WHILE IT WILL REQUIRE A CONGRESSIONAL resolution for the country to start referring to Sen. Benigno Aquino III as the president-elect, the country as a whole has accepted that he has been conferred the most remarkable mandate since the present Constitution’s ratification in 1987. The conferment of this mandate was such a long-anticipated event that when it became clear the people had spoken, it sparked an epidemic of statesmanship among many (though not all) of Aquino’s major opponents in the presidential race.Instead of allowing the country to savor the end of the long crisis of legitimacy that began—and deepened— from 2001-2005, the present administration chose to pursue its strategy of manufacturing crises so as to maximize its opportunities for aggrandizing power. The latest manifestation of this pathological approach to political power is President Macapagal-Arroyo’s maneuvering to appoint the next chief justice.We should never forget that “disempowering” the president from making appointments on the eve of elections, and from election day until he or she turns over the reins of government to a duly-elected successor, is a sensible democratic principle. We should never forget that it is a principle that has been supported for close to two generations—both by jurisprudence and by the intent of the framers of the present Constitution. It is a principle of democratic self-control and executive responsibility—a legacy of the President’s own father, and respected on the whole by every successor of Diosdado Macapagal until his own daughter reached the terminal stage of her own presidency. And we should never forget that the only reason this wholesome and responsible principle has been abandoned is that President Arroyo had wanted it changed and found obliging accomplices.Thus, during the campaign, when Senator Aquino drew a line in the sand, saying he would not recognize any chief justice appointed by Ms Arroyo, the Palace seized on it to accuse him of recklessness and contempt for the law. A smokescreen to disguise its own relentless assault on well-established ethical and legal principles. In a similar vein, media and the political class knew the administration was viewing the anticipated results of the 2010 elections with dread. Informed circles weren’t surprised when it made a last-minute gambit to postpone the elections; and in the context of this scheme of the administration, Aquino’s warning that the public wouldn’t tolerate postponing the elections was both timely and necessary. As Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, initially (and naively) critical of the warning, belatedly realized.Recklessness and irresponsibility, therefore, are characteristics of the administration and its Constitution-related experiments. Aquino has properly refused to concede logic or legitimacy to the administration’s efforts. He has properly called attention to the reality that the President’s experimentation would have failed if she hadn’t found willing accomplices, including Associate Justice Renato Corona who shows every sign of being eager to grab the poisoned chalice of a controversial chief magistracy offered by the President.It is a chalice a former chief justice, Manuel Moran, viewed as simply unethical to accept as far back as 1953. It is a cup that—Corona must be made to recognize—will contain, if not legal, then certainly, ethical hemlock as far as his standing before the next president and the country is concerned. When Aquino said he would prefer to take his oath of office before a humble barangay official, he was anticipating the contents of the oath to be administered on June 30: to uphold both the spirit and letter of the Constitution and to do justice to every man.Corona must be quarantined until our institutions resolve his legitimacy. What Ms Arroyo and Justice Corona are expecting the country to do is to surrender to tradition when it is tradition—and the law—that they have both flouted. Aquino need not dignify this travesty by extending any kind of official courtesy.
(Phil. Daily Inquirer Editorial, May 15, 2010). . . . .