No one is Above the Law
House prosecutor talks on trial of Chief Justice

CenPEG News
Jan. 31, 2012

The embattled chief justice of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona, cannot hide behind the cloak of collegiality for individual acts that betray the public trust.

Rep. Neri Colmenares of the House prosecution panel stressed this point during CenPEG’s Fellowship Breakfast Roundtable Discussion with Insiders on Jan. 22 this year at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.

The congressman is also the lead prosecutor for Article 7 of the impeachment. Corona is on trial under eight Articles of Impeachment centering on betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and graft and corruption. The current chief justice, who was put in charge of the Supreme Court (SC) in a controversial “midnight appointment” by then President Gloria M. Arroyo a few months before her 9-year term ended, faces a possible verdict of guilty for any of the charges.

Colmenares, who was Bayan Muna’s lead counsel, pointed out that at least 70 percent of decisions rendered by the Supreme Court (SC) under Corona’s leadership was biased often in favor of former President Gloria M. Arroyo and can be explained by the chief magistrate’s close association with her. Critics as well as defense lawyers of Corona opine that Corona cannot be singled out for alleged betrayal of public trust since all decisions are made by the SC acting as a “collegial body.”

There is sufficient evidence to show that Corona used his discretionary powers as chief justice in violation of the oath he took to render justice with integrity, independence and impartiality, Colmenares observed.

The BM congressman also likened the impeachment as a “people’s case” and should not be taken alone as an impeachment inspired by current President Benigno S. Aquino II. Spokespersons of Aquino had stated that Corona was an obstacle to the prosecution of Arroyo for election plunder and other cases. They assured, however, that the chief justice’s removal by impeachment is a major step toward reforming the justice system.

Colmenares earlier questioned the use of stringent court rules invoked by the defense lawyers of Corona and by a few senators that delayed the impeachment trial and made it difficult for truth to be ferreted out. In a newspaper interview, he said the “obsession with the rules is now getting out of hand. It is meant to allow CJ Corona to confuse the issue and delay his trial. It is absurdly based on the arrogant belief that anything that is not provided in the rules of court does not accord due process.”

The CenPEG Fellowship with Insiders is a series of roundtable discussions aimed at bringing insights into controversial issues and to aid the research center’s policy perspectives. Together with other forums and conferences organized by CenPEG, its speakers, among others, have included: former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, the late Commissioner Hayde Yorac, former human rights commissioner (now justice secretary) Leila de Lima, peace talks negotiators including those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Sen. Joker Arroyo, former UP President Jose Abueva, Makabayan coalition stalwart Satur Ocampo, and former 1986 constitution commissioner Wilfrido Villacorta.

CenPEG’s Fellowship roster includes academic leaders, inter-disciplinary scholars, policy analysts, lawyers, artists, and mass leaders.

The Jan. 22 event was in partnership with the Office of UP President Alfredo Pascual. CenPEG News

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