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Thread: The Corona Impeachment Trial

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  1. #21

    Joker Arroyo: Is Sereno now infallible like the Pope?

    By Cathy C. Yamsuan

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:00 am | Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

    Senator Joker Arroyo hopes Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno will not mistake “God’s will” for infallibility.

    A born-again Christian, the 52-year-old Sereno in her first flag ceremony on Monday in the Supreme Court with half of the 14 magistrates in attendance invoked divine intervention in her appointment by President Aquino to replace ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.

    “After the Chief Justice expressed her belief that she was anointed by the Good Lord as chief magistrate, I hope she would not think she has now the infallibility in her judicial opinions,” Arroyo said, tongue-in-cheek.

    Arroyo, who voted against Corona’s conviction during his impeachment trial in the Senate, said the newly appointed Chief Justice might mistake her so-called divinely inspired appointment as authority to speak, like the Pope, ex cathedra “because she has angelical status, she crowned herself … the anointee of God!”

    “When the Pope talks of matters about faith and morals, you cannot challenge that. She was anointed by God! Isn’t that what she said?”

    Trying to look serious, Arroyo recalled Sereno’s statement at the flag-raising ceremony and quoted newspaper accounts of the Chief Justice saying “she is there because of God’s will, not Malacañang’s will or the President’s.”

    “Can you imagine that? When we talk about ex cathedra, that means infallibility, I hope (Sereno) doesn’t think that way because that’s not good. That doesn’t allow for dissent,” he warned.

    Sereno, whose appointment broke the seniority rule in the tradition-minded third branch of government, also asked colleagues to shun intrigues.

  2. #22

    More than lip service

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    11:29 pm | Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

    Incredibly enough, the Republic of the Philippines counts over a century of existence but only recently made its first successful conviction of a tax evader. The landmark case against businesswoman Gloria V. Kintanar, who has been ordered arrested by the Court of Tax Appeals, hinged on her having evaded P15 million in back taxes on commissions she earned from her multilevel marketing business. Kintanar blamed her accountants for her failure to file income tax returns in 2000 and 2001. The tax appeals court, in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court, ruled that the businesswoman knew her legal obligations but that she “nevertheless, voluntarily, knowingly and intentionally failed to file the required returns.”

    Kintanar’s prosecution comes on the heels of other high-profile cases filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue against alleged tax cheats. In November 2011, the tax court ordered the arrest of billionaire businessman Macario Gaw Jr. for supposedly defrauding the government of some P5.5 billion in underdeclared income from 2007 to 2008. A bit earlier, another warrant was issued for the arrest of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda, also for tax evasion.

    The cases against Kintanar, Gaw and the Ligots basically pivot on the same thing: dishonesty in paying one’s taxes. Did any of them cry persecution when they were haled to court? They couldn’t, of course; they would’ve been thrown out of the judge’s courtroom for that laughable defense. Yet, for the same legal premise underpinning the tax evasion cases that have now been filed against Renato Corona and his daughter and son-in-law, the former chief justice has wasted no time decrying the charges as part of the government’s supposed continuing campaign of vindictiveness against him.

    Per Corona, not only was it cruel for the Aquino administration to come after him despite his having lost his post at the Supreme Court, it was also, and merely, a cynical game of wag the dog: “I agree with the observation of many that my family’s persecution continues with the usual media overkill, and that there appears to be an immediate need to divert public attention from certain issues that are becoming too hot to handle.”

    Corona’s penchant for playing victim and seeing political conspiracy in his every travail was brought to high relief during his impeachment. It did him no good then, and it will do him no good now. Instead of crying persecution, he should just confer with his defense team on how to argue his way out of the BIR’s tax evasion charges, which peg his total net worth at P161.15 million on a declared income of only P26.45 million, as evidenced by his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth and other documents presented during the impeachment trial.

    “There were underreported assets, undeclared assets, unreported cash,” said Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares. By the BIR’s reckoning, Corona should have paid the government P120.5 million in taxes, inclusive of surcharges and interests. He is being sued for “willful attempt to evade or defeat tax and for deliberate failure” to file his income tax returns in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

    Note that these figures only cover Corona’s peso accounts and declared properties. His (grudgingly disclosed) dollar accounts hold another $2.4 million in deposits. That money was not declared in his SALNs and are, therefore, untaxed.

    Corona’s daughter Ma. Carla, meanwhile, is charged with a tax liability amounting to P9.93 million, and her husband, Constantino Castillo III, P20.24 million.

    Should the government have gone easy on Corona after his impeachment—that is, let him have his peace, as some quarters now demand—given the disgrace and humiliation he’s gone through?

    To answer yes to that question is not to be compassionate; it is to agree to a fundamental injustice—that the law applies differently to those (or who used to be) in positions of power like Corona. Under that premise, an ordinary citizen like Kintanar may not get away with cheating on her taxes, but a former chief justice deserves leniency, pity even, for his very public fall from grace, and subjecting him to further legal scrutiny crosses the line into “persecution.”


    In fact, the opposite should hold true: The higher you are in office, the more exactingly the law should apply. Corona was not the average Juan; he was the country’s chief guardian of the rule of law. Taking him to court now is merely the ends of justice being paid, at last, more than lip service.

  3. #23

    Healing

    By Conrado de Quiros

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    11:25 pm | Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

    Renato Corona says it’s persecution—that is, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filing tax evasion charges against him. No so, and not so fast, says BIR chief Kim Henares. The case is backed by prima facie evidence that came to light in his impeachment trial.

    He himself took the huge gamble of admitting to his dollar deposits, going through great contortions to explain them, and waiving his right to secrecy. He gambled, and lost. Now, beyond the glare of the media, he has revoked his waiver in an attempt to block further prosecution of him. Alas, too late.

    I have heard people, who are not naturally sympathetic to him, say, “Sobra naman, bagsak na ’yong tao tinatadyakan pa.” Typically Pinoy, but which is also typically a guarantee of never being able to say “Never again!” Typically Pinoy, but which is also typically an assurance of iniquity happening again and again.

    Justice does not happen once a tyrant, petit or grand, is ousted. Which, for the strangest reasons, is how we’ve always appreciated it.

    Ferdinand Marcos is overthrown and sent into exile, and the effort to prosecute him, his family, and his cronies is called persecution. And the effort to recover the loot he stole from the country, which is now being enjoyed by his family and cronies, is called persecution. And the effort to make the country recall the hell he put it through is called persecution. And called so not just by them but by many Filipinos, too.

    Erap is overthrown and sent into 5-star detention, and the effort to recover the loot he stole from his country is called persecution. And the effort to make the country recall the dark night he let fall on it, ruled by the aswang in the midnight Cabinet, is called persecution. And not just by him but many Filipinos, too. Hell, if P-Noy hadn’t been there, he might have been president again.

    Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo finally goes, having been prevented from clinging to power by an Edsa revolt masquerading as an election, and the effort to prosecute her, her husband, and her cronies is called persecution. And the effort to recover the things she stole from the country, which isn’t just loot but life, which isn’t just the nation’s till but the voters’ will, is called persecution. And the effort to make the country recall the murder and mayhem, quite apart from the lying, cheating, and stealing she inflicted on it, is called persecution. And called so not just by her and her allies but, well, at least some Filipinos, the lack of more widespread awa owing not to the extent of her crimes but to the extent of her charms, or utter lack of them.

    Not quite incidentally, the folk of Iloilo have just given us a stunning reminder of the last. The kin of 202 missing activists have just put up a sculpture in tribute to them. It is an astonishing work of art, the images of the disappeared, including those of Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado who were abducted by thugs in April 2007 and never seen again, carved on three spear-shaped poles. Which has both inspired and disturbed the living, the disturbance particularly afflicting the kin who are forced to remember their loved ones again without benefit of closure. It’s a reminder of Arroyo’s atrocious and cynical war against rebellion in her time, which was never meant to end rebellion, which was merely meant to extend usurpation.

    And now Corona is wailing persecution.

    The point is simple: Simply being ousted is not punishment enough for those who have done the country wrong. Restitution helps. Jail helps. Being reviled for what they did helps.

    Our problem has never been the ability to rise up and topple tyrants. It has always been the capacity to punish them afterward. Our problem has never been the ability to say, “tama na, sobra na, palitan na,” it has always been the capacity to say, “parusahan na, pagbayarin na, huwag nang pairalin pa.”

    That takes special resonance in light of Sept. 21 being the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. It’s not just time that has allowed the Marcoses to erode, if not erase, the stigma of martial law, and threaten to come back in a big way—if they have not done so already: Bongbong is a senator, Imelda is a representative, and Imee is a governor. It is also the fact that they were not punished. It is also the fact that they were not prosecuted, they were not deprived of their ill-gotten wealth (or at least much of it), they were not jailed. Which has allowed them to rewrite history, or attempt to. Which has allowed them to come back to power, or threaten to. The specter that has always haunted this land is not communism, it is tyranny.

    What idiocy, the notion that pursuing the Marcoses, Erap, and Arroyo—the first and last above all, the second committing lesser crimes and more out of ignorance than out of malice—and their coconspirators like Corona, is vindictiveness. The opposite in fact is true. Not doing so is vindictiveness. Or more accurately, not doing so is spitefulness.

    Not prosecuting them is being spiteful to the people, many of them in the first flush of life, who were spirited away never to be seen again. Not hounding them to the ends of the earth is being spiteful to the people they’ve lied to, cheated, and stolen from, quite apart from given heart attacks and strokes from apoplexy, from uyam, from oppression at the mere sight of them. Not following through after ousting them by sending them to jail, or, as in Erap’s case, keeping him there, is being spiteful to a nation they repressed with mind-boggling fury, and, yes, vindictiveness, and, yes, spite.

    Not doing so is allowing an open wound to fester in the heart of the land. I’m glad that the kin of the disappeared in Iloilo have given us something to remember things by. Art soothes.

    But in the end, it is only justice that heals.

  4. #24

    A new court rule

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:05 am | Thursday, September 6th, 2012

    Public attention on the Supreme Court in the last several days has necessarily focused on the politics of the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno—the suddenness of the announcement, the surprise of a truly deep selection, the seeming snub she seems to have suffered from the senior justices she had bypassed, her supposed debt of gratitude to President Aquino (and, by extension, the Cojuangco side of his family), even (most recently) her unsolicited references to the Almighty. Everyone loves to follow a winner—perhaps especially when drama and intrigue surround the winning.

    But news out of the Supreme Court on Tuesday shifts the focus back to its real work: the adjudication of cases and, above that, the ever-more-effective pursuit of justice.

    Voting unanimously, the justices approved the so-called judicial affidavit rule, a procedural reform which will take effect next year and which is intended to speed up trial proceedings by effectively foregoing the oral direct testimony of witnesses. As Christine Avendaño’s report in yesterday’s issue noted: “This means that the witnesses will be ‘subjected to cross examination’ immediately and [will] ‘cut short by 50 percent the presentation of witnesses,’ according to Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, who was designated the court’s new ‘communicator for judicial reform.’”

    The concept was pilot-tested at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court beginning in April; that is, when Renato Corona was still chief justice. It was recommended for approval by the man commonly perceived as Corona’s chief rival in the high court, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and by Associate Justice Roberto Abad, both candidates for the position Sereno now holds. It is a credit to everyone in the high court, then, that the new rule appears to have been approved on the basis of the results of the test program and a general commitment to judicial reform, rather than on previous or frayed loyalties.

    From the looks of it, the new rule allows courts across the country to jump-start trials, so to speak, by accepting the affidavits (written according to certain safeguards) in lieu of direct testimony. At the same time, the rule adheres to a hard-earned culture of civil liberties: It is limited to the civil aspects of a criminal case, to criminal cases where the maximum penalty does not exceed six years, and to graver cases (murder, for instance) only if the defendant agrees.

    We will be interested to know the results of the program tested at the Quezon City RTC, one of the country’s busiest, and what the affected accused have to say about the new rule. It appears to be a sensible reform, but we must be alert to possible, perhaps unsuspected, vulnerabilities in the new procedure: Since it privileges the act of writing (the affidavit), will indigent or uneducated defendants find themselves at an additional disadvantage? We can imagine cases where a slick lawyer utilizes the cross-examination to contrast an ill-educated witness’ answers with the perhaps imprecise language he used in his affidavit. If there is a corresponding move to allow affidavits written (or taken) in any language into the record, perhaps this will help mitigate the bias against the in- or less, articulate.

    But we trust that the high court, and the country’s judges, will institute or follow safeguards to make the new rule a genuine advance in the pursuit of justice.

    Many more, much more major, reforms lie in wait; indeed, the mandate of any post-Corona Supreme Court was always to embrace the cause of judicial reform itself: to depoliticize the judiciary, to reverse the high court’s reputation in the last years of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a cozy legal club with its own set of rules, to become more transparent in its transactions (without losing the necessary and enabling mystique essential to the crafting of truly independent decisions), to hold itself, the one nonpolitical branch of government, more accountable to the people it represents but who cannot vote for it. Not least, to be effective in the pursuit of justice.

    The new rule of court, by providing for speedier trials, promises to do just that.

  5. #25

    God, law, psychology, and CJ Sereno

    By Randy David

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:04 am | Thursday, September 6th, 2012

    In a democracy, the religion, or lack of it, of Supreme Court justices (or any judge, for that matter) is expected to carry no weight in the discharge of their official functions. What the public cares about is that their decisions are founded on a sound appreciation of the facts and of the applicable laws. In this regard, newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s religiosity should have been as uncontroversial as her age or her gender.

    But, why is her repeated reference to God’s will to explain her appointment disconcerting to many? At the flag-raising ceremony in the Supreme Court last Monday, CJ Sereno said (translated from Filipino): “The whole world is witness that this appointment is God’s will. No one person did this, nor any political bloc. It did not come about due to lobbying by any business or economic interest group; it’s only God who knows what his plans are for the people. Only God put me in this position. It seemed like it was time to give the leadership of the Supreme Court to one of his humble servants.”

    I believe utterances like these bother people not because they lay the ground for claiming infallibility, or suggest a blurring of lines between law and religious morality. I think people find them disturbing because they often hear such lines from glib politicians who typically don’t mean them, or from individuals who are so obsessed with faith matters that they cannot see or speak about the world except in religious terms.

    I want to be clear about this: I do not begrudge the Chief Justice for being religious. Indeed, having a strong faith in God is positively valued in our culture. It is equated with incorruptibility and a high sense of personal integrity. Our spiritual leaders encourage us to integrate our faith into the various domains of our everyday lives.

    But it is one thing to be guided by one’s faith in everything one does, and quite another to lace one’s daily speech with effusive references to God. The first is admirable; the second is, to say the least, annoying. Richard Rorty called this kind of talk a “conversation-stopper.” People at the receiving end of this form of communication find themselves unable to decide whether to take the speaker seriously and engage her, or to just change the topic.

    What creates the confusion is the failure to differentiate contexts. If CJ Sereno were speaking at a religious recollection or retreat, and not at a flag-raising ceremony of a government office, or if she were leading a prayer instead of giving a speech to her assembled colleagues and staff as the new Chief Justice, she might be praised for her piety. But, to tell them in her first speech at the Supreme Court that it was God who made her Chief Justice is supremely arrogant, if not delusional.

    When the Judicial and Bar Council first announced that it had decided to subject the nominees for the position of chief justice to a psychological test, my reaction was one of dismay. I did not think that nominees for this exalted position should be made to undergo any test for emotional or mental fitness. But, now I am beginning to appreciate the value of this unprecedented requirement.

    In the past, it was enough for the public to be assured of the academic, professional, and moral qualifications of justices. The Constitution itself prescribes no test for mental fitness. But recent advances in brain research demonstrate the necessity of achieving a fine balance between two rival systems—the rational and the emotional. This is how the neuroscientist David Eagleman explains it in plain language: “The rational system is the one that cares about analysis of things in the outside world, while the emotional system monitors internal state and worries whether things will be good or bad…. The emotional networks are absolutely required to rank your possible next actions in the world.” In short, we can’t afford to be all reason and no emotion, or allow emotion to overrun reason. “Some balance of the emotional and rational systems is needed…,” he writes.

    It is the emotional system that is being assessed when one responds to a psychological test. I am not a fan of psychological tests, and I say this without knowing what test was administered to the 20 nominees for chief justice. The values assigned to responses in such tests are sometimes highly subjective. Moreover, a test-wise person may be able to pick out the conventional responses, while hiding his real choices, in order to score within standard limits. But there are tests that are capable of detecting emotional states by correlating multiple responses to a wide range of questions.

    Sometime ago, the information was leaked that CJ Sereno was among those who scored lowest in the psychological test. We would not know if this is true or what “low” means in this context. But I did wonder if the JBC and the President took the psychological findings into account, and what weight, if any, they gave to them. Some quarters are now demanding that the results be made public. I don’t think the publication of these results at this time will serve any purpose other than to embarrass those who did not fare well in this test.

    As disturbing as her first pronouncements might be, we should not judge CJ Sereno on the basis of her public godliness or her alleged psychological scores. We must wait and see how she tackles the job of forging a functional unity out of a highly fragmented and demoralized court. In asking her colleagues to give her a chance to prove herself, she may realize she would sound less arrogant if she invoked the imperatives of nationhood rather than the will of God.

  6. #26

    Heaven and earth

    By Conrado de Quiros

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:03 am | Thursday, September 6th, 2012

    I cringed when I heard newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speak of owing her mandate to heaven. Her exact words were: “Gratitude has to be given to God… the promotion came from him alone.”

    Her sense of course, as she amplified in her impromptu remarks before the Supreme Court community, was that she did not lobby for her position, she got it as a matter of course. The choice of her as chief justice was not the product of politics, it was the product of merit. But if that was her meaning, then she should have put it more directly and plainly. Or at least in ways that do not carry extra baggage or invite unnecessary flak.

    Surely it is a sign of wisdom, if not of the expansive vision or imagination one expects of justices, never mind the chief one, that one remembers the historical antecedents of such claims? Not too long ago, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also said, “God put me here,” in a brazen effort to fend off charges of being illegitimate. An assertion that really asked for it, given that the world had just heard her, or her DNA-imprinted voice, plotting “with a Comelec official” to cheat her closest rival. She was promptly disabused of the thought that God had been known to take the form of Garci.

    Sereno’s statement does not just open her but the person who appointed her to the same type of ridicule. Expect her detractors to promptly disabuse her of the thought that God has been known to take the form of P-Noy. Though that is not a contrast between heaven and hell that God and Garci is, it little helps someone whose enemies have been busily—and quite ironically coming as they do from the Gloria camp—depicting him as trying to act like God.

    It’s also a little ungrateful. What’s wrong with thanking the JBC for including her in the shortlist and the President for reposing his trust in her? A trust she means to live up to by being the best chief justice she could possibly be, by acting as God and conscience, and not as her appointing power, dictate? That’s more sensible and decent.

    I do believe P-Noy’s choice of Sereno as chief justice was inspired and couldn’t care less that Tony Carpio’s group boycotted—but of course it was so—the flag-raising ceremony in her first day in office. Which makes me wonder why the President didn’t show the same inspiration in his appointment of the new DILG head. Sereno’s was a case of fitting the person to the vision, whereas the other one was just fitting the vision to the person. I’d be more worried if there was instant camaraderie among the justices, which would suggest that Sereno has been sucked this early into the old boys’ club.

    But given that Sereno will not lack for detractors as she begins her (long) journey of a thousand miles, or 18 years, she can do with being a little more careful about the way she frames thoughts. The quality of her future decisions depends on it.

    * * *

    The good news is that there’s an enlightened archbishop in the Vatican. The bad news is that he just died.

    But not before unburdening himself of his oppression, which had to do with his favorite church calcifying right before his eyes. In an interview by the press before his interview by St. Peter, the archbishop of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini, let loose a few broadsides at Vatican.

    “Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up. Our rituals and our cassocks are pompous…. The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation…. (Not doing so) loses the future generation…. The church is 200 years out of date. Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?”

    Well-loved and admired (thousands of Milanese flocked to his wake), the liberal-minded Martini was one of the favorites to succeed John Paul II, until he admitted to suffering from a rare form of Parkinson’s. An epic loss to Catholicism.

    But if the Vatican is 200 years out of date, you can just imagine how much farther we are. We are the only country outside the Vatican—a city-state of 44 hectares and 800 inhabitants—that outlaws divorce. Catholics elsewhere do not. We are the one country in Asia that regards contraception as murder, quite apart from corruption. I wish I could say that we have the only batty group that values the life of the non-existent over the living, but there’s also the US Republican Party which, as Andy Borowitz tweets, “if its platform is any guide, is staunchly pro-life until you are actually born.” We are the only country whose moral guardians want to expel professors in institutions of higher learning for endorsing contraception. And we scoff at Islamic intolerance.

    Paraphrasing Martini, “The fervor is waning, the churches are big and half-full, and the flock will not be led astray. Your rituals and your cassocks are pompous. The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the cardinals and the bishops. The Pajero scandals oblige you to take a journey of self-examination. Not doing so makes you lose everything. The Church is whacked out of time. Why don’t you rouse yourselves?

    “Are you afraid?”

    * * *

    I do not, I repeat, I do not, have a Facebook page or Twitter account. I say this again because friends have alerted me to the fact that some people have been tweeting in my name. I do not particularly mind that people reprint my columns right and left, I believe in shareware, but I do mind that poseurs express opinions right and wrong in my name. I do wish they would stop, since I have neither the time nor the energy to force them to do so.

    But the public is forewarned: Interact with them at your peril.

  7. #27
    ^^^ And this is precisely why this entire "deep selection" business must cease. We should have reverted to the time-honored tradition of naming the most senior Justice to succeed as Chief Justice. Not only would that have been more in keeping with the tradition and also "mystique" of the Supreme Court, it would not have raised as many eyebrows as the "God-given" Ma Lourdes Punzalan Sereno has with her pronouncements of late. Sure, Antonio Carpio might not be the most guilt-less of men, and certainly he has not taken pains to hide his previous clients and businesses undertaken as a lawyer. But he still remains the most senior Justice on this current Court and should have gotten the Chief Justice position. Let us not forget that he is on-record as having turned down the appointment to Chief Justice by Gloria Arroyo because he knew it would have been a midnight appointment prohibited by our Constitution. Right there it beacme clear that whatever else he may have been, and may have done before, he still had enough integrity, and good sense, to appreciate a midnight appointment and reject it, unlike the unlamented Renato Corona. Sereno was just too much of a deep selection, and God help us all if she proves to be a wrong selection.

  8. #28

    Rifts

    FIRST PERSON

    By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star)

    Updated September 06, 2012 12:00 AM

    In the aftermath of a messy impeachment episode, the first task of Renato Corona’s successor is to rebuild a demoralized judiciary. If we journey towards the accomplishment of that task, the first steps inspire little confidence.

    It was not a good sign that when Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno took her oath at the Palace, the most senior associate justices were absent from the ceremony. That was, according to lawyers who should have institutional memory, unprecedented.

    The oath-taking of the first female Chief Justice, coming after an unprecedented impeachment episode that put the independence of the Supreme Court in question, should have been a historic moment. That poorly-attended ceremony seems to have been undertaken in haste and surely did not convey a sense of great moment. The President did not deliver a stirring speech indicating that moment as momentous.

    The media dutifully reported the ceremony, but did not give much attention to the poor attendance. That seemed the correct thing to do. This was not the occasion to pass intrigue or entertain unfounded speculation. Our judicial branch is gravely wounded; this was a time for reconstructing institutions.

    The choice of Corona’s successor discomfited some. Sereno was the youngest aspirant to the highest judicial post. Because of that, she will be entitled to sit for 18 years. That seemed like a major gamble to take with an unknown entity. It definitely broke a well-regarded precedent where the Chief Justice was chosen from among the most senior associate justices.

    Last Monday, Chief Justice Sereno led the flag-raising ceremony on the premises of the High Court. That was her first appearance as leader of the judicial branch. Again, the most senior associate justices were absent.

    This time, even the most compliant media outlets could not continue playing down the evident snub. The absence of the senior justices from an event that might have served as a photo-op for judicial solidarity was glaring — especially as the new Chief Justice claimed, in her brief remarks, some sort of divine mandate.

    That claim is more than just startling. A divine mandate puts the new Chief Justice above the law. This is a pretty disturbing thought.

    There is something seriously amiss here. One senior associate justice called for the release of psychological tests taken by all aspirants for the highest judicial post. Unless those tests are released, all sorts of speculation about them will proliferate.

    There is something seriously amiss here. Palace spokespersons have stepped up to the new Chief Justice’s defense, pleading she be given the time to prove her worth. Ricky Carandang’s propaganda apparatus moved to high gear, defending the President’s choice. This includes pulling in the usual Akbayan talking heads and the half-witted trolls to Sereno’s defense. The propaganda effort attempts to caricature the concerns of the senior associate justices as mere griping.

    While the rift within the Supreme Court gets more curious by the day, another factional flashpoint appears at the DILG over the case of Undersecretary Rico Puno.

    Deadweight loss

    There is such a thing as “optimal taxation.” It is not too hard to understand and involves some pretty uncomplicated economics.

    For instance, if taxes on a product are raised too high, resulting in prices consumers cannot afford, consumption simply falls. No taxes are collected if consumers shy away from a product. Instead of realizing revenues, government stands to lose them.

    Ben Diokno, UP economics professor and former budget secretary, criticizes the Department of Finance for being removed from reality and failing to do a proper market analysis in proposing steep increases in excise taxes on so-called “sin products.” Specifically, our finance authorities could give no indication they studied what is technically called “deadweight loss” to back up their proposed steep excise tax increase.

    “Deadweight loss” is the sum of loss of consumer capacity, tax avoidance or evasion and increase in smuggling that happen when new tax schedules are not optimal. Instead of improving government revenues, the “deadweight loss” arising from an unwise tax measure could in fact result in reduced revenues.

    Diokno served as Budget Secretary during the Estrada administration and Budget Undersecretary during the Cory administration. To demonstrate his point, he cites the decision of the Cory administration to lower tariff rates. The measure discouraged smuggling and actually improved revenues for government because they were more optimal.

    The proposed 700% hike in excise taxes on “sin” products could have the reverse effect. It could encourage tax avoidance, lower consumer demand and rampant smuggling that government ends up with less revenues instead of more.

    Under questioning from senators during hearings on the proposed hike in excise taxes on “sin” products, our finance authorities could not produce evidence that they have done enough due diligence on the economic repercussions of the measure. Both Sen. Ralph Recto (an economist) and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (a former finance executive) consider the proposed excise schedule as based largely on fantasy.

    It appears from the testimonies given that our finance authorities studied options that would raise revenues from between P31.2 billion to P60 billion. Rather arbitrarily, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima insisted on a tax hike that will theoretically raise revenues by P60 billion.

    It was an option taken without doing the economic studies on optimal taxation rates. Without such studies, there is really no basis for saying the excise tax hike will improve public revenues.

    No one really objects to increasing excise tax rates to improve revenues. The real debate is whether the optimality of the proposed taxes was studied enough to assure that revenues will indeed improve and the market conserved.

  9. #29

    SC members must elect their own CJ?

    POSTSCRIPT

    By Federico D. Pascual Jr.

    (The Philippine Star)

    Updated September 06, 2012 12:00 AM

    SC MEMBERS: President Noynoy Aquino has appointed Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno as Chief Justice. But it is still valid to ask if the correct procedure is for the members of the Supreme Court to elect their own Chief from among themselves.

    The thought-provoking point is raised by Alan F. Paguia, Constitutional Law professor at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Professorial Chair in Constitutional Law and Human Rights at the Ateneo Law School.

    Paguia starts by asking: “Does the phrase ‘Members of the SC’ necessarily include the Chief Justice?” His answer is No.

    * * *

    AMONG EQUALS: This is Paguia’s line of reasoning, quoted directly but edited to fit space:

    “While it is true that the Chief Justice is necessarily a Member of the Court, it is equally true that a Member of the Court is not necessarily the Chief Justice.

    “The appointing power of the President vis-*-vis the Supreme Court is categorically LIMITED to the MEMBERS.

    “There are 15 MEMBERS who may sit altogether en banc or in divisions of 3, 5, or 7 members. One of the 15 is designated as Chief Justice and the rest are designated as Associate Justices.

    “The Chief, as leader, is not necessarily superior to the Associates. Such leadership is dictated by the logical requirements of administrative order and convenience in collegial bodies. Thus, he is known as primus inter pares, or first among equals.

    “When a MEMBER — whether Chief or Associate Justice — dies, retires, resigns, is permanently incapacitated, or is removed by conviction in a valid impeachment proceeding, a vacancy arises in the 15-MEMBER Court.”

    * * *

    RULE NOT CLEAR: “The Constitution says that the ‘Members of the Supreme Court (and judges of lower courts) shall be appointed by the President.’

    “When Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was removed through impeachment proceedings, he vacated two positions – as (a) Member, and as (b) Chief Justice.

    “With respect to the vacancy pertaining to the position of Member, it is clear that the same shall be filled by the appointee of the President. (Sec. 9, ART. VIII)

    “With respect to the vacancy pertaining to the position of Chief Justice, it is NOT CLEAR whether the same shall be filled by the appointee of the President. The Constitution is silent as to how such vacancy shall be filled.

    “The rule is: Where the law is not clear, it must be construed and applied accordingly.”

    * * *

    INDEPENDENCE: “Considering that the position of Chief Justice refers to the leadership of a co-equal branch of the tripartite system of government, it follows that a reasonable construction must observe the principle of separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

    “Their institutional independence with respect to one another must be maintained to keep the principle of checks and balance alive and effective.

    “Observe how the Constitution determines the leadership of the two Houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The first has the Senate President; the second has the Speaker of the House.

    “These two leaders are: (a) not appointees of the Chief Executive; (b) elected by their colleagues from among themselves; (c) chosen to strengthen their respective institutional independence.

    “It would not seem reasonable to have the leadership of the Supreme Court determined differently.

    “The logic of the Constitution would appear to indicate that the Chief Justice must: (a) not be an appointee of the President; (b) be elected by the 15 Magistrates from among themselves; (c) be chosen to strengthen the High Court’s institutional independence; (d) not be subject to any sense of political debt of gratitude.”

    * * *

    CONSISTENCY: “May tradition be properly invoked to justify the presidential, albeit unconstitutional, practice of appointing the Chief Justice?

    “NO. The Constitution and the laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse, or custom or practice to the contrary. (Art. 7, Civil Code)

    “Even the Magistrates of the Supreme Court seem inclined to take the view that the Chief Justice ought to be elected from among themselves.

    “If they truly believe it is the President who has the authority to appoint the Chief Justice, they should have — to be consistent — asked the President to appoint the Acting Chief Justice to fill up in the meantime the vacancy created by the removal of Chief Justice Corona.

    “They did not. Instead, they elected from among themselves Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as such Acting Chief Justice. And President Aquino did not object.

    “Conclusion: President Aquino’s appointment of Chief Justice Sereno appears shadowed by a dark constitutional cloud of doubt as to its validity.”

    * * *

    LGU MATTERS: President Aquino needs as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government somebody long immersed in the dynamics of local governance, not someone going out to round up provincial politicians into the administration party’s national network.

    But the President has already nominated Liberal Party President Mar Roxas as DILG secretary and, it seems, that’s it.

    The DILG needs somebody in the mold of multi-awarded San Fernando City Mayor Oscar Samson Rodriguez, president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and acting president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines that has as members the federation of local elective officials and the league of local government units (governors, vice governors, municipal mayors, city mayors, vice mayors, councilors, barangay officials and Sangguniang Kabataan leaders).

  10. #30
    ^^^ The mind-bending silliness of Alan Paguia continues unabated. It seems the older Prof Paguia gets the loonier he becomes. Specializing in statutory construction all these decades must be taking a toll on him.

    Going through his step-by-step arguments above and then reachig the conclusion that he did only makes him sound like a mad man. "Shadowed by a dark constitutional cloud of doubt"...

    Really, Alan?

    Ever heard of "presumption of regularity"?


 
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