MANILA, Philippines - The President is also entitled to his own opinion.
With this line of reasoning, President Aquino yesterday slammed calls for him and Chief Justice Renato Corona to exercise restraint in their simmering word war while the impeachment trial is ongoing.
“I think I am within my rights to express my opinion. I speak for a sizeable number of our people. That’s the essence of a democracy. Contending ideas should be threshed out in a marketplace of ideas,” he told Palace reporters in Baler, Aurora.
“To keep quiet about the whole thing is – I think – wrong. Time to time I reserve my right to be able to say what I believe should be said to the people,” Aquino said, justifying the fighting words he uttered against the chief magistrate last week.
“A democracy is the majority deciding for everybody and you cannot decide properly if there is no discourse within the contending sides in any issue,” the only son of democracy icons Ninoy and Cory Aquino said.
The Chief Executive was in the home province of the family of Sen. Edgardo Angara as guest at the 33rd foundation anniversary of the province and the commemoration of the 124th birth anniversary of Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon, wife of the late former President Manuel L. Quezon.
Aquino said he will continue to respond from time to time to developments in the impeachment trial or accusations hurled against him as he sees fit.
“I initiated this latest discourse. I did not respond to a lot of his scurrilous attacks in various fora,” Aquino said, adding that his tirades were not a direct affront to Corona as a person, but on the judiciary’s flawed system as a whole.
“This is not directed at Corona personally, but at the system of which he is the personification. He is the face of what we have been fighting for that the judiciary system should be fixed,” he said.
Aquino, meanwhile, also expressed satisfaction with the Angaras – Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara – for their respective roles in the impeachment trial of Corona.
He said he is confident in the “cold neutrality” of the senator as one of the senator-judges in the impeachment trial.
He also said that he was impressed with the performance of Rep. Angara, one of the prosecution’s spokesmen.
“There are those who tend to becloud the issue with their statements. But Congressman Sonny has adequately explained the issue surrounding the impeachment. He is also for the straight path,” he said.
TRO defeats purpose of impeachment
Meanwhile, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit the opening of Corona’s dollar accounts.
The AMRSP, an assembly of 275 women religious congregations, believed that the SC’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Feb. 9 defeated the purpose of an impeachment hearing, which is to learn the truth.
“This issuance of the temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court is indeed disappointing since the impeachment trial is an invaluable political process to restore, renew and strengthen the integrity, transparency and accountability of the judiciary and Philippine governance,” the AMRSP said.
What is doubly disheartening, according to the group, was the acquiescence of the senator-judges who voted to obey the SC order.
By following the TRO, the religious superiors said, the senator-judges acknowledged “the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over them but it is clear in the Constitution that the Senate Court is supreme in matters regarding impeachment.”
“And the only question they should have asked themselves before voting was: Will the TRO serve to discover the truth or will it hinder it?” the AMRSP added.
Corona has been questioning the constitutionality of the impeachment trial, arguing it is a violation of his human rights.
The AMRSP also criticized Corona for his alleged lack of delicadeza in asking the SC justices, who are directly under him, “for protection and solace.”
Far from being a battle between the judiciary and the executive branches of government, the impeachment trial “is a political process to protect the integrity, transparency and accountability of a democratic government, (and) essentially, (that) of CJ Corona,” the group said.
“We therefore implore Chief Justice Renato Corona to listen to the stirrings of truth, justice and respect the Senate Court and the impeachment proceedings,” AMRSP said.
It also urged the senator-judges to remain firm in their task of pursuing the truth while maintaining their independence as an impeachment body.
“Each and every Filipino citizen is asked to act with integrity, to maintain a sense of decency and honesty, and to be held accountable for actions which have grave ramifications on the common good. We ask no less of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona,” it added. – With Manny Galvez, Evelyn Macairan - By Delon Porcalla