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Corona bares alleged 'oust' plot, says he will defend SC


Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday vowed to remain in his post and defend the Supreme Court amid an alleged plan to oust him from office "by any means fair or foul." In a message before Supreme Court employees during the high court's weekly flag-raising ceremony, Corona said reports that came out Sunday "confirmed the mobilization of a secret plan" to remove him as Chief Justice.
 
But Corona, whose appointment as chief justice has been repeatedly questioned by the Aquino administration, said he will not leave his post.
 
"I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am your defender and most of all, I am your Chief Justice," he said. "Together we will face these challenges and fight all who dare to destroy the court and our system of justice under the Constitution." It was Corona's strongest message since President Benigno Aquino III lambasted him and a few Supreme Court decisions during the first National Criminal Justice summit last week.
 
After Aquino's speech in which the president raised questions about the Supreme Court's impartiality, Corona laughed off queries and declined to comment "in the spirit of Christmas." 
Sign of weakness
 
But speaking before court employees Monday morning, Corona said his silence on attacks against the judiciary should not be mistaken as a sign of  "weakness."
 
"I have been quietly preparing and will be ready to take more determined steps in the coming days," he said. "I want all of you to know that your chief justice continues to be in command and will lead the fight against any and all who dare to destroy the court and the independence of the judiciary." The mandatory retirement age for members of the Judiciary is 70, which means Corona, who was born in 1948, will not retire until the year 2018. Aquino's presidency ends in June 2016. Section 11, Article XVIII of the 1987 Constitution states that, "The incumbent Members of the Judiciary shall continue in office until they reach the age of seventy years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office or are removed for cause."  In addition, Section 2, Article XI of the Charter also states that, "The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust." Last week, an official of the ruling Liberal Party said there were no plans to initiate any impeachment moves against Corona. Aquino sits as LP chairman.  Ties with Arroyo
 
Several civil society leaders led by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros have called for Corona's inhibition from cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed him as chief justice in May 2010 shortly before her term ended.
 
They specifically asked Corona 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 DOJ-Comelec joint committee that conducted a preliminary investigation of alleged fraud during the 2007 elections. 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. 
 
Mrs. Arroyo is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for the electoral sabotage case the Comelec filed against the former president. — RSJ/HS, GMA News
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