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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pres. Benigno Aquino III's Speech on 1st National Criminal Justice Summit

President Benigno Aquino III's speech on 1st National Criminal Justice Summit.

For those looking on an English version of Aquino's speech and for those who wasn't able to hear what the Filipino president had spoken on 1st National Criminal Justice Summit, hear's the video and the translations.

In this video, Aquino criticized the court in front of Chief Justice Renato Corona and other justices and lawmakers during the first National Criminal Justice Summit. The Summit was hosted by the Department of Justice at the Manila Hotel on Monday.

Aquino lambasted Corona, an appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for apparently losing his impartiality regarding several decisions he made, including those concerning Arroyo.

The President first questioned the High Court's move to junk the Truth Commission, which he created to investigate all the supposed anomalies during the Arroyo administration.

Aquino also slammed the SC (Supreme Court) for issuing a temporary restraining order on the DOJ (Department of Justice) watchlist order against Arroyo, allowing her to leave the country and seek medical treatment abroad.

He also criticized the SC for questioning the constitutionality of the joint DOJ-Commission on Elections panel, which found Arroyo liable for electoral sabotage in connection with the 2007 midterm elections.

To further give an idea, here is the English translation for our honorable president's speech:
Good morning. Let's all be seated.

Oh, it's me already. I hope I'm not late. [Laughter]

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Speaker Sonny Belmonte; honorable members of the House of Representatives present; Chief Justice Renato Corona and the honorable members of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Sandiganbayan; excellencies of the diplomatic corps; Secretary Leila de Lima; Secretary Jesse Robredo; Secretary Eduardo de Mesa; Secretary Cesar Garcia; Chairman Francis Tolentino; Presiding Justice Villaluz of the Sandiganbayan; men and women of the Philippine National Police, led by Director General Nicanor Bartolome; civil society; nongovernment organizations; fellow workers in government; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen:

Our gathering this morning is an opportunity to further assess the strengths and weaknesses of our current criminal justice system, and to gather new and modern justice initiatives. We can say this is up to date because of the daily headlines in newspapers and televisions, which not only us, but the whole country was also able to witness the complexity of the work of the clerk of court, lawyers, and judges. No doubt the value of your work: your decisions and measures have significant implications to our democracy. Because of this, it is important that we go back on what was stated in Article 2, Section 1 of our Constitution: the sovereignty is in the people, and all government authority emanates from them. I make sure you are reminded because for once in our history, it seems we have forgotten it.

During martial law, justice wasn't focus on the welfare of the entire people, but follows the wishes of one person, the former President Ferdinand Marcos. Even my own family was a victim: my father was court martialed, however, even before the trial was started, his fate had long been decided. In a court composed of magistrates, lawyers, prosecutors, and witnesses appointed by the plaintiff himself—Mr. Marcos—the dictatorship did all they can do to twist justice and remove all the rights of my father. Although he is not guilty, he was detained and made to suffer for seven years and seven months, while those who are in power feast on the funds of the nation. They have taken the blindfold of justice, and tip the scales of justice according to their preferences.

Now, as your president, I have a sworn duty: to protect and defend the constitution, to enforce its laws, to be fair to all, and to devote myself to the service of the Nation. And part of my mandate is to make sure that the darkness that took place during the Martial law will not happen again, and if ever someone do it again, to make sure they are accounted for their transgressions.

That's why, since the beginning, we laid out the steps in order to clarify the allegations of corruption in the previous administration: from the fertilizer scam, which fattens, not the crops, but the pockets of some officers; to the ZTE deal, which also led to the kidnapping of alleged witness Jun Lozada; from allegations of fraud in 2004 and 2007 elections, and other more anomalies we wanted to unravel.

We started this from forming the Truth Commission, which should delve into the alleged corruption that were widespread during the last administration, and to try those behind it. It has no other purpose but to correct the error as soon as possible. However, we know what happened: the court claimed it was unconstitutional. We were just about to begin our first step, they barricade it immediately.

It is COMELEC's duty to ensure a clean and verified result of the election. Thus, it is natural for them to seek help from the DOJ to investigate the allegations of fraud in 2007. It is typical to form such panels, but it is being questioned by the Supreme Court. They also question the legality of the warrant of arrest imposed by the Pasay Regional Trial Court on Mrs. Arroyo.

Take note: When the Supreme Court issued the TRO, it has underlying conditions. But soon, they themselves admitted we do not need to accomplish these guidelines. Well, you even bothered to put a policy, you don't even intend to keep them. We have already followed all the procedures, but despite this, they say we are the ones looking for a fight. Who are not to doubt their true intentions?

This is not the first time the Supreme Court made a decision that's difficult to understand. According to article 7, section 15 of the Constitution, "A President should not make appointments within two months before the next presidential election up until his/her term of office, except for temporary appointments to executive positions." But we know Mrs. Arroyo still forcefully appointed the Chief Justice. He was appointed not two months before the election, but a week after the election. Based on the law and their former decision, the Supreme Court even agrees that it's illegal to assign a post two mouths before the election, unless it is a temporary position in the executive. But they turned when Mrs. Arroyo appointed, our honorable, Chief Justice Renato Corona: a position which is not covered by the executive, but of the judiciary. The question now is: did the Supreme Court violated our understanding of the Constitution?

Another example of their decision that's hard to understand is about the making of districts in Congress: In Article 6, Section 5 of the Constitution, the population must be greater than two hundred and fifty thousand for every district. The problem: there are those that did not reach this number, such as the district of Camarines Sur with over one hundred seventy six thousand population. So when we were still in the Senate, as chairman of the Committee on Local Government, we questioned the formation of this district, however, it was only thrashed by the Supreme Court. Our question now is:  if the creation of a district does not depend on the population, what will be the basis of the legislators when there is a proposal of redistricting? Meaning, we have a basis when forming a city, but if it comes to provinces or districts, there is none?

My sympathies to the new Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government Senator Bongbong Marcos: Goodluck on resolving this problem, I tried to resolve this during my time.

We respect the equality in power of the judiciary and the executive branch of the government. We have no intention of stomping their rights, or smear the credibility of anyone. But we need to recall the basic principles of our democracy. We, who have sworn duty are indebted to only one: you, our Boss, the people of the Philippines. We are here to serve our country; and to serve with sincerity and enthusiasm all Filipinos. Now, if there is one public servant who seeks to return the favor, not for the people who are our source of power, but to a patron that forcefully fits him into position, can we count on him to understand the interest of the people?

I am not a graduate of law. Nevertheless, we grew up with a clear vision to which is right, and which is wrong; which is humanistic, and which ones are corrupt. I stand firmly (on the belief) that justice is not a steering wheel that could easily be turned by the magistrates to where they want it to sway. It is not a toy that lawyers and judges could turn and flip according to their wishes.

Let's go back to what I said before: the power of the Supreme Court, the President, and Congress came from their only one Boss: the people [applause]. Therefore, we should side and fight for the interest of the people. I swore to protect and defend the constitution, to enforce its laws, to be fair to each person, and devote myself to serve the country. I have no intention to violate my sworn duty. I have no wish to fail the people.

It is my obligation, and it is our obligation to stay and go to the same direction, united under one goal: to serve and protect the interests of the people. To all who joined us in the right track, believe: As long as we are right, there is no fight we are going to withdraw. As long as the people are behind us, we will succeed. Let us not fail them.

Good morning, and many thanks.

Corona, despite being embarrassed in front of the people present on the summit, maintained his professionalism and even shake hands with the president. When interviewed by the media, he says that Christmas is near, we should think of peace, let it go.

However, later, the SC's spokesperson, Marquez, said that Aquino's speech is disturbing. "We went there in good faith. We were expecting coordination, cooperation," he said.

Aquino also questioned Corona's appointment, which came during the ban against midnight appointments (two nights before election).

Marquez said, however, that Corona's appointment went through constitutional process, adding, "it's just unfortunate he was appointed by someone many do not like (referring to Arroyo)."

"Corona told me issuing a statement was not necessary," he said.

The spokesperson also earlier said: "Considerably unusual... for the Chief Executive to look down on members of the judiciary in public at a Justice Sector Coordinating Council session and to their faces, denounce the court's independent actions, as the Chief Justice sat speechless, motionless and expressionless because of the requirements of protocol."

Marquez added that while the court respects the system of checks and balances, its invocation should be made in the proper setting, circumstances, and decorum.

The senators, meanwhile, believe somebody has to step in to prevent a rift between the Palace and the SC from growing any wider, but are not quite clear on who should act as peacemaker.

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan II said Congress should step in after the President criticized the SC.

The legislators said both houses of Congress should help defuse tension between their two co-equal branches of government.

"It's not up to Congress, the Senate to get mixed up in this because that will just make things worse. Congress should (instead) act as an arbiter to bring the SC and Malacañang closer together," Lacson said.

He warned that the rift could lead to local government units also ignoring court orders, as the administration is said to have done when it kept Arroyo from leaving the country despite an SC order allowing it.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, meanwhile, said he would volunteer to act as mediator.

"If they want me to volunteer," he said.

He added, however, that any involvement by Congress would not be as an intrusion but only to facilitate a private dialogue between the Executive and the Judiciary.

"The rift between the Executive and the Judiciary has become too well publicized. It is not doing the country any good," he said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said it would be better for the Church to step in instead.

Senator Franklin Drilon, an Aquino ally, said the SC should not be immune from criticism.


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