“We need to hold him accountable for the long list of anti-people rulings he supported to favor his patron Macapagal-Arroyo… But with this move we hope that the next Chief Justice would be truly independent and decide cases for the genuine interest of the people. We do not want an Arroyo court to be replaced by an Aquino court.” – Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO and RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Progressive groups have expressed support for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, saying “it is part of the struggle to hold former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo liable for her crimes against the people.”
Nathaniel Santiago, secretary general of Bayan Muna, said the SC, under the leadership of Corona, gave Mrs. Arroyo an opportunity to escape prosecution when it issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s watch list order against the former president and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In the impeachment complaint signed by 188 lawmakers at the House of Representatives, this was cited as “the biggest and most sensational charge against Corona. “The SC under Corona immediately acted upon the Macapagal-Arroyo’s petition and granted the TRO despite the fact that there are clear inconsistencies in the petition,” they said in the impeachment complaint.”
Although party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party, Kabataan Party-List and ACT Teachers Party-List signed the impeachment against Corona, they also warned against the creation of an “Aquino court.”
According to the impeachment complaint, 78 percent of Corona’s decision favored Arroyo.
Corona served Arroyo as her chief of staff, spokesman when she was vice president, presidential chief-of-staff, presidential spokesman, and acting executive secretary.
“We need to hold him accountable for the long list of anti-people rulings he supported to favor his patron Macapagal-Arroyo… But with this move we hope that the next Chief Justice would be truly independent and decide cases for the genuine interest of the people. We do not want an Arroyo court to be replaced by an Aquino court,” Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said.
Kabataan’s Raymond Palatino, in the meantime, said that “while the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona should be supported on the basis of his blind loyalty to former President Arroyo despite her crimes against the people, I stress the necessity to exercise vigilance against moves to establish as replacement an Aquino court.”
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said her group supported the impeachment move on behalf of the marginalized sectors that the Corona-led Supreme Court unjustly ruled against.
She cited the SC’s flip-flopping on the case of Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap). “The stewardesses who came to our office proved gender-discriminatory practices and decisions of PAL [Philippine Airlines] management,” De Jesus said.
The lawmakers who impeached Corona said the SC reversed its decision favoring the employees after receiving a letter from PAL counsel Estelito Mendoza.
Santiago pointed out that Corona favored the repressive policies of the then Arroyo administration, including the cases on Executive Order 464 and Proclamation 1017. In the first cases, Corona concurred that invoking executive privilege by department heads during Congressional hearings is valid. On the second, Corona dissented in the majority’s opinion that the PP 1017, Arroyo’s declaration of state of emergency, was partially unconstitutional.
Corona also voted against the airing of the wiretapped conversations allegedly between
Arroyo and then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garciliano. He also concurred in the decision that Rodolfo Neri was not liable for contempt for not appearing in the Senate hearings on the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal.
“Accountability in governance teaches us that we should have no higher interest than the interest of the majority who belong largely to poor and marginalized sectors of the society. For this, we believe that calling on Justice Corona’s accountability through an impeachment complaint is definitely paying service to the majority of Filipino population,” De Jesus said.
“There’s a pressing need to cleanse and transform our judiciary system that historically sides with the elite. This does not mean, however, that we should allow
as an alternative a new Supreme Court that has as its Chief Justice someone who is subservient to President Aquino,” Palatino said.
Palatino said the impeachment complaint against Corona should serve as a strong reminder to public servants to keep their fidelity to their mandated oath to always put above all else the rights and welfare of the people.
“This reminder also applies to President Aquino and his allies who seemingly want to exploit the situation by repeating, instead of traversing, the crimes of Arroyo. The next Chief Justice should be pro-people, not pro-Aquino,” he said.
The youth lawmaker said that despite the claims of social change touted by the Aquino administration, the policies it espouses remains within the framework of the past Arroyo administration.He cited the lack of genuine agrarian reform, ineffective poverty measures, continuing government neglect of basic social services and state violence against legitimate protests as concrete examples of the Aquino administration’s pursuance of Arroyo’s brand of leadership.
“President Aquino’s apparent bias toward his family in the case of Hacienda Luisita should not, for instance, lead to the reversal of the earlier Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution among farmer beneficiaries of the land. Vigilance is necessary against possible Palace machinations to merely establish a new SC that will kowtow to whatever demands of the current powers that be,” Palatino said.
Palatino said the resemblance of the Aquino and Arroyo administrations in terms of social polices makes it even more urgent for the people to play an active role in the process and outcome of the impeachment proceedings.
As of this writing, the impeachment complaint has already been delivered to the Senate. House Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas and Rep. Reynaldo Umali personally delivered the Articles of Impeachment.
In the impeachment complaint against Corona, the signatories said the chief justice betrayed public trust by showing partiality to the former Macapagal-Arroyo administration. They said Corona became chief justice through a “dubious midnight appointment.”
The complaint also included a table of 10 cases supposedly showing Corona’s voting pattern in cases involving Arroyo government’s frontal assaults on constitutional rights prior to his appointment .
Corona was also accused of betraying public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth as required by law such as the anti-graft and corrupt practices act. Corona is suspected of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high value and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits.
Corona was also accused of committing graft and corruption when he reportedly refused to account for the judiciary development fund (JDF) and special allowance for the judiciary (SAJ) collections.
The lawmakers said Corona likewise failed to account for funds released and spent for unfilled positions in the judiciary and from authorized and funded but not created courts. In particular, the annual audit report of the SC contained the observation that unremitted funds to the Bureau of Treasury amounted to P5.38 billion ($125 million). The SAJ along with the General Fund, JDF in the amount of P559.5 million ($13 million) were reportedly misstated resulting from delayed and/or non-preparation of bank reconciliation statements and non-recording /uncorrected reconciling items.