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A Perilous Summer

March 21, 2010

What’s really at the core of these to’s and fro’s about the four- day old decision of the Supreme Court saying President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can appoint a new Chief Justice ahead of the May 17 retirement of CJ Reynato Puno in this contentious environment:

  • Within the constitutional ban on a President filling vacancies in the Judiciary during an election campaign period; and
  • Inn the outgoing Chief Executive’s final two months in office.

The corollary issue in the simmering controversy that threatens to become a full blown constitutional crisis is that with the result of the coming election expected to be known by May 14, at the latest the Philippines will already have a President-elect.

Also being cited by the contending parties is the emerging likelihood of the widely distrusted and unpopular Arroyo suceeding in filling the entire Supreme Court with her appointees.

This is because Justice Puno is the sole remaining non-Arroyo appointee.

There is also the matter of two more SC vacancies emerging during the final two months of GMA’s scandal-ridden stay in office.

JBC member, Senator Francis Escudero, says one reality is if the next President gets to exercise his prerogative to appoint the new Chief Justice, it will be that magistrate who will preside over the deliberations of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal should the results of the elections become the object of a protest.

Thus, Escudero said, the impartiality of the new Chief Justice could also be questioned by political partisans.

A classic case of being between a rock and a hard place.

Senator Escudero said he will respect the SC decision even though he himself disagrees with it.

Former ConCom Cimmissioner Christian Monsod has minced no words and says the SC has become an Arroyo Court.

Monsod, former chair of the Commission on Election, has among his eminent allies  former commissioner Regalado Maambong who says plainly that Arroyo cannot fill a post in the Judiciary that’s not vacant.

There’s also UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen who calls the decision “illogical and a glaring attempt at rationalization.

But will the majority of Filipinos disgusted and restive over the suspicion that Arroyo continues to plot her extended stay in office take all of this with temperance?

As events are unfolding, the segments of legal profession and strident voices in civil society  are now reviving the parliament of the streets.

Their battle cry: Defend the Judiciary, The SC has o balls!

It may be too soon to say but the outcry but there already are warnings of a military uprising.

Not to be outdone, even Malacanang raised the specter of a military power grab but in a different context – the failure of the May 10 elections.

In the heat of summer, these are perilous time.

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