By Romel Regalado Bagares
Much as we want Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to answer for the crimes she committed while she was in power, we do the very idea of the Rule of Law great harm by shirking from its high demands in our zeal to bring her to the proverbial bar of justice.
The Supreme Court has spoken, allowing her to travel abroad purportedly to seek medical treatment for her rare bone ailment, despite our wishes to the contrary
If we must, there are ways of holding accountable the honorable justices of the Supreme Court who gave her free rein; but defying their collective decision and forcing a constitutional crisis is not one of them.
If, during her hold on power, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo distinguished herself by the cavalier way in which she dispensed with even the smallest of judicial niceties to suit her crooked ends, we must not do further damage to our judicial institutions by giving her a taste of her own medicine.
President Beningno Aquino III rose to power on a high public expectation that he will hold Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for her administration’s misdeeds.
That until now, his Department of Justice has not filed a single case against her in court cannot be blamed on the accused; It certainly defies any justifiable explanation why our prosecutors had not acted sooner.
The only possible explanation is the seeming lack of focus of this administration’s officials to do what should be done.
But what it also shows is the Aquino administration’s lack of imagination.
It knew from the very beginning that Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo had packed the Supreme Court with her appointees.
At the very least, it could already have anticipated exactly the kind of decision the High Court’s majority handed down earlier today and accordingly taken steps to deny the good justices the opportunity given to them to vote the way they voted today.
But instead it took its sweet while, issuing press releases about the urgent need to prosecute Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo without actually prosecuting her. As its prosecutors have now painfully learned, press releases do not a case make.
Too, when it had strong public support, it waffled in its position that the midnight appointment by Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo of Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court was unconstitutional. It could have forced the issue by calling for an impeachment of Corona and the other justices who closed ranks behind their colleague Mariano Del Castillo in the latter’s wanton plagiarism in the Comfort Women case.
That would have been the constitutional way of resisting the Corona Court’s unconstitutionality. Alas, even that opportunity, the Aquino administration failed to seize.
What a year-and-a-half of lost opportunities for the Aquino presidency.
And now it had to resort to highly doubtful legal sleight-of-hand to keep Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the Philippines. Irony of ironies, in order to uphold the rule of law, it has become necessary to trample on it.