Justices of the Philippine Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Renato Corona (center), prepare to hear oral arguments during an en banc session on Nov. 29, to decide on the constitutionality of the joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (Comelec) panel created to investigate alleged electoral fraud committed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  (AP photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday night blasted the Supreme Court for being “confused and confusing” and partisan in its recent decisions especially on the cases involving former President Gloria Arroyo, who appointed most of its members.

Mr. Aquino, in his speech at the 30th anniversary dinner of the Makati Business Club, said even before he became president he was “puzzled, even alarmed, by the behavior of the Supreme Court.”

He said the “current air of judicial uncertainty” prevents the executive branch from fulfilling its mandate because of the “absence of clarity in the rules, consistency in interpretations, and a modicum of respect so that we can implement our plans.”

Mr. Aquino cited the case of Dinagat, which the High Court declared as a province, only to reverse itself and confuse everyone on who should assume Dinagat’s budgetary needs and delivery of services to its constituents.

“As fellow executives, you can fully appreciate how untenable this situation is, when my job is to deliver services to a public for whom merely pointing the finger at a confused — and confusing — Supreme Court won’t do. These are not abstract rules or theories: the lives and well-being of our fellow citizens are at stake,” he told businessmen.

He said the Supreme Court is supposed to be the safeguard or arbiter in case of disagreements or questions “but this is premised on a fundamental assumption: that it will be objective and nonpartisan.”

Mr. Aquino questioned the speedy issuance by the SC of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the travel ban against Arroyo.

“When our lawyers all know, that it takes the Supreme Court 10 days, normally, to attend to motions, and it decides to issue a TRO for Mrs. Arroyo in three, who can avoid wondering what she did to merit such speedy relief?” he asked.

He said the SC listened only to Arroyo’s lawyers, and not to the arguments of government lawyers and their documents showing that the former president could not make up her mind on which cities she wanted to go to, how many people she wanted to bring, or whether she would see doctors or attend forums in case she is allowed to leave.

“Who can avoid wondering if her main priority was to escape the arm of the law?” he added.

He also said the High Court set conditions for Arroyo before she could be allowed to leave, but later said the conditions need not be fulfilled so that the former president could depart.

“In these cases, did the Supreme Court follow its own precedents and rules? Is it then not fair of us to wonder whether objectivity has given way to partisanship? Is it then not fair of us to express concern at the direction the Supreme Court has taken?” he asked.

Mr. Aquino said the executive branch is not out to dictate on the SC or spark a constitutional crisis.

“We ask these questions, not out of a desire to undermine their positions, not out of disrespect and malice, but to fulfill our mandate and to our bosses, the Filipino people — you included. Consider the alternatives. Had the Court taken pains to hear both sides; if it deliberated, not with surprising haste, but with thoroughness; and then, having objectively made up its mind, stuck to its interpretations: then we would have what we all desire. Stability, predictability, and the authentic rule of law,” he said.

“And we could all do our jobs. Despite this air of uncertainty let me be categorical. I intend to do mine,” he added.

Mr. Aquino said government will subject Arroyo to “investigation and a fair hearing” in order to put closure to controversies that were unsettled during her administration.

He said when South Korea’s Chun doo-hwan and Roh tae-woo were convicted of crimes they committed as former presidents “it was not seen as a vendetta, but rather, as what it was: justice. The strengthening of a system of laws, and not men. Closure to a painful and harrowing past characterized by impunity in official circles.”

He said public officials will be held accountable for their actions under his administration to show that “our institutions are not slaves to political expedience, to money or connections, or to status.”

He said there should be no exceptions, even for a former president like Arroyo.

“I say this knowing full well that I too, shall be an ex-President in four-and-a-half years. But this is the point: your guarantee of good behavior is the certainty of accountability,” he said.

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