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Chief Justice on Trial

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona impeached

December 12, 2011 7:42pm

The House of Representatives on Monday night approved the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona for alleged graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, and betrayal of public trust.
 
In a matter of hours, 188 of 284 congressmen signed the verified complaint against Corona, which allows it to be transmitted directly to the Senate without undergoing House committee deliberations.

Swift Action: How the House impeached Corona in a day
2:30 p.m. – Members of the majority coalition gathered inside the Andaya Hall of the House of Representatives for a caucus. At the start of the meeting, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. gave his opening statement. Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales explained the House leadership’s stand on Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment. Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. gave a presentation on the articles of impeachment.

4 p.m. – House majority members begin exiting the Andaya Hall. Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla said members of the majority were asked to voluntarily sign the impeachment complaint against Corona. Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño divulged that Corona is being impeached based on three offenses: betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption and culpable violation of the Constitution.

4:40 p.m. – House majority ends caucus. Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., House justice panel chair, enumerates articles of impeachment to the media, and revealed that more than 100 lawmakers have already signed the complaint. ACT Teachers’ party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said congressmen lined up to sign the impeachment complaint. Read more
Under House rules, an impeachment complaint has to be approved by one-third of all House members—in this case, 95 lawmakers—for it to be transmitted straight to the Senate for trial.

Corona is widely associated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is currently facing electoral sabotage charges in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2007 elections.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said the House will transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate on Tuesday, four days before the start of its Christmas recess.

Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, who presided over the plenary session, proceeded to order the House secretary-general to transmit the complaint to the Senate despite opposition from House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, who was questioning the swift action on the case.

Lagman had earlier described the impeachment complaint as the "mother of all blackmails."

Swift action
 
The 57-page impeachment complaint was formally approved by the chamber just hours after the House majority discussed the grounds for Corona’s ouster in a caucus.
 
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said majority lawmakers decided to impeach Corona on their own and not because of any orders from President Benigno Aquino III, who has been questioning the chief magistrate’s impartiality.
 
“Hindi ito utos, but definitely, he [Aquino] is in favor of it. We can say that he had been talking about this but it is really our own doing but with his full support,” he said.

Belmonte added that he informed Aquino regarding the House majority's move to impeach Corona during the caucus, to which the President replied, "Thanks."

The impeachment came on the same day Corona, at a flag ceremony at the Supreme Court, bared an alleged plan to oust him from office "by any means fair or foul." However, Corona vowed not to leave his post. His tenure ends in 2018.

Corona’s 'offenses'
 
Arroyo had appointed Corona to the high court in April 2002. A few days after the May 2010 presidential elections that Aquino won handily, and barely a month before she left office, Arroyo appointed Corona as chief justice, setting the stage for the high court's conflict with the executive branch.

Corona once served as Mrs. Arroyo's spokesman and chief of staff when the latter was still vice president. When Mrs. Arroyo was catapulted to the presidency in 2001, Corona then assumed various posts — presidential chief of staff, presidential spokesperson, and acting executive secretary. 

 
In the impeachment complaint, Corona is being accused of the following wrongdoings:

  • partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration;
  • failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN);
  • issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases;
  • issuance of the “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
  • decision in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province;
  • granting temporary restraining order in favor of former President Arroyo; and 
  • failure and refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) and special allowance for the judiciary collections

Ties with Arroyo
 
Several civil society leaders led by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros have called for Corona's inhibition from cases involving Mrs. Arroyo. They specifically asked him to inhibit from the petitions of Mrs. Arroyo, her husband former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, and former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos questioning the legality of the government panel that conducted a preliminary investigation of alleged fraud during the 2007 elections.

Mrs. Arroyo is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for the electoral sabotage case the Commission on Elections filed against her. She has repeatedly denied the accusation.

PNoy vs Corona
 
Since he became President, Aquino has never fully recognized Corona's legitimacy as the Supreme Court chief justice due to the circumstances of his appointment. Aquino said this was a violation of a constitutional ban on so-called "midnight appointments" by an outgoing leader.
 
Aquino's allies have said Mrs. Arroyo planted Corona in the Supreme Court as part of her efforts to protect herself from future criminal prosecutions. - KBK/YA, GMA News





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