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Bernas likens PNoy to Fidel Castro for criticizing Corona

(Updated 6:07 p.m.) Chief Justice Renato Corona, recently on the receiving end of President Benigno Aquino III’s tirades, on Tuesday found an ally in Fr. Joaquin Bernas, an influential Jesuit priest and a noted constitutional lawyer. Bernas likened Aquino to Cuban demagogue Fidel Castro. In an interview over GMA News TV’s “Dobol B sa News TV," Bernas openly expressed his admiration for Corona for keeping his calm while Aquino, in a speech at a Supreme Court-organized event on Monday, questioned the chief justice’s impartiality. “I admire Corona,” Bernas said. “He does not go down to the level of the president’s ranting.” Echoing an earlier statement by SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez that Aquino's remarks were "disturbing," Bernas said: “Nakakabahala nga. I don’t know kung ano mangyayari diyan. In his (Aquino’s) speeches, he sounds like Fidel Castro."
Bernas, however, did not elaborate on his comparison between Castro and Aquino.
Castro, who served as Cuban president for 32 years, used to deliver public speeches highly critical of corruption during the early years of his political career. He later on became a revolutionary figure, and gained a reputation for his anti-capitalist stance.
Lacierda: Obama did the same In response, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Bernas may have overlooked the fact that US President Barack Obama did the same in his 2010 State of the Union Address when he criticized US Supreme Court justices for their decision regarding campaign finance reform. "The Supreme Court justices were also in attendance during that time," Lacierda told GMA News Online. He said while a president criticizing the Supreme Court is uncommon, it is not something new. He said what Aquino did during Monday's event was to emphasize that government officials should be accountable to the people. "That is his (Aquino's) mandate and he expects other branches of government to remember that they are accountable to the Filipino people. That is one of the mandates of all of us who are serving in the government," Lacierda said. "The President as a citizen also has his right to express his disagreement with the decision of the Supreme Court, much like any law professor, like Father Bernas, would, on occasion, disagree with the decision of the SC,” said Lacierda. "Good development" Aquino's tirade against Corona also elicited favorable reactions from his allies in the House of Representatives and a college law dean, saying such was a "good development" for Philippine democracy.
Interviewed on GMA News TV's "News to Go," University of the East College of Law Dean Amado Valdez called Aquino’s remarks a “welcome development” in the country’s democracy.
Mas maganda because eventually, it is the people will benefit kasi hindi magkakatakipan… Maganda iyan because the SC will now be in a position to reflect [on its rulings],” he said.
PNoy vs Corona Aquino’s rift with Corona goes back a long way, starting with his opposition to Corona’s appointment as head of the Supreme Court during the tail-end of the Arroyo administration. Aquino even refused to be sworn in by Corona during his inauguration. Their rift reached a high note recently when the Supreme Court, composed mostly of Arroyo appointees, issued a temporary restraining order on the watch list order on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is facing an electoral sabotage case in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2007 elections. Before the TRO issue, Malacañang and the Supreme Court clashed head-on when the tribunal ruled as unconstitutional Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1, which sought to create an independent body to investigate alleged corruption in the past administration. ‘Sense of entitlement’ At the House of Representatives, an opposition leader questioned Aquino’s move to openly attack Corona and the Supreme Court.   Deputy Minority Leader Milagros Magsaysay said Aquino should recognize the independence of the judiciary from the executive branch. “The President thinks it is a sense of entitlement on his part that he can say anything and get away with it,” she said in a text message.   An administration ally, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, however, came to Aquino’s defense, saying the president is entitled to his own opinion about a branch of government that has been considered “infallible” for years.   “Kalayaan ng isang pangulo na i-criticize ang isa pang branch ng gobyerno. Senyales lamang ito ng isang healthy democracy,” Quimbo said at a separate press briefing.   He said Corona and the Supreme Court should not be “onion-skinned” whenever they are criticized.   “Hindi dapat tingnan ito bilang pagbatikos na walang basehan. Hindi pwedeng bawat branch na binabatikos ay balat-sibuyas. Malaya lahat na magpahayag ng opinyon,” Quimbo said.
 At a press briefing on Monday shortly after Aquino criticized Corona, Marquez said that while it is the prerogative of the president to speak his mind, "we find it disturbing that it was delivered during the first National Criminal Justice Summit, organized by no less than the Supreme Court.” — with Amita O. Legaspi/KBK/RSJ/HS, GMA News