“. . . the vote I make tonight – beyond legal and constitutional considerations – is a vote for the underdog: the ordinary Filipinos, poor peasants and workers, whose lives may very well be affected, benefited in fact, with the breakthrough decisions of the Supreme Court under the current leadership of Chief Justice Davide. . .
It may escape our notice, but Supreme Court rulings done recently have sought to decide with finality celebrated, yet heinous crimes committed at the highest levels of government; crimes that have remained unsolved across the years but have in fact given rise to popular uprisings such as EDSA I and EDSA II; crimes of unexplained wealth and plunder, of gross violations of due process and human rights committed by the powerful and privileged few – a number of which are still in government.” -Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales’s Explanation of Her NO Vote, 11 November 2003
In the end what had to happen was exactly what happened. The challenge to the integrity of the Supreme Court was stopped with firm action by the Supreme Court itself. The political meaning of the long, legally elaborate Supreme Court decision was simple: the Constitution, or the “rule of law”, takes precedence over the machinations of politicians. While the intent of the Tripartite Covenant crafted by Pres. Arroyo and Speaker De Venecia was a solution that would have had the same practical effect-that of the withdrawal of the House impeachment complaint-the search for political solutions was constricted within the circuits of areglo by politicians.
The proximate losers are the signatories of the House impeachment complaint, especially the young political scions of local politicians who have come off looking like rash, arrogant but inexperienced politicians. The bigger loser may be their patron who, far from succeeding in intimidating the Supreme Court, has ended up antagonizing them. Instead of weakening the Court, the NPC provided the justices an opportunity to decisively assert their strength. There has been so much publicity about the coco levy cases that it would be extremely difficult at this point for the Supreme Court to backtrack on their earlier decision that coco levy funds are public funds.
We cannot underestimate the importance of Supreme Court’s victory. For the first time since 1986, now 17 years ago, there is a possibility for substantive accounting on Marcos era crimes. It is no surprise that the whole rogue gallery of Marcos era and pro-Erap politicians have lined up against Davide. It is the Davide court which has already taken decisions on Marcos wealth and coco levy cases. With this victory, these decisions can be “clinched” in the remaining cases already pending in the Supreme Court and those still to come. This is not just a matter of political symbolism. The economic stakes are massive: San Miguel stock bought with coco levy funds total 51%, and at current prices, amount to some 100 billion pesos. Control of these stocks equals control of San Miguel whose sales account for 5% of Philippine GDP.
The Tribunal’s reasons for vehemently rejecting the revised Tripartite Covenant strengthens our yearning that the Supreme Court decisively proceed to the malevolent interests behind this second impeachment which nearly tore the current government apart. The Tribunal can now deal with the substantive issues.
The Supreme Court must now proceed to resolve fully the coco levy issue by rejecting the motion filed by Danding Cojuangco and allied parties to reconsider the Sandiganbayan decision, which deemed as public fund the UCPB shares in the San Miguel Corporation. The gravity of the recent machinations of Danding only serves to underline the urgency of resolving the coco levy cases. The longer the court will dillydally in resolving these issues, the wider the window of opportunity for Danding and his partners to cook up another of their ploys to delay and undermine the high court’s decision.
Moreover, the Supreme Court must clarify that such fund must be used according to the original intent of the coco levy fund-to assist small coconut farmers and rehabilitate the coconut industry. The rest of the pending cases of Danding Cojuangco also beg for decisive action. The distinct opportunity for the substantive accounting of Marcos era crimes should be grabbed. These are major steps for justice!
Other contentious issues should be dealt with decisively. Judicial reforms are in order. The PD 1949 (creating the controversial Judiciary Development Fund or JDF) needs to be reviewed. Another major step is the auditing of the solons’ Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), which the Commission on Audit can competently handle.