Noynoy Aquino vs Renato Corona and the issue of judicial independence
We know that there’s no love lost between Chief Justice Renato Corona and President Benigno Aquino III even before the former was officially sworn in by ex President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the leader of the high court. The tensions reached incredible heights this year.
Last September, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Malacañang “reduced the judiciary’s 2012 budget to P13.396 billion and transferred the allocation for unfilled positions to the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund (MPBF), which would be under the control of the Office of the President.”
Just last month, Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima openly defied a Supreme Court temporary restraining order which effectively allows CGMA to travel abroad. Then shortly, the SC ordered the distribution of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita to farmers. Reeling from successive judicial setbacks, Aquino went on the offensive – launching a tirade against the Chief Justice (despite being just inches apart) during his keynote remarks at the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit last December 5. Virgilio Bugaoisan of the Daily Tribune writes:
Throwing good manners, presidential dignity and respect for a co-equal and independent branch, as well as proper breeding out the window, President Aquino went much too far yesterday as he insulted Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona to his face in a Justice Summit organized by the high court with the Department of Justice and the Interior and Local Governments department.
The chief justice was just a few meters away from him during the opening of the summit held at the Manila Hotel, stoic in his demeanor.
Showing good manners, breeding, and dignity befitting his office, the chief justice was seen as impassive and silent even amid the charge of Aquino that it was the SC that violated the Constitution, and not he.
In a response read by Supreme Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez, the high tribunal described Aquino’s tirades as “disturbing,” saying:
“It is not at all unusual for the Executive Branch to disagree with the Judicial Branch. But what is considerably unusual is for the Chief Executive to look down on the members of the Judiciary in public at a Justice Sector Coordinating Council session, and to their faces denounce the Court’s independent actions, as the Chief Justice sat speechless, motionless and expressionless because of the requirements of protocol,” he added.
Approached by reporters right after hearing Aquino’s direct tirades against him, Corona dismissively said: “Magpapasko na, hayaan na natin.” A few days after being impeached by Aquino allies in the Congress, the calmness in Corona disappeared, saying: “I oppose this relentless persecution, intimidation and bullying. I oppose this dictatorship that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is slowly establishing.” Another great political war is on.