Will Sereno be convicted?

BUSINESSMEN and professionals alike have been asking me if Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will eventually be found guilty and ousted. My answer is yes.

I always tell them, however, that impeachment is a political process.

While the Senate, which will be trying her, will be observing the Rules of Court like a trial court, impeachment is actually a public trial. The lawmakers are supposed to represent the people in finding out whether the official indeed committed impeachable offenses.

And since testimonies of incumbent Supreme Court associate justices have shown how incompetent the Chief Justice is—setting aside en banc decisions, creating a public office contrary to law, and using a strictly confidential document in an attempt to impede the appointment of a former solicitor general to the High Court—it appears there is probable cause at least for betrayal of public trust.

Now, whether or not the Senate will convict and oust Sereno as Chief Justice would still depend on the numbers.

Recall that the late Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted and ousted simply because he failed to include in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth his dollar accounts.

This may have been just a failure on his part, but there was moral integrity or rectitude required from him. The infraction fell under betrayal of public trust.

This is why I think Sereno will meet the same fate.

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The significant development here is the coming out of some members of the Supreme Court to testify before the House committee on justice.

This is just unprecedented.

It only goes to show that some of the fellow magistrates of Sereno have lost faith and confidence in her as Chief Justice, my gulay!

Reports have it that two more justices, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Samuel Martires, want to testify against Sereno. Santa Banana, that would be the last nail in her coffin!

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Perhaps I should depart from my usual “Santa Banana” and use the more appropriate expression “Holy Smokes” when describing the recent $1-billion acquisition of homegrown cigaret manufacturer Mighty Corp. by Japan Tobacco International.

I am sure many experts and Mighty Corp. itself will agree that this buyout was heaven sent, considering the twists and turns that Mighty’s business was undergoing. Indeed, it’s a testament to the fortitude and insight of the new Japanese owners to look beyond the turbulence and focus on the intrinsic value of the company.

Thankfully, for our economy—particularly on the Foreign Direct Investment ledger—the deal was executed rather quickly. This actually prompted a number of big businessmen to heave a long sigh of exasperation and hope that their own experience with mergers and acquisitions would mirror Mighty’s example.

Unfortunately, from what I heard, this was a major outlier: “Buti pa mga foreigner, madali sa kanila ang bumili o mamerge sa mga Filipino companies (Foreign companies are lucky because it is easy for them to acquire or merge with Filipino companies), a well-known tycoon lamented to me.

When it’s Filipino to Filipino, both parties have to pass through the eye of a needle, before going into the eye of a storm. The level of bureaucracy and red tape is hellish, my friend added.

The target of the ire appears to be unanimous, the Philippine Competition Commission, which is the agency task to police and safeguard against anti-competitive practices.

According to reports, the PCC acts like its sole purpose is to act as if they knew better than the owners of the businesses they are inquiring into.

My gulay, most of the time, these lines of questioning (interrogation as one CEO put it) go far beyond the scope of mergers and acquisitions that it feels as if building a new company from scratch.

This kind of mentality of government regulators reminds me so much of the P70-billion acquisition of Smart and Globe of the San Miguel telco assets of Ramon Ang, who sold the Smart-Globe combine telco assets not only to benefit consumers, but to make Globe duopoly itself. The PCC has become more of a roadblock to economic growth.

Many businessmen have been in fact complaining that the seemingly unrealistic conditions have stifled even the simplest of acquisitions and mergers. To the PCC, Filipinos have become second-class citizens as it favors foreigners.

Santa Banana, I’m told that the PCC even requires businesses to prepare a full situations analysis for nearly a hundred possibilities. Which to me, begs the question: If the submitted documents become thicker and thicker, how can the PCC possibly review and assess all them in a timely manner?

Of course, I’m not saying that the PCC is incompetent. In fact, it is quite the contrary, to all indications, it is staffed by a field of experts worthy of a global think tank. But my gulay, it seems that having too many intelligent people in the fray turns out every process into an autocratic nightmare that could scare away even the most seasoned local businessmen. My gulay, think of the all the lost opportunities to forge strategic partnerships!

I’m all for a healthy and competitive business environment. But once regulation becomes too autocratic, it becomes borderline protectionist. That’s the irony of the PCC which to me has become more of a roadblock.

President Duterte should rethink the existence of the PCC in the light of the administration’s policy of cutting red tape and over-regulation. These are stifling the growth of the economy!

* * *

I’m all for modernization of the iconic Philippine jeepney. And so are the commuters who go to work or school in those vehicles. Many of these are ready for the junk yard.

But considering the fact that many of the small jeepney operators and drivers may become jobless because they cannot afford those modern jeepneys costing from P1.8 million to P2 million, government must first consider a lot of things.

First of all, find out if those old jeepney are still roadworthy. There should be no immediate phaseout, but over a length of time.

Second, if small jeepney operators and drivers cannot affect the modern jeepneys, government should exert some effort to subsidize them, or undertake a plan to enable them to borrow money required to buy modernized jeepneys.

If organizations of jeepney operators are preventing the immediate modernization of the jeepney industry, they cannot really all be blamed. It’s their very livelihood at stake.

The President must look at the problem in its entirety, and not just because some jeepney organizations are left-leaning.

Topics: Maria Lourdes Sereno
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