By Cito Beltran
The Philippine Star
While it was generally popular to “bring Gloria Arroyo to justice”, some of the people in the parade seemed to overlook the repercussions of last week’s event.
After a week of high drama concerning the political “dodge ball” fight between the Aquino administration and the family of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a number of important and concerned citizens are worried about the “hangover” and the repercussions of what just happened.
Yesterday Senior Columnist Mr. Federico Pascual correctly expressed a view shared by several observers that former President Arroyo has become the perfect whipping “girl” and poster child of evil for the Aquino administration.
Pascual is not alone in pointing out that without Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PNoy and company would have nothing to distract the public from our increasing unemployment, excessive under employment, legalized union busting in the form of “contractualization”, and the nationwide crime wave, not to mention the administration’s perceived under achievement.
Beat up and burn a witch at the stake and even the worst Prayle can look like Prince Charming. There is however always a price to pay. Call it cosmic karma or backlash if you wish but now, a number of businessmen and politicians have reason to be afraid.
If the Aquino administration forcefully and successfully “charged and arrested” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, openly defied a lawful order of the Supreme Court and ignored parliamentary courtesy, then it follows that the Aquino administration can do unto us what they have done to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Beyond legal maneuverings and press releases, last week’s event may be inspirational to believers of a benevolent and wise leader. But in the hands of malevolent Kings or desperate people around him, last week’s series of event has struck fear and misgivings in the heart of businessmen, even for me as a Journalist.
What safeguards and restraints are left to protect people if the very instruments designed to insure check and balance between the three branches of government can simply be disregarded or rendered useless through double-talk?
It would be a good thing if the relentless almost obsessive pursuit of justice, were focused on real criminals or real crooks by truly dedicated lawyers and civil servants. But in the real world, we have seen and heard enough about how during Martial Law, minions, partners and petty followers of Ferdinand Marcos, used Martial Law to settle grudges and punish people particularly in politics, business and media.
I can tell our readers how my father Louie Beltran, was charged for libel by Cory Aquino because of the persistent whispers of two cabinet members whom my father continuously exposed and criticized for abuse of power, womanizing and one being a communist coddler. In the end, Cory’s benevolence succumbed to the poison and deceit of her advisers.
What guarantees are left those made with saliva, that our rights and legal remedies will be protected? If they hate you enough or want your money desperately enough, last week’s events gives all of us serious reasons to be worried. If the businessmen were concerned, if I as a Journalist am concerned, you can only imagine what foreign investors are thinking about the Philippines and our justice system.
As one businessman put it: the TRO that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima disobeyed and disregarded, is the very same instrument that is used to stop toll hikes, new taxes, suspicious transactions of government agencies, proclamations or executive orders as well as local government orders. That TRO is just like the TRO’s that courts issue to protect lives and properties and intervene in life and death medical issues.
TROs are there for everyone’s protection. TROs protect the interests of the State when needed and TROs are there to protect citizens from the State if necessary. Last week, an official of the state, named Leila De Lima showed us that such a protection only applies to the interest of the state.
Which why I wonder how people at the Supreme Court arrived at the opinion that what Secretary de Lima did was an act of “Indirect Contempt” only? That may be so if we were to limit the argument to the Arroyo case. But it is not. The big picture and the contemptible act was that the instrument of the Supreme Court or the judiciary for that matter was disobeyed and rendered “inutile”.
In a way, that sets a precedent of sorts where a government official or an elected member of the legislature can cite the De Lima “case” as valid or historical grounds to disobey or disregard a TRO or any court order for that matter.
In the extreme, the BIR can impose taxes on their own and who’s to stop them, certainly not a TRO? Tollways can now raise their toll rates; Meralco and the Telecoms can now boost their charges and who’s to stop them, definitely no longer a TRO.
Given the contempt that the Aquino administration has for members of the Supreme Court, it is clear that the Supreme Court now finds itself in a corner, their TRO ending up as “Filed” and failed, and now facing the even more difficult test on what to do in this situation. They have no real army or police to enforce their will or their orders.
Now is the time when our courage will be tried and our institutions tested. Will the Supreme Court punish Secretary De Lima as they should and do they have courage enough to discover if our institutions are strong and true enough to over come political bravado and animosity. We will learn in a matter of days.
Please allow me to make it clear: I have nothing personal, professional or political against Secretary Leila de Lima. She has worked hard to get where she is, and achieve what she wants, I will however, not stand idly by if her pursuit endangers my rights and the rights of others, and as well as endanger our institutions.
* * *
For comments or invitations pls email: Utalk2ctalk@gmail.com