Mrs. Llamanzares to produce an NSO-authenticated copy of her birth certificate to prove her claim that she is a “natural-born Filipino citizen” and therefore qualified to sit as a senator, (and to run for president or vice president), contrary to what is alleged in the petition. She has responded to the order by supplying the SET with some documents. Unfortunately, the birth certificate which says she was born on Sept. 3, 1968, or 47 years ago yesterday, was assembled only in 2006, with the data provided by her surrogate mother, and does nothing to prove that she was a natural-born Filipino, meaning a Philippine citizen at birth who did not have to perform any act to acquire or perfect her citizenship.
A year ago or so, prior to the Mamasapano massacre on Jan. 25, 2015 and its effect on the national psyche, neither of these two incidents would have seemed thinkable. The Ombudsman would probably have simply sat on the SC order, and the SET would have equally taken time to peruse the complaint against a popular senatorial topnotcher. But as PNoy draws closer to the end of his term, there seems to be a loosening of the ties that since 2010 had put all the institutions under Malacañang’s control.
Despite the apparent resolve of the oligarchy of billionaires to impose upon the political system a senator, and possible presidential candidate, who has succeeded in getting around the citizenship and residency requirements under the Constitution, those presiding over the SET have resolved that the law shall prevail. Thus despite the apparent gloating in Malacañang of those who believed they had put one over on the INC marchers on Shaw/EDSA, I cannot help but hear and sense the foundations of the Aquino regime breaking down.