Corona: Nation is in peril of ‘one-man rule’

The Chief Justice warns that 'judicial independence is being undermined by transient powerholders of the government'

UNDER ATTACK. Corona warns of one-man rule. Screen grab courtesy of ANC.

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona said the country seems to be leaning toward ‘one-man rule’ as he urged women judges on March 14, Thursday, to continue fighting for judicial independence.

Corona, in a speech delivered before the Philippine Women Judges’ Association at the Manila Hotel, said “recent events” signal an impending “one-man rule,”  where “the executive aims to shackle judicial independence.”

Malacañang has backed Corona’s impeachment in December 2011, with President Benigno Aquino III saying the fight against corruption will not be won if reforms in the judiciary do not happen.

Corona is now the subject of an impeachment trial for allegedly showing partiality toward his former superior, ex-President Gloria Macagapal Arroyo and for purported betrayal of public trust. Arroyo’s selection of Corona has been criticized as a “midnight appointment” because it was done amid an appointments ban, where the executive is barred from making any appointments 2 months before the elections and up until her term ends on June 30.

The SC, in 2010, however ruled that the judiciary is exempted from the said ban, reversing a decision it made in 1998. 

Asked to comment, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “This is a ridiculous accusation. The past year, I think, when he came in he was called a ‘wimp.'”

Lacierda asked: “What will be the next here? He will be called a ‘wimpy dictator’?”

‘Transient powerholders’

Corona will retire only in 2018, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. If he gets convicted and is removed from his post, Aquino will appoint his successor. 

Corona lamented the legislative and the executive being both on the offensive against the judiciary. “Judicial independence is being undermined by transient powerholders of the government,” he said.

He added that even as the legislative and the executive enjoy certain powers under the 1987 Constitution, there is nothing in the charter which gives them the authority to abuse it. Hence, the SC enjoys the right to of judicial review, where it can determine if grave abuse of discretion has been committed.

He stressed that the judiciary must be insulated from “political pressure, popularity surveys, and coercion from executive and legislative departments.” 

He thanked women judges for “standing by the side of the Court.”

The PWJA, headed by Justice Teresita de Castro, had issued a manifesto opposing the impeachment trial, saying it has “destroyed” the image of the judiciary. –