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article imageInfighting Means Democracy Is Alive in Philippines, Says Diplomat Special

By Romeo Marquez     Dec 16, 2011 in Politics
It's a healthy exercise in democracy, says a Filipino diplomat of the current infighting in the Philippines between the president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Another diplomat warned of its adverse effects on investments and tourism.
A Philippine diplomatic official in Toronto said the so-called "constitutional crisis" between two separate but co-equal branches of the government in Manila shows democracy was very much alive in the Southeast Asian country.
A conflict has escalated between President Benigno Simeon Aquino and Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, culminating in the latter's impeachment by the 284-member House of Representatives early this week. A total of 188 voted, far larger than the required one-third, or 95, of all House members.
Corona, an appointee of Mr. Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is presently under arrest in a hospital, now faces trial in the 23-member Senate for alleged graft, violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust. To convict, it requires two-thirds, or 16, votes.
"The dynamics of democracy is working and alive in the Philippines," says Pedro Chan, the Philippine Consul General in Toronto.
"Of course, the chief justice is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he stresses in a phone interview on Thursday.
A former diplomat in Toronto who asked not to be named said the political developments in Manila could adversely impact renewed efforts to bring in investors and tourists to the Philippines.
Early this month, Ambassador Leslie Gatan announced that the embassy in Ottawa has launched a diplomatic offensive in Canada to attract foreign investments and visitors.
The head-on confrontation between the president and the magistrate exploded after a series of political maneuverings that started after the executive department ignored the Supreme Court order allowing Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Instead, the government filed criminal charges against her, effectively blocking her departure. Within hours of that, she was arrested and confined to a hospital.
Days later, the Supreme Court whose 12 out of 15 members, including Mr. Corona, are Arroyo appointees, ruled on a long-pending case ordering the Aquino family-held Hacienda Luisita sugarcane plantation to distribute ownership of the land to its 10,000 tenant farmers.
That act appeared to be the last straw for Mr. Aquino. He launched his own verbal attacks on Mr. Corona, a move that found resonance in the House of Representatives where Aquino's political party dominates.
Within days, the House voted to impeach Mr. Corona. The Senate will constitute itself as an impeachment court that will try the chief justice.
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