MANILA, Philippines – In a strongly worded speech against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, February 16, said the public should now make a stand on Corona’s seemingly lopsided impeachment trial.
Breaking his silence on Corona’s impeachment, Aquino began his speech by recounting his mother’s victory against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections. Marcos then asserted he won over former president Corazon Aquino, but the late Aquino’s supporters did not relent. (Read his full speech here)
“Nagpatupad sila ng civil disobedience campaign, at ng boycott laban sa mga kumpanyang sumipsip sa (diktadurya). Ipinaramdam nila na ang kapangyarihan ay nasa kamay ng karaniwang tao. Ito po ang naging unang hakbang ng taumbayan tungo sa rebolusyon sa EDSA,” he said in his speech at La Consolacion College, Manila.
(They waged a civil disobedience campaign and a boycott against the dictatorship’s cronies. They made the ordinary people’s power felt. This was the people’s first step towards the EDSA Revolution.)
“Narito po tayo ngayon: nagbabalik-tanaw sa nakaraan, hinahamon ng kasalukuyan, at muling tinatawag upang ipaglaban ang kinabukasan. Huhubugin ba natin ang kinabukasang ito, o magpapakaladkad na lang tayo sa tadhana?” the President added.
(Now here we are: looking back at the past, facing the challenges of the present, and hearing the call to fight for the future. Will we shape this future, or will we allow fate to just drag us along?)
Aquino – whose spokespersons occasionally delivered tirades against Corona in the past few days – said he had chosen to remain silent on Corona’s ongoing impeachment trial at the Senate. “Ngunit ano po ba ang nangyayari sa ngayon?” (But what is happening now?)
“Napakarami pong nagpapalit-palit ng kuro-kuro, na tila ba sadya tayong hinihilo o inililigaw para mawalan ng interes. Magpapa-etsa-puwera na lang po ba si Juan at Juana de la Cruz sa prosesong ito? Hahayaan na lang po ba natin na iilan ang magdesisyon para sa ating lahat?”
(A lot of people exchange opinions on the matter, and it seems like the objective is to confuse or deviate us to lose interest. Will Juan at Juana de la Cruz allow themselves to be sidelined in this process? Will we allow the few to decide for everyone else?)
“Huwag na po sana nating hintayin na tayo mismo ang maagrabyado,” the President said later in his speech. Manindigan na po sana tayo ngayon.” (Let us not allow ourselves to be aggrieved. Let us make a stand now.)
The President, who did not make a specific call to action, delivered these remarks 3 days after the Senate voted 13-10 to follow the SC’s temporary restraining order (TRO) on releasing information on Corona’s dollar bank accounts.
Senators who voted to uphold the TRO, like Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago, cited the need to avert a constitutional crisis.
Other senators, on the other hand, stressed the need for accountability. “The issue we face is not a constitutional crisis but a moral crisis,” said Sen Antonio Trillanes III.
The President has been interfering in Corona’s impeachment in the past few days, if the Chief Justice’s lawyers are to be believed. In a press briefing on Sunday evening, February 12, the defense team said the Palace has even offered P100-M for the senators to ignore the TRO.
Photo by Emil Sarmiento
“We cannot fight the resources of the government,” defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra said.
Speaking before an audience composed mostly of students, Aquino said he wanted to clarify issues from which Palace adversaries want to derail the public.
“Simple lang naman po ang tanong na nais sagutin ng paglilitis na ito: Dapat pa ba tayong magtiwala kay Ginoong Corona? Masasagot po natin iyan kung titingnan ang mga katotohanang lumalabas sa paglilitis,” he said.
(The question we want this trial to answer is simple: Can we still trust Mr Corona? We can answer that by looking at some facts coming out of the trial.)
His main points included the following:
Aquino also pointed out that the current situation seems to favor the defense over the prosecution.
“Kung nasa defense ka, 'di ba't ngiti ang isasalubong sa iyo ng mga tiwaling hukom, dahil ipinagtanggol mo ang isa sa kanilang uri? Manalo, matalo, panalo ka pa rin. Kung nasa prosecution ka naman, simangot ang pambungad sa iyo dahil sa pangangahas mong kalabanin ang Punong Mahistrado. Ipagpasa-Diyos mo na lahat ng kasong hahawakan mo.”
(If you’re with the defense, wouldn’t corrupt judges choose to smile at you because you defend one of them? Win or lose, you win. If you’re in the prosecution, they will, on the other hand, frown on you because you dare to wage a battle against the Chief Justice. You will then just leave your cases to God.)
“'Di kaya babalot iyan sa isip mo habang naglalatag ng argumento, na itinataya mo ngayon ang pinagmumulan ng kakainin ng iyong mga anak?”
(Wouldn’t that be foremost in your mind when you lay your arguments – that you are putting at risk your children's means to live?)
‘Ship is sinking’
Immediately after his speech, Aquino’s statements drew criticisms from solons and other groups.
“Baka nakitang the tide is turning kaya humingi na ng resbak. The ship is sinking,” said Zambales Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay in apparent reference to the President through her account Twitter @mitosmagsaysay. (He might have seen that the tide is turning so he is now appealing for support.)
Kabataan party-list secretary-general Vencer Crisostomo also hit the President’s speech.
“Maraming naha-high blood at bad mood ngayong tanghali, lalo na ‘yung mga nakapanood sa live TV news channels,” Crisostomo said in a tweet using his account @venzie. (It makes blood pressures rise and gives a bad mood this afternoon – especially for those who watched the speech on live TV news channels.)
“Aquino (is) using entire state (powers) to pursue his haciendero interests,” Crisostomo added without elaborating.
For his part, Sen Aquilino Pimentel said Aqino’s speech does not affect him. “He can comment as much as he wants. It will not affect me and it should not affect all of us,” Pimentel said. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.