16 January 2012

The chief justice on trial

Allies of President Benigno Aquino III had cited eight grounds to impeach Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona. Among of them are Representatives Niel Tupas, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Lorenzo Tañada, and Arlene Bag-Ao.

They said 'Corona’s “ethical blindness, introduction of political partisanship at the expense of due process, and intrigue into the Court at the expense of the reputation of his fellow justices, his undermining basic, and cherished principles of intellectual, financial and ethical honesty by using his powers not to arrive at the truth, or hold the court to the highest standards, but instead, to cover up and excuse shortcomings of the court, has betrayed public trust by eroding public confidence in the administration of justice.”

Betrayal of public trust due to subservience to Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her presidency, from the time of his appointment as Supreme Court justice to his midnight appointment as Chief Justice

Corona was alleged to have betrayed public trust. Since it was former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who appointed him two days after the 2010 presidential elections, he had been shunning cases and orders against her.

Born October 15, 1948, Corona succeeded Reynato Puno as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. He had served as chief of staff (2000), and spokesperson (2001) of the current Pampanga representative before being appointed an associate justice (2002).

He became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on May 12, 2010 since he had been engaged in the practice of law for more or less 15 years.’ He also had been ‘a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.’ His appointment, though, was questioned since it was done ‘during the last hours of the term of office of the person in whom the right of making such appointment is vested.’

Culpable violation of the Constitution for non-disclosure of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth

Corona violated the Constitution when he did not declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) that he owns 19 properties amounting to about P200 million, the government prosecutors said.

The properties include condominium units in Makati, Taguig, Marikina and Quezon City registered under the name of Corona, his wife Cristina, their daughters Charina and Carla, and the latter’s husband Constantino Castillo.

The late president Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 379 (later amended as Presidential Decree No. 417) to compel anyone with gross assets of P50,000 or more, regardless of the net worth, to comply with the Republic Act 3019.

Undue closeness to Macapagal-Arroyo as shown by the appointment of the Chief Justice’s wife to a seat in the Bases Conversion and Development Authority

Proof to this was his wife’s appointment to the Board of the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) ‘over the objections of JHMC board members, management and rank-and-file employees who accused her of acts of misconduct and negligence and opposed her election as director and president.’

JHMC incurred a debt of P2.6 billion in 2008 from leasing 247 hectares of the John Hay Special Economic Zone in Baguio City. But instead of investigating why, the former president just ‘instructed all members of the JHMC to tender their courtesy resignations immediately.’ She also supported Mrs. Corona to become the OIC Chairman of the JHMC Board.

Betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution when he issued a status quo order ante that had suspended the hearings of the House justice committee on the impeachment case against previous Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez

Corona issued a status quo order ante suspending the hearings the House justice committee would have done even though several lawmakers had found enough evidence to try former ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

The status quo ante order found the impeachment complaints filed by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan sufficient in form and substance. Corona, along with Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama, and Diosdado Peralta, had, in a way, prevented further investigation on the NBN-ZTE scam, fertilizer fund scandal, "Euro generals" scandal, Mega-Pacific deal, and the Philip Pestaño case.

Voting on the cityhood cases and the creation of the province of Dinagat

Dinagat is a part of Surigao del Norte until Republic Act No. 9355 stated it a province in October 2, 2006.

Creation of the ethics committee to look into the plagiarism case against SC Justice Mariano del Castillo, which resulted in clearing Del Castillo of any liability

If not for the ethics committee Corona created to look into the plagiarism case against SC Justice Mariano del Castillo, the latter would have been liable.

Portions of the Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime written by Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, were quoted without attribution in the ruling on the case of Isabelita Vinuya of Malaya Lolas Organization vs. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo. Justice Del Castillo misused it to ‘justify why victims of war crimes should not be given legal remedy.’

The ethics committee was chaired by Corona, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (vice chair), and Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Jose Mendoza and Jose Perez.

Temporary restraining order on the travel ban on Mrs. Arroyo

Corona had issued a temporary restraining order allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to travel abroad.

The palace appealed but was denied to.

The SC even held De Lima in contempt for the latter’s refusal to obey the temporary restraining order.

It maintained that the travel ban is unconstitutional since GMA and her husband had not yet been charged with any crime.

Refusal to account for judicial development funds, special allowances and other court collections

Corona also refused to account for judicial development funds, special allowances and other court collections. It is his right, anyway, to ‘administer and allocate the Fund’ as well as to ‘approve the authorize disbursements and expenditures’ set by the Presidential Decree No. 1949.

The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the Philippines. It consists of the Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices, appointed by the following are the qualifications to become a member of the Supreme Court: Natural-born citizen of the Philippines; at least 40 years of age; a judge in a court of record for at least 15 years or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines for the same period; and a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence. They hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of 70 years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office. They can be removed only by impeachment. Grounds for impeachment include conviction of culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution, treason, bribery, other high crimes, or graft and corruption.


No comments: