MANILA, Philippines — President Aquino tonight, Dec. 1, expressed concern over the “direction” taken by the Supreme Court in its rulings, and wondered aloud whether the “current air of judicial uncertainty” created by the seeming lack of objectivity of the High Court would allow him to fulfill his mandate to the people.
Addressing the 30th anniversary of the Makati Business Club, Mr. Aquino cited the cases where the High Court flip-flopped on a decision, and the “speedy relief” it provided to the petition for a temporary restraining order made by former President Arroyo on the watch list order against her by the Department of Justice.
He said that as Chief Executive, his task is to “to uphold and defend the constitution; implement its laws; do justice to every man; and consecrate myself to the service of the people.”
The President said that even before he was Chief Executive, he was “puzzled, even alarmed, by the behavior of the Supreme Court.”
“We in the Executive need what every Executive needs: clarity in the rules, consistency in its interpretations, and a modicum of respect so that we can implement our plans. Therefore, what confronts me now is a central question: Can the executive fulfill its mandate given the current air of judicial uncertainty?” he asked.
The President also cited the Court ruling upholding Dinagat as a province, which led to the establishment of a provincial government, but the Court later reversed itself and deemed that Dinagat should remain only a constituent part of Surigao del Norte, only to reverse itself again later on.
“Surigao del Norte is unsure if it reassumes budgetary responsibility, or whether the new provincial government has authority, resulting in funds remaining untapped, and doctors left unpaid: a paralysis of basic functions due to blurred accountabilities,” the President said.
He said that the system of checks and balances ensures an interplay between the between the branches of government and “a built-in safeguard, a designated arbiter, when disagreements or questions arise.”
“This arbiter, as everyone would agree, is supposed to be the Supreme Court. But this is premised on a fundamental assumption: that it will be objective and nonpartisan,” the President.
Why so fast?
He noted that when it took the Court just three days to attend to the TRO for Mrs. Arroyo, when it usually takes it 10 days to make such rulings, “who can avoid wondering what she did, to merit such speedy relief?”
“When the court itself, in granting exceptionally speedy relief to Mrs. Arroyo, set conditions for her to be able to leave–only to say, afterwards, those conditions didn’t have to be met before Mrs. Arroyo left–who can avoid asking why then, did the court impose conditions it had no intention of seeing fulfilled?” he asked.
The President added, “In these cases, did the Supreme Court follow its own precedents and rules? Is it then not fair of us to wonder whether objectivity has given way to partisanship? Is it then not fair of us to express concern at the direction the Supreme Court has taken?”
He noted that the Executive is “not out to dictate upon the court, much less spark a constitutional crisis.”
“We ask these questions, not out of a desire to undermine their positions, not out of disrespect and malice, but to fulfill our mandate and to our bosses, the Filipino people–you included,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said that the had the Court “taken pains to hear both sides” on the watchlist order case, and “if it deliberated, not with surprising haste, but with thoroughness; and then, having objectively made up its mind, stuck to its interpretations: then we would have what we all desire–stability, predictability, and the authentic rule of law.”
He stressed, however, that “Despite this air of uncertainty let me be categorical: I intend to do mine.”
Mr. Aquino said that he would like to follow the South Korean model where its leaders, such as former Presidents Chun doo-hwan and Roh tae-woo were convicted of crimes and the conviction “was not seen as a vendetta, but rather, as what it was: justice.”
He said that he wants to build a “a system of merit, where everyone knows the rules are fair and consistent; and where there are no exceptions– even for an ex-President. I say this knowing full well that I too, shall be an ex-President in four and a half years.”
“But this is the point: your guarantee of good behavior is the certainty of accountability,” the President said.