Just under a year ago, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a TRO preventing authorities from detaining former president Arroyo. Now, Arroyo stands accused of plunder along with 9 other defendants in a trial before the Sandiganbayan (anticorruption court). Arroyo and her co-defendants are accused of misusing funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
According to reports
yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a TRO enjoining the court from issuing an arrest warrant for Arroyo. Allegedly, a TRO for one of Arroyo’s co-defendnats was to have covered her claims as well.
Today, according to PhilStar
, the Supreme Court backtracked and has said Arroyo’s request for a TRO must be considered separately. Regardless, the Sandiganbayan had already continued the trial assuming the TRO did not cover Arroyo.
Of course, given the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato last year, it’s hard to believe that a TRO against the Arroyo corruption trial won’t produce a backlash. However, the Aquino administration seems less confrontational – at least at this point. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda even reacted to the bizarre news by stating, “Well, we respect, again, that is a decision coming from the Supreme Court and as always we respect the jurisdiction of the SC.”
Prosecutors in the impeachment trial against Chief Justice Corona announced that the chief justice had favored Arroyo in 80% of the 31 cases involving the former president. While likely to be damning in the public eye, it’s worth thinking about what those numbers actually mean. First of all, on average one would expect a the average unbiased judge to vote 50% in favor of any random plaintiff in a borderline case, so Corona voted 30% (80% – 50%) more often in favor of Arroyo than one might expect. The first question is whether that difference is meaningful, given that there were only 31 cases in the sample. The difference is large enough that it should be statistically significant, although one would also want to consider other factors that might account for the difference.
Moreover, of course judges are not unbiased, plaintiffs are not random, and not all legal claims are borderline. It’s difficult to assess the numbers without a sense of the underlying merit of the cases. How many of those cases were split decisions in controversial cases, as opposed to unanimous opinions in rather mundane cases? Also, we would also have to compare Corona’s voting pattern to other justices on the court. If the majority had a similar vote pattern, Corona wouldn’t be such an exception.
Finally, if the prosecution is right and Corona favors Arroyo, why would he vote against her in 20% of cases? Again, we’d want to be sure that 20% is statistically significant, but it still must be explained. After all, if Corona was so loyal to Arroyo, why vote against her at all? It would be interesting to find out more about those cases.
In U.S. law, prosecutors are generally not allowed to use general statistical patterns as evidence. This announcement shows why. While Corona might have been unduly loyal to Arroyo, the headline oversimplifies the situation.
I have reposted the article below:
MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona favored 80 percent of the 31 cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Supreme Court (SC), a prosecutor said yesterday.
On questioning of Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza said these are among the pieces of evidence that will show Corona betrayed public trust as stated in Article 7 of the impeachment complaint.
“It turned out that there are 31 cases involving (former President) Arroyo,” he said.
“Chief Justice Corona voted 80 percent in favor, more or less. 20 percent is not in favor.”
Daza said the SC under the influence of Corona issued decisions very fast involving Arroyo’s cases.
“Mabilis pa sa alas dose (Faster than 12 o’clock),” he said.
Despite the Supreme Court’s TRO yesterday regarding the WLO against former President Arroyo, the administration physically prevented them from catching their flight out of Manila yesterday. In a dramatic scene, the former president was wheeled away from their flight into a room with their lawyers. There are already calls to impeach Aquino over this and other recent decisions. All that’s certain for now is that the Aquino administration has set itself up for an even more intense showdown with the Supreme Court.
According to PhilStar, in an 8-5 vote, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) watchlist order (WLO) against former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. As I mentioned last week, cynics might suspect the justices of simply protecting their patron. However, freedom travel is an human right protected by the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (remember the refusniks in the former U.S.S.R.).
For politicians, this dual nature of the justice system presents a delightful irony. The very way courts act to protect former political leaders necessitates their invoking constitutional rights. Thus, the very political leaders who often violated their citizens’ human rights become amongst the first to hide behind them when out of power. In political science, we’d call this a severe case of observational equivalence – when we can’t tell whether the court is acting in good faith or with political motives.
I don’t often write about “metabolic bone biopsies” on my blog. However, that’s the procedure former Philippine president Arroyo needs, and that’s what the Aquino administration Justice Department is seeking to deny her. Or so Arroyo claims. Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima issued a watchlist order against Arroyo to prevent her and her husband from fleeing the country while facing plunder and poll fraud charges. According to PhilStar, Arroyo has challenged the WLO as impairing her constitutional right to travel (Article III, § 1 and 6) and filed suit before the Supreme Court. It will be particularly interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules, given the hostility between it and the Aquino administration. Moreover, 12 of the 15 justices are Arroyo appointees, which as I wrote last year became controversial as Arroyo managed to appoint the chief justice. I guess we’ll see whether the Philippine Supreme Court provides that political insurance Arroyo had been banking on.