Sunday, January 18, 2009

Justice Reynato Puno

"A Government afflicted with moral leprosy deserves nothing less than the graveyard."
Thus spoke Supreme Court Justice Reynato Puno in a speech before the Anvil Club, a group of young Filipino Chinese entrepreneurs recently.

Time has not eroded the sterling integrity and honesty of Chief Justice Puno who is now on his 16th year as a member of the Highest Tribunal of the Land (since 1993). 

He as a "Puno" (tree) is never likened to a bamboo which bends and sways expediently at the direction of the wind. Chief Justice Puno is more like an oakwood, an acacia tree, strong and sturdy and crowns the neighborhood with the comfort of its massive shade.

Little wonder there is that survey over sister Station DYRD revealing that 8 out of 10 people interviewed believes Puno is a strong material for a presidential timber in 2010.That is a benchmark of how much people  had  assiduously searched with a lantern for the proverbial "honest man" over  the posturings of traditional politicians and the  "promising" kind. And found the "tree" of their liking.

Of course, the Chief Magistrate shuns politics like a plague -in trying to keep his decisions in the his Court totally unblemished by hints of political ambition. It is of course- the country's loss for him not to consider running for the presidency.

SC CJ Reynato Puno is a fire-breathing dragon when he spews his language against the pillars of scourges in the country: corruption, human rights violation and the armed struggle.

Despite losing the "Executive Privilege" fight to the Palace Supreme Court toadies, Puno displayed exceptional brilliance dissenting against it; started the Writ of Amparo in a summit he called in 2007 against the extra-judicial killings in the country and led his court four-square against the MOA over the ancestral domain in Mindanao that would have torn the country asunder in geographic politics.

When he retires in May 2010- Puno will have left behind a landmark legacy of being a "moral force" that manifested itself endearingly to the populace within the halls of justice. Says he" Only the moral system, not the legal system will save us.", noting continually perhaps how we often behave like a country of men rather than of laws. And of the kind of men unfortunately bereft of integrity at that.  
Defending the last bastion of democracy (the courts) the Chief Prelate believes that if the judiciary loses its independence, our democracy will die. That is a food for thought that nourishes - be you in Aparri or Jolo.

Citing Confucius (the sage) who spoke of Good Governance, Puno believes that more than having military might, more than providing food sufficiency,a good government must have the confidence of the people." From old, death has been the lot of men; but if people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the State."

Indeed Puno illuminates with gravitas because he does what of he speaks. Crucifix is to Dracula as the voice of an honest man is to the corrupt and the unjust.    

Now, there are moves to impeach Puno for purportedly sitting on the papers of the petition of the powerful Parases of Negros Oriental to nullify the 7,000 majority win votes of Rep Jocelyn Limkaichong (2007 election)  on the ground that the latter being Chinese, she is therefore not a natural born citizen.

But the SC draft resolution cannot be promulgated since 9 of the 14 justices "who agreed" on the result did not concur with the reasons for the conclusion. It is purely procedural and definitely not a solid ground for impeachment by Congress. 

Puno had welcomed the impeachment move, knowing his moral compass so well on the Limkaichong issue and that Congress acting on it will just appear to be "crooks daring to sit in judgment over an honest man.". Let them and allow this nation to in turn sit in judgment over their judgment.

The Puno impeachment move is a tell-tale sign of desperation. For as Conrad Quiros says" You cannot destroy an honest man by killing him,you can destroy an honest man by destroying his honesty." They are not succeeding, fortunately.

The nation is longing for a breath of fresh air in the midst of so much filthy corruption, abuses and compartmentalized justice in the nation. That is why the names of non-traditional politicians for national office are now being floated for consideration. 

Already three "Kaya Natin" members are being groomed for senator.The name of Isabela Governor Maria  Gracia Cielo Padaca who put an end to the ruthless political dynasty of the Dys is one of them. Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio who broke the jueteng and quarry lords by his priestly demeanor and character is another. So is maverick achiever Naga Mayor Jesse Rebredo.

Quietly , the names of Jun Lozada and Joey de Venecia, the ZTE-NBN whistle-blowers and SBMA environmental hero, renowned architect Felino Palafox, are now being bruited about as 2010 national materials.

Contrary to perceptions that the bold moves of Lozada and De Venecia amounted to nothing: let us recall that the ZTE-NBN contract has since been aborted by GMA and that the corrupt Comelec Chair Benjamin "Burger" Abalos had  ignominiously resigned from his post.

Contrary to perception, Palafox' environmental crusade won the first round since the 330 century-old trees to this date remain uncut at Subic and the DENR had instead cut the authority of the SBMA to allow contracts to fell foliage in the area. Speak of poetic justice.
Lest we forget, the election of Senator Trillanes was largely a "protest vote" against corruption.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno may refuse the luster of the presidency  in 2010- be that as it may. But let us remember his Confucian advice about leadership always: "If the leader's desire is for good, people will be good. The moral character of the leader is the wind; the moral character of those beneath him is the wind. Where the wind blows, the grass bends."
Such a provider of moral ballast!"Punong-puno ng mabuting pangaral." - source: The Bohol Chronicle

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