Commentary on @PresidentNoy Speech: Is the President promoting disunity?

Note: At the time this article was posted, Chief Justice Renato issued a statement in response to the President’s speech. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte issues a response to Corona’s statement.

President Aquino is once again making headlinesfor making noise.

His speech at La Consolacion College is once again raising eyebrows because of the strong language used as a direct hit against the man of the impeachment hour, Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aquino’s side

It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between the President and the chief justice. The Executive office has been up in arms and pushing the other branch of government, the Legislative branch, so Aquino can go about cleaning house and get rid of the man he perceives to be a major obstacle in going after Arroyo. He wants to put his own man in office and has been very vocal about how the impeachment proceedings should go.

The President claimed that he’s not acting out of a personal vendetta. In his speech, he specified, “Lilinawin ko lang po: Walang personalan dito; sistemang pangkatarungan ang ipinaglalaban dito.”

In spite of such strong language, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo defended the President’s actions and speech wondering why it’s not appropriate.

It’s hard to believe that the President isn’t taking matters to heart. At every given opportunity, it seems like he has something to say about the trial or Corona. If he were a lawyer himself, he would probably try this case himself. That’s how passionate Aquino is about going after Corona.

Corona’s claims

Corona for his part claims the forces of government are being used against him in retaliation for his vote on the Hacienda Luisita issue and for the Supreme Court’s issuance for a TRO in favor of Arroyo when she attempted to leave the country. He likewise filed an urgent Petition for Certiorari with Temporary Restraining Order before the Supreme Court to stop the impeachment proceedings against him and nullify the Articles of Impeachment.

His Defense panel came up with allegations that the Senator Judges were pressured by Malacanang to the tune of P100 million in projects and cash just so they would vote to not obey the TRO issued by the Supreme Court. Corona’s actions will be tackled in another commentary.

Disunity when unity is needed

This speech was given as part of a series of events to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution. This is the history changing moment in the Philippines that united the country in one glorious moment, propelled his mother to the presidency and led to a constitutional change. It is therefore ironic that his speech appears to  promote disunity in the country.

The President himself has stated the importance and the influence of the Supreme Court when it comes to the law of the land. “Alam naman po natin ang napakalakas na impluwensya ng hukom sa ating sistemang pangkatarungan. Nasa kanila ang pasya sa bawat kaso.”

I felt that the President does not have much faith in the impeachment process. Undersecretary Manolo Quezon in twitter stressed that the President has faith ” but also there’s a need to cut through the clutter. The issue is fitness for office”. But isn’t this the job of the spokesperson of the Prosecution to sort through the clutter?

Pressuring the Senator Judges

What kind of response is the President asking here: “hahayaan na lang po ba natin na iilan ang magdesisyon para sa atin pong lahat?”  I hope  he is not trying to initiate some kind of mob rule again (in the guise of People Power ) now against the senators who voted to respect the TRO.

What is disturbing about President Aquino’s statements is that he is blatantly pressuring the Legislative branch and trying to sway public opinion to his favor to get what he wants. Is this to ensure that Corona will be out, regardless of the man’s right to a fair and impartial trial and violations against his right to privacy and other human rights violations.

What kind of message do you send out to the international community when you are putting pressure on the legislative arm of government? It’s like the President is planting seeds of guilt, making the issue of voting for an impeachment an even more difficult one.

Even if the man is guilty of a number of misdeeds, no one in the country has the right to take away his right to due process. No one, not even the President, has the right to deprive him of his right to a fair trial. No one has the right to force the Senator Judges to vote a specific way.

Setting the stage

President Aquino’s declaration that his fight against corruption will become “extremely difficult, if not impossible” if the Senators do not vote for the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona is already setting the stage for his safety net – someone to blame.

He is effectively already finding a scapegoat in case his administration is a failure when it comes to his campaign promises. He has already placed the blame on something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s as if to say if he can’t get Corona, then he won’t be able to get anyone else and that’s the fault of the Senators for not impeaching Corona. It’s a win-win for Aquino.

Sending the wrong message

What kind of message does this send to the Filipinos, when the President uses  below the belt tactics, to remove him from office? There’s no need to go to law school and litigate a case anymore, all you need to do is do a trial by publicity to win your case.

Even his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, never spoke so harshly against her predecessor Pres. Marcos, whom she believed was responsible for the assassination of her husband!

By taking to the microphone and telling all the world just how bad and guilty Corona is, even if the trial isn’t finished yet and the defense hasn’t started to show their evidence, the President is preempting procedure and depriving Corona of his due process.

Aquino’s statements may appear to the world that here in the Philippines, you don’t get a fair trial. The President’s message is that here, celebrations to commemorate historical days in the country can be used as a platform to lambast particular persons. It would have been better if he focused on being united and supporting all branches of government, instead of vilifying one man and putting more spotlight on the entire process.

Most of the reactions in Facebook and Yahoo showed  displeasure towards the President. One said “So your saying that WE SHOULD CONVICT THE CJ NOW! MR. President, what about the rights of the respondent??? Wala na bang karapatan si CJ! Let us respect the Rule of LAW and not practice TRIAL BY PUBLICITY!” In the President’s Facebook page, there were more positive comments but not much on discussion on the merits of his speech.

Be a President, not spokesperson for the prosecution

Like any Filipino citizen, the President is entitled to his own opinion.  Quezon added in Twitter that “in every impeachment the public is expected to participate and people are expected to speak their mind”.  The thing is he was facing students who probably want to know more about the impeachment process. He could have educated them  and explain that at this point, it is still the prosecution showing the evidence and that the Defense will present theirs soon after. Why does he insist on asking Corona to be accountable now when it is not his turn yet?

He really needs to stay mum and do his job such as pushing up the GDP, decreasing unemployment, creating jobs, attracting foreign investors and strengthening the country’s economic standing.

What kind of message do we send other governments when the President is blatantly questioning the integrity of the Judiciary arm of government? How can we be taken seriously when our own President doesn’t respect the integrity and separation of the three branches of government?

Will foreign investors truly be attracted to invest in a country where the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches don’t get along? How can we get foreign investors to place their money here, when little old ladies can secretly access your personal bank statements and drop it off at the gate of a city councilor, even without subpoena? Privacy laws, banking laws and constitutional rights aren’t respected when the President is after you.

Showing tenacity is one thing, but everyone still has the right to due process. If Aquino believes that the truth will come out, then he should allow it to unfold with the minimal amount of intervention and influence from his side.

Photo from PresidentNoy Facebook page. Some rights reserved.

Originally posted at