Renato M. Reyes, Jr (BAYAN secretary general)
Eleanor de Guzman (BAYAN dep-secretary general)
While we welcome the decision of the Senate to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, we believe that the fight for true accountability in government has a long way to go. It does not end with Corona’s conviction. It still remains to be seen if the end of this process will even lead to the accountability of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials guilty of plunder and gross human rights violations.
We now say to the Aquino government, tama na ang palusot! The current regime should stop making excuses for its continuing failure to prosecute Arroyo for the crimes of plunder, human rights violations and wholesale election fraud. The current regime should stop making excuses for its failure to hold accountable its own officials facing allegations of misdeeds. The current regime should stop making excuses on its failures to address the most pressing economic problems and issues of the people.
It is expected that the Aquino regime will hail the Corona conviction as the “crowning glory” of its so-called “daang matuwid crusade”. We take exception to this for the simple reason that outside the impeachment, the Aquino government has not done much in terms of political and economic reforms, respect for human rights and the cause of justice. There is no “daang matuwid” for many of our people who continue to reel from poverty, oppression and injustice. In fact, even as the impeachment verdict is handed out, the Philippine government is again making excuses before the United Nations Human Rights Council on why impunity in human rights violations continues in the country.
Bayan supported the impeachment of Corona mainly on the basis of the key role he has played in abetting Arroyo’s schemes to evade accountability. Lest we forget, the campaign by the House of Representatives (HoR) to impeach Corona gained wide public support because of his collusion with Arroyo. The temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Corona-led SC in November last year that would have allowed Arroyo to flee triggered this impeachment. It is unfortunate however that the Aquino and LP-directed prosecution chose to downplay the issue of Arroyo in favor of a somewhat hypocritical crusade regarding the SALN of the Chief Justice. This raises the question of whether Aquino is indeed serious in making Arroyo accountable.
Of utmost importance right now is the vigilance and direct action of the people that will counter efforts by President Benigno Aquino III and his Liberal Party (LP) to take advantage of Corona’s ouster to control the judiciary for their own selfish political and economic agenda. Concerns raised about the possibility of an “Aquino court” are valid and should not be dismissed. The possibility of Aquino using a now friendlier SC to undermine its earlier decision on Hacienda Luisita is a particular concern that we must all vigilantly check and strongly expose and oppose.
Corona’s conviction is not the be all and end all of reforms to rid the bureaucracy of systemic graft and corruption. On the contrary, it’s just a small step forward as more thoroughgoing reforms are needed. However, we fear that under the Aquino government, it will still be business as usual, at least for its political allies and KKK’s. The people must therefore press on with their legitimate demands and struggle for genuine change that goes beyond Aquino’s overused “daang matuwid” rhetoric.
The challenge for all government officials to disclose their bank records, foreign and domestic, should stand. The Chief Justice is likely not the only government official to use foreign currency deposit accounts to conceal presumably ill-gotten wealth.
ACT Rep. Antontio Tinio already filed a bill to be heard on June 5 in House Committee on Banks amending the Foreign Currency Deposit Account to remove absolute confidentiality, and if they are consistent, this should be supported by all those who voted to impeach Corona. #