De Lima: GMA’s investment in SC paying off

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Dec 08 2010 01:02 PM | Updated as of Dec 09 2010 04:19 AM

Spokesman: SC merely upheld Constitution

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has echoed the view that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo packed the Supreme Court with appointees who will help get her off the hook for alleged misdeeds during her 9-year administration.

In a press release, de Lima could not hide her disappointment over the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) nullifying the much heralded Truth Commission. She said it “shows characteristics of a political decision.”

The high court, voting 10-5, announced on Tuesday the decision nullifying Executive Order 1 (EO 1) that created the Truth Commission.

She said there is basis for the speculations “that the investment of the past administration in the Office of the Ombudsman and the High Court are now paying off, as present executive actions to correct injustices and abuses of the past regime and to punish the perpetrators are frustrated at every turn.”

She called it a “wise institutional investment of the past regime.”

De Lima specifically noted Arroyo's appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona “despite the ban on appointments.”

The SC has already decided on the matter, saying in March that appointments to the court are not included in the so-called midnight appointment ban during an election year. This subsequently allowed Arroyo to appoint the current chief magistrate.

De Lima said SC voting has become predictable.

She noted it is the Constitution itself that provided to prevent a single president from packing the high court with only his or her appointees.

Of the 15 magistrates, only Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was appointed by President Aquino. She is one of the 5 who dissented in the decision.

De Lima admitted, however, “unfortunately, the loophole in the Constitution prevailed when former President Arroyo appointed the majority of the present court…”

Equal protection for whom?

On the high court’s argument that the Truth Commission violated equal protection rights, De Lima said: “Equal protection applies within a class, not between a few who stole and abused, and the many from whom they stole and whom they abused.”

She noted the violation in this clause of the Constitution is, in fact, when “the privileged few are effectively exempted from investigation, prosecution and punishment, while the great majority of the people continue to wallow in the murk of their crimes.”

Despite her criticisms, De Lima stressed “we still fervently hope…that this was not the primary consideration in this decision of the court, and that the considerations were always legal and constitutional, as they should be.”

The decision comes in a string of setbacks for the Aquino administration. Since President Aquino took over on June 30 this year, the SC has released decisions that have been unfavorable to his government.

‘Constitution should come first’

In a text message, SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said: “The public must understand that in holding EO 1 as unconstitutional, the court is not ruling in favor or against any party, but is merely applying the provisions and principles of the Constitution, which is in accordance with the Court’s
mandate and responsibility and the rule of law.”

Full copies of the decision and separate opinions have yet to be released. -- with a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News