Filipina women ought to be outraged. On International Women’s Day, the Justice Committee of the Philippine House of Representatives voted 38-2 to impeach the sitting Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court. The voting outcome was predictable as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (and President Rodrigo Duterte) had already wished CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment. What was surprising is the timing of the verdict that really showed their contempt for women particularly those in power. On a day when women were lauded throughout the world for their contributions to society, Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali had chosen to denigrate the first female CJ of the Philippine Supreme Court through his kangaroo court by delivering the initial step.
These men take their cue from the master himself, President Duterte who denigrates women every instance he gets. From shooting the vagina of female NPA warriors to his wish as then Davao mayor of raping a good looking Australian missionary before the others who raped her, Duterte’s misogynistic bent rubs off on his leaders who laugh along with Duterte’s jokes putting women down.
You could almost picture these men holed up in a room including Deputy Speaker Rodolfo Farinas and other minions laughing their asses off with the outcome. Solicitor General (SG) Jose Calida I’m sure would be invited too to share his own conquest of the lady justice with the Supreme Court’s giving due course to his quo warranto petition. The vulgarity of this double barreled screwing of the lady justice is in full display. Not to be outdone is Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s opinion that the CJ can be removed from office through this route despite being a prohibited filing since the statute of limitation for such petition has expired.
Umali managed to wreck the independence of the Supreme Court by enjoining four of the court’s justices to break decorum by testifying at the CJ’s impeachment hearing and ratted on what was considered sacrosanct court’s internal deliberations. Despite all these machinations, the public discerned the evident sour grapping among those who were shortlisted for the CJ position but not chosen. Calida’s petition is another way of ensuring Sereno’s removal especially given the legal infirmities of the impeachment charges and the good likelihood that a guilty verdict is not forthcoming in the Senate.
While the assault on the judiciary continues, there are other parallel initiatives that are taking place. The frantic moves to replace the 1987 Constitution has picked up steam and legitimacy with former CJ Reynaldo Puno lending his good name to the so-called Constitutional Commission (ConCom). This appears to be a legitimate government exercise especially with the good people in the committee but one cannot escape noticing Duterte’s hidden agenda.
Despite his reassurances that he will not perpetuate himself in power, Duterte may just become one. And if not him, there is still Alvarez as successor and for Duterte’s daughter Sarah to become Speaker. With Alvarez’s super majority in the Lower House, they could easily switch to Federal-Parliamentary system where the Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament and not nationwide. Alvarez can keep the job for life as long as a pliant or rubber stamp Parliament is in place.
It is in this prism that Filipinos need to look at the persecution of CJ Sereno. Duterte et al wants to insulate themselves from legal peril that may arise in the course of their overt actions. Placing their preferred CJ on the bench will further their goals to their extremes and ensure success. Think of the Marcos rubber stamped Supreme Court and Batasan that allowed his perpetual hold on the presidency until he was overthrown by people’s revolt.
Perhaps the haste that all these maneuverings are taking place has to do with former senator Bongbong Marcos’ electoral protest now pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) and set to start recounting votes in certain contested precincts. Will the PET’s outcome be a lutong Macaw (rigged) in favor of the young Marcos? If it does come to that, the first female vice president of the country Leonora Robredo could soon lose her seat too. The Senate and the COMELEC are now in tandem on Sen. Tito Sotto’s allegation of vote rigging in the 2016 automated election. Establishing poll fraud in the Senate or at the COMELEC (that is now a Duterte appointee) would dovetail with Bongbong Marcos’ electoral protest of vote rigging and justify demonizing the Aquino administration.
Similarly, the tagging of the New People’s Army as a terrorist group follows a script of justifying an ongoing rebellion or terrorist attack by the NPA to justice a nationwide declaration of Martial Law (ML). Despite legal infirmities, ML was extended in Mindanao by a Supreme Court’s majority that are now kowtowing to the president including those appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) who benefited from the court’s benevolence freeing her from detention and perhaps future serious criminal charges.
Not far off, are big fish cases pending before the Sandiganbayan like Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s. Estrada has stayed quiet and below the radar and has been allowed to post bail and travel overseas. The connection here is former president Joseph Estrada who was convicted kuno by the Sandiganbayan in 2007. I say kuno because I strongly believe that Estrada agreed to be convicted of the plunder charge by a willing justice but with GMA’s assurance that his co-accused son Jinggoy’s case be dismissed and a quick full pardon for him –both were granted.
And guess who the Sandiganbayan justice was at the time? Teresita de Castro, who was appointed by GMA to the Supreme Court and will most likely succeed as the next CJ, if Sereno is removed. De Castro has already proven her worth with Estrada’s conviction.
Another of Estrada’s men now with Duterte is Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. Diokno’s important role has to do with legitimizing distribution of pork money. The old maxim that money is the root of all evil, well, you need money to maintain loyalties of those in the supermajority. During the time of GMA, she nearly bankrupted the whole government when she raided every agency’s budget needed to keep her support in Congress and other parts of government greased up including the former COMELEC chair Virgilio Garcillano who made her president.
GMA’s aborted ZTE Broadband deal with the Chinese was scuttled but would have yielded enormous amount of kickback money. This time, Duterte is following suit but doing it frontally through Chinese mega loans that would finance his “Build, Build, and Build” infra projects throughout the country. The loans are so massive; the country will be in debt to the Chinese for generations to come. We all know the old tricks about these government projects and how they’re able to grease politicians. Diokno at the helm will go a long way.
In return, Duterte favors the Chinese in many things foremost of which, the annexation and militarization of the South China Seas. China’s expansionist vision in that particular part of Asia follows their overarching objective of supplanting the United States as the world’s leader. Because of this caveat with the Chinese that Justice Teresita de Castro and not the most senior justice of the Supreme Court, Antonio Carpio will be the next CJ. Carpio is vehement in his opposition to the Chinese agenda in the West Philippine Sea and therefore could be a thorn on Duterte’s side when it comes to this issue which is of great importance to the financing of Duterte’s rule.
The evil that men do knows of no boundaries. Duterte and company should enjoy the ride while it last but should never underestimate the power of an extremely pissed-off woman.