The scandal rocking the Court of Appeals is not merely a manifestation of the impunity prevailing under the Arroyo administration: the impunity in corruption and human rights violations. It is already a manifestation of a failure of justice and a failure of governance.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008
Is Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio Jr. the whistle blower or the one who demanded for a bribe? Was Justice Sabio offered a P10 million ($226,116 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.225) bribe by alleged Meralco emissary Francis Roa de Borja or did he ask for P50 million ($1,130,582) from the same to resist pressures from government – in the form of an offer of promotion to the Supreme Court plus money – to rule in favour of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)?
That is for Justice Sabio and De Borja to prove and to contest, and for the Supreme Court to find out. The amounts involved, P10 million ($226,116) and P50 million ($1,130,582), although substantial are peanuts compared to the P200 million ($4,522,328) offered by former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Jr. to “Sec,” referring to former National Economic Development Authority Executive Director and current head of the Social Security System Romulo Neri to issue a favourable recommendation on the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with ZTE of China. Neri was not even the principal in the foiled contract and he was offered P200 million ($4,522,328). Imagine how much the principals were set to receive.
What is alarming with this nth corruption scandal involving the government is that it appears to be not a simple case of bribery but a bribery bidding war between the Arroyo government and the Lopez family in their struggle for control over Meralco. It seems that there is more to this case than what is being declared officially by the government. It is easy to see why the Lopez family would resort to bribery, if ever they did. Their business interest – that is, their monopoly control over power distribution – is at stake. But what is the stake for the Arroyo government? Surely, bribing the judiciary is not the normal track for a government to follow if it is merely pressuring a company in this case Meralco to lower its rates for the benefit of the public.
Second, this bribery scandal involves not only the executive and legislative branches of government – which has become common fare under this dispensation – but also the judiciary. It is true that judges and justices are not immune to bribery. But this case involves Malacanang bribing the Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land.
In October, 2007, Malacanang was caught red-handed bribing legislators and local officials. Arroyo government officials dished out feeble and absurd explanations regarding who gave out the money and where it came from, after Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio exposed the distribution of paper bags containing money to congressmen and local officials who attended a meeting at Malacanang. There were also denials but footages were aired on television of congressmen and local officials carrying the same type of bags that Gov. Panlilio showed as evidence. After that, the view that the Arroyo government’s allies in congress and local government are routinely being bribed every time the administration’s hold onto power is being threatened has become common knowledge.
And now it is the judiciary, the last voice of independence under the Arroyo government, and the people’s last resort in a highly corrupted administration. But bribery is not the only taint in the integrity of the judiciary and the fairness of its decisions. The Court of Appeals has dismissed three writs of amparo: on the abduction of Jonas Burgos, the enforced disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and the abduction of the Gumanoy sisters. The Supreme Court, despite having the eloquent and proactive Reynato Puno as Chief Justice, has upheld the Arroyo government’s right to invoke “executive privilege” twice already to the detriment of the people’s right to information and to check abuses by the government: on the graft-ridden NBN-ZTE deal and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, which has questionable and unconstitutional provisions. Chief Justice Puno had to write 200-page dissenting opinions, surpassing that of the controversial majority decisions of the High Court not only in terms of the number of pages but more importantly, in the soundness of arguments.
With these, what branch or institution of government can still lay claim to independence and which is still worthy of the people’s trust? The lack of justice, which is now slowly becoming a trend, is because of the doings of the Arroyo government. Not only has it failed to provide the conditions for justice to flourish; worse, it has corrupted it and blurred the distinction between what is right or wrong, and what is just and unjust. The scandal rocking the Court of Appeals is not merely a manifestation of the impunity prevailing under the Arroyo administration: the impunity in corruption and human rights violations. It is already a manifestation of a failure of justice and a failure of governance.(Bulatlat.com)