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In just a matter of hours, members of the majority coalition at the House of Representatives on Monday agreed to directly send to the Senate the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose impartiality is being questioned by no less than President Benigno Aquino III.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairperson of the House justice panel which prepared the case, said a total of 176 members of the majority signed the complaint during a caucus on Monday afternoon. The figure is more than the required number for the case to be transmitted directly to the Senate. 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 able to be transmitted straight to the Senate for trial.
“We believe that Chief Justice Corona is a major part in a grand design to protect his patron, that is why we are now in the process of impeaching the chief justice,” Tupas said. The ruling party’s move came a few hours after Corona, at a flag ceremony at the Supreme Court, bared an alleged plan to oust him from office by any means fair or foul." He, however, said he will not leave his post.
Corona is widely associated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had appointed him to the high court in April 2002 and, just before she stepped down from the presidency in May 2010, appointed him chief justice. 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.
The chief magistrate has been on the receiving end of tirades from the President for his supposed lack of impartiality. Aquino sits as chairperson of the ruling Liberal Party.
According to Tupas, Corona is being accused of three impeachable offenses: graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
The House justice panel chair likewise said that his committee proposed Corona’s impeachment based on the following grounds:
- 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 then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
- decision in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving the 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.
Tupas said the House will formalize Corona’s impeachment during Monday afternoon’s plenary session.
‘Mother of all blackmails’
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, for his part, criticized the approval of the impeachment complaint, describing it as “the mother of all blackmails.”
Lagman said many of the administration allies were just “blackmailed into signing the impeachment complaint by threatening those who would refuse to sign with the deprivation” of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF), commonly known as the “pork barrel.”
“The derogation of our democratic institutions is almost complete with the emasculation of the House of Representatives, the violation of civil liberties, the impairment of the rule of law, and now, the destruction of the Supreme Court and the judiciary,” he said in a statement.
He added that the administration is also blackmailing SC justices “not to decide on pending cases against the Aquino administration, otherwise, the wrath of impeachment will be on them.”
The opposition leader also appealed to the senators who will act as judges in the impeachment trial to “be strong and judicious” and “not to succumb to similar blackmails.” — RSJ/KBK, GMA News