Lugar Lang: The chief injustice of it all

Writing this piece on National Heroes Day begs the question: in this dastardly Duterte administration, what good is it for them to commemorate heroism?

Every day in this country we see only (blind) loyalty to those in power rewarded; those who continue to fight for justice are sent to jail or otherwise persecuted. Thus, the president’s statement on Ninoy Aquino Day to “reflect on his sacrifice as we honor the courage and patriotism that Ninoy demonstrated during his struggle” sounds like mere lip service. And his suggestion that this serve as guidepost to “our current leaders in government as they advance the welfare of our people, especially the oppressed and marginalized,” the biggest irony.

Two years into his term, Duterte has proven consistently that the “oppressed and marginalized” and their welfare are not high on his priorities. Instead, we are seeing #BayadUtang schemes materialize before our eyes in such a way that isn’t even shocking anymore. Regardless of qualifications, most of the celebrities who had campaigned for him have now been appointed to various high-profile government positions. Many loyal local officials or staff members from Davao City have also been rewarded with various positions in the national government, with all the concomitant benefits. But no matter how much we harp on the lack of delicadeza of these people who accept their appointments regardless of credentials, we cannot change the fact that they do seem to be having the time of their lives.

As the controversially incompetent Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson reiterates, “They can say whatever they want, basta I’m here doing my job for the president!” But nobody really can ascertain what job she is doing for him. And that is the kind of b*llsh*t we are being forced to accept in this administration. Imagine the collective damage that can be caused by all these incompetent appointees whose only qualification is how well they kowtow to the orders of their big boss. To top it all off, we are paying for all their salaries and other benefits with our taxes.

Of course no one can take a bigger cake than the newly appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court: Teresita de Castro. She’s trending in Twitter and she deserves it. She’s being called “Cheap Justice,” “Chief Injustice,” “MisChief Justice,” and even though I normally would consider name calling verbally abusive, I understand that this is probably the only way some of us can feel better about a situation we cannot change. We think if we can call it names, we have power over it. Better yet, a viral meme of the enemy—my favorite of which is de Castro’s face morphed into Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings.”

Does she deserve the vitriole? For serving the Court since 1973, it seems only fitting that she be appointed chief; as Duterte himself explained, his choice was based only on seniority. In fact, it seems like poetic justice that she replace the ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who had been appointed instead of her, who was next in line based on seniority in 2012. And because of the Quo Warranto voiding Sereno’s appointment, de Castro is now being called the first female chief justice of the Philippines. But with de Castro’s track record of votes in the current dispensation, it is not difficult to see her appointment as a reward for her service: in favor of the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima, the constitutionality and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao, and the ouster of Sereno.

Whether #BayadUtang is true in her case or not, the facts are clear, she will only be serving as CJ for 45 days (thirty days of which she could take officially as a terminal leave to prepare the paperwork for her retirement). With such a short term, what kind of judicial legacy can she leave? For her to accept the appointment shows us what she is: she is there for the prestige and the financial retirement package that comes with it. According to a post by Ding Velasco, this package will cost the Filipino people an additional Php1.8 million plus an additional Php12,000 per month for her pension until the day she dies. Clearly a reward, but not for service rendered as chief justice. This one is not cheap, either. It cost her integrity.

That said, what we must watch out for now is who will be appointed after de Castro retires in October. That one might be able to do the real damage.

Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz

Posted in Opinion