Can Corona be guilty of collegial act?

Natashya Gutierrez
'Why would you single out Corona if there were 8 justices who issued the TRO?'

COLLEGIAL ACT. Defense counsels of Chief Justice Renato Corona told the media that he cannot be liable for a collegial act. February 22, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – How can you blame one person for a collegial act?

This is how the defense counsels of Chief Justice Renato Corona retorted on Wednesday, February 22, following accusations he was partial towards former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The accusation is contained in Article 7, which pertains to the issuance by the Supreme Court of a temporary restraining order (TRO). The TRO allowed Arroyo and her husband to travel, notwithstanding a watchlist order issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against them.

The prosecution has alleged that the issuance of the TRO proved Corona’s partiality towards the former president.

Saying that the TRO was not immediately effective, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima stopped the Arroyos from traveling on November 15 when they tried to leave as soon as it was issued.

The prosecution’s first witness for Article 7, De Lima told the impeachment court she stopped their departure because the conditions for the TRO were not yet complied with.

Corona did not ‘act alone’

The defense insisted that it is illogical to blame Corona for the issuance of a TRO because the decision was made with 12 other justices. Corona’s counsels said the Chief Justice cannot be held liable for collegial decisions. The justices voted 8-5 to grant Arroyo a TRO.

Bakit mo kailangan i-single out si Corona kung 8 mahistrado ang nag-issue ng TRO?” asked defense spokesperson Rico Quicho. “Wala talagang matibay na ebidensiya na si Chief Justice Corona ay may ginawang mali o may impluwensiya…hindi natin narinig yan.”

(Why would you single out Corona if there were 8 justices who issued the TRO? There’s no strong evidence pointing to Chief Justice Corona as having done anything wrong or that he had extensive influence…we did not hear that.)



Co-defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III also pointed out that when questioned by Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, De Lima herself said she has no personal knowledge that Corona acted alone.

“Is there any instance that the respondent acted alone in issuing any order, any process or any resolution bearing on this particular issue?” Enrile asked de Lima.

“The direct answer to that question is no,” de Lima responded.

Salvador also said that the Supreme Court is able to issue TROs without an oral argument and that these can take effect until further orders are issued.

Cloak of collegiality

De Lima likewise testified she believed there was a conspiracy in the issuance of the TRO, but the defense dismissed it as an opinion. While she mentioned that Corona may not have acted alone, there was reason to think he had a hand in the decision, she said, going by the dissenting opinion of Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Prosecutors argued that Corona used his administrative powers as Chief Justice to allow the former president to leave the country. They insisted that the TRO was issued without the SC first hearing oral arguments, even if Arroyo was not in a life-or-death situation.

House prosecutor Neri Colmenares, who is in charge of Article 7, said Corona “cannot hide behind the cloak of collegiality.” Voting by the other justices in favor of the TRO does not absolve Corona of committing acts of partiality. Speaking in Filipino, Colmenares explained his point by saying that if one of 10 thieves was arrested, that thief cannot say that a case may not be filed against him just because the others were not caught.

Colmenares also cited the High Tribunal’s decision in the Asuncion case, where Court of Appeals (CA) Justice Elvi John S. Asuncion was dismissed from office in 2007.

The Supreme Court decision dismissed Asuncion’s contention that the resolutions of the CA in relation to a case involving the Philippine National Bank were collegial. He was dismissed from service “for gross ignorance of the law” and for showing “undue interest in a case.” Asuncion was punished “for unduly delaying the resolution of numerous pending motions for reconsideration.”



Colmenares also mentioned that one of the duties of the Chief Justice is to order the clerk of court to write resolutions based on notes taken by the justices during the meeting.

He said Corona, however, changed what the justices had earlier agreed upon, to favor Arroyo. Colmenares added that the justices decided that conditions still had to be met before the TRO could take effect, but that Corona made it immediately effective.

Ibig pala nilang sabihin (They mean to say), the constitutional requirement which says each justice must be of proven independence, integrity, probity, will never be triggered at all. Bakit? Kasi all the decisions naman ng court collegial (Why? Because all the decisions of the court are collegial),” said Colmenares.

Pero hindi. Kinakasuhan si Chief Justice Corona dito for his individual act of partiality in favoring GMA para makatakas ito at idinistort niya pa ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema regarding the conditions ng TRO. At iyan para sa amin sa prosecution ay more than enough to convict him for betrayal of public trust.”

(But no, a case is being filed here against Chief Justice Corona for his individual act of partiality in favoring GMA to allow her to escape. And he even distorted the Supreme Court decision regarding the conditions of the TRO. That, for us in the prosecution, is more than enough to convict him for betrayal of public trust.) – Rappler.com

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