By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA –The unprecedented impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona came as no surprise to some progressive peoples’ organizations. Citing how the Aquino government has used “all its powers to achieve this end” – railroading for example the approval in Congress of the impeachment complaint and deploying the Anti-Money Laundering Council to release Corona’s financial records without a court order – various groups are now urging the Filipino public to guard against an Aquino-dictated Supreme Court, and to observe transparency in governance.
“After Corona’s conviction, it cannot be business as usual,” said Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Teddy Casiño. He explained that he had signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona “not only to remove an undeserving person from public office but to hasten the attainment of justice, transparency and accountability in government.”
The calls for transparency rang from other groups, too. “Transparency among government officials must be demanded and the disclosure of bank accounts and financial records should be undertaken by all public officials, especially by Pres. Aquino,” Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU, said in a statement. The labor group is gearing for a mobilization on May 30 in Manila to push the Aquino administration to jail Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now that it has convicted Corona.
Corona has proved to be far from being transparent whenever he files his annual SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities Net Worth). During the impeachment proceedings up to judgment day, it was also revealed that some public officials are in fact habitually cheating on their SALN. This they do either by keeping their foreign currency deposits under wraps or performing late-year withdrawals so their balance at the time of filing their SALN is much lower.
Corona impeached for Cojuangco’s Luisita?
Corona’s impeachment had been launched under the Aquino government’s supposed pursuit of justice for the reported crimes, corruption and abuses linked to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Corona is known as a staunch political ally of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. His career and wealth reportedly flourished more under Arroyo, culminating in his being named as Supreme Court Justice at the last few weeks of Arroyo’s disputed term.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Filipinos had supported the impeachment complaint against Corona primarily because they view Corona as a hindrance in the people’s drive to hold GMA accountable for her crimes against the people. “After the failed attempt to smuggle GMA out of the country through an arbitrarily issued temporary restraining order on the hold departure order issued by the Department of Justice against GMA, the people called and sought for an independent Supreme Court and a pro-people judiciary,” recalled lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of NUPL.
But as the impeachment unfolded, critics such as the NUPL noted that for Aquino, the impeachment is apparently “not so much about Corona’s subservience to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nor his role and influence in the Supreme Court’s alleged accommodation of Arroyo as it is about Hacienda Luisita.”
The labor center KMU, in a statement, also accused President Aquino of simply wanting to delay the distribution of Luisita lands to farmers until it could install a subservient Supreme Court, and consolidate the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s hold on the hacienda.”
“The Filipino workers and people are suffering from worsening hunger and poverty yet the president has doggedly focused on Corona’s impeachment. He has refused to use the immense powers of the government to address, let alone solve, widespread hunger and poverty,” Labog said.
At the peak of the telenovela-like impeachment proceedings that had sidelined the Corona-Arroyo connection in exchange for extended airing of the sordid three-decade family wrangling over the inheritance of Corona’s in-laws, the SWS released a bomb shell that unemployment has been at its highest lately. Aquino’s labor secretary tried to deflect the survey’s implication on its boasts that unemployment has in fact dropped, but critics like the KMU said only insecure, low-paying jobs had in fact been added to the market.
The KMU condemned the Aquino government “for its one-sided focus on the impeachment of CJ Corona, for using the impeachment trial to cover up its policies that have only worsened hunger and poverty among workers and the poor.”