“This is a historic moment… Aside from the judiciary, even the executive and the legislative are virtually on trial as far as the bar of public opinion is concerned. All of them will be watched and judged by the public.” – Gloria Panagutin Movement
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Groups led by Gloria Panagutin Movement held a mass action near the Senate compound, Jan. 16, Monday, during the first day of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives last December. Grounds for his impeachment include betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and graft and corruption and his “undue closeness” to Arroyo.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said the impeachment process should serve its principal purpose: to exact accountability from the Chief Justice, help in the prosecution of Arroyo and expose the corruption of Arroyo as well as, misdeeds in the judiciary.
“People should not let this pass (make Corona accountable). If we can make lawmakers accountable for corruption, the same should hold true for all justices, not just the Chief Justice” Reyes added.
Speaking during the mass action, Rita Baua of Bayan said: “As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – the last bastion of justice – Corona has betrayed public trust because the Supreme Court’s decisions mostly sided with Arroyo.”
Baua cited the issuance of the temporary restraining order against the hold departure order on Arroyo, the declaration as unconstitutional of the Truth Commission that should have investigated cases of graft and corruption against Arroyo and the upholding of executive privilege that allowed Romulo Neri not to disclose his conversation with former president Arroyo regarding the anomalous broadband deal.
In a separate statement, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said: “CJ Corona, in his capacity as Supreme Court Justice, proved to be an invaluable element in the legal and political infrastructure built to protect the former President from prosecution. This makes him just as liable and just as guilty.”
Ilagan said “Corona should be made accountable just as former President Arroyo must be made accountable for human rights violations, plunder and electoral sabotage.”
“We believe that the Chief Justice is a major impediment in the speedy resolution of the cases against Arroyo,” Gabriela secretary general Lana Linaban said.
“This is a historic moment. Rarely has the institution of the judiciary been under this kind of scrutiny. All of our institutions are on trial here. Aside from the judiciary, even the executive and the legislative are virtually on trial as far as the bar of public opinion is concerned. All of them will be watched and judged by the public,” the group Gloria Panagutin! said in a statement.
Among the conveners of the Gloria Panagutin Movement, an alliance seeking the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are Fr. Joe Dizon; award-winning director and actor Bibeth Orteza of Pagbabago!; Mo. Mary John Mananzan of the Benedictine Sisters; whistleblower in the anomalous broadband deal Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada; Dr. Carol Araullo, chairwoman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; Mrs. Edith Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas; and Edre Olalia, secretary general of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
“To the public prosecutors, do not underestimate the defense. Adhere to substance over grandstanding. To the senator judges, we ask for fairness and a swift trial. To the defense, we hope they will not engage in dilatory tactics and instead address the issues head on,” said Dizon, convenor of the alliance.
Reyes said it is not only the SC that is on trial, but all the agencies of the government. The impeachment process should reveal more corruption cases in the government, said Reyes.
In a related development, the Kabataan Party-list, with participation of law student members of NUPL and the Department of Social Sciences of the University of the Philippines in Manila, launched an impeachment watchdog alliance called “#i-monitor.”
The #i-monitor alliance is composed of youths, students, professionals, concerned citizens and groups. It is part of youth initiatives “to ensure that social justice will prevail during and after the impeachment proceedings,” according to Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino said.
“We have to challenge the idea that only those immediately involved in the impeachment trial have the power and right to direct the course and outcome of the proceedings. We may not have the battery of lawyers and legal experts from both the defense and prosecuting teams, but we have the mass movement, which we shall rely on and activate in pursuance of genuine social justice. The situation is excellent for an intensified people’s action amidst the chaos among the ruling elite,” Palatino said.
Terry Ridon, convenor of #i-monitor and graduate of UP Law school, said the alliance will monitor the impeachment trial, arrange audience trips to the Senate, organize forums and discussions, utilize social networking sites to call for the conviction of Corona and prosecution of Arroyo and hold mass actions.
Caution vs Aquino
Bayan’s Reyes issued a warning to the Aquino administration. “…[w]e caution those in power not to use the impeachment process to strengthen the control of the current regime over all branches of government. The impeachment process should also not distract us from the bigger goals of holding Arroyo accountable and addressing the many problems of the nation, especially on the economic front,” Reyes said.
In the same vein, Ilagan said: “… [j]ust as we abhor and protest the creation of a pro-Arroyo Supreme Court under CJ Corona, we shall remain watchful of any attempt to create a Supreme Court molded to protect the interests of President Aquino and his minions.”
Dizon of Gloria Panagutin Movement said: “To the president Benigno Aquino III, we hope the impeachment would not be a convenient scapegoat for its weakness in going after Arroyo.”
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus challenged Aquino to be “as zealous in holding Gloria Arroyo answerable for her sins as he has been in his attacks against Corona.”
“As all eyes are turned to the first day of the Senate hearing on the Corona Impeachment case, we should not forget that the higher goal is to see Gloria Arroyo face justice. As a former President, Arroyo held the highest accountability in the land and she should be made liable for all her sins…” De Jesus said.
“Let it not be said that after all of Arroyo’s crimes, the Aquino administration simply slapped her on the wrist. The country owes that much to the many poor Filipinos victimized by Arroyo’s anti-people policies over the long period she clung to her crown in Malacañang,” De Jesus said.