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MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Spokesperson Midas Marquez said President Benigno Aquino III should not preempt the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona by asking for a list of his possible replacement. Marquez reacted to Aquino’s statement that he already asked his legal advisers for the list in case Corona is convicted.
“Let’s not be too presumptuous,” Marquez said in a press briefing on Wednesday, December 28. “Huwag natin sigurong pangunahan ang mga senador.” (Let’s not preempt the senators.)
“The body with the mandate here is the JBC, the Judicial and Bar Council, to check all the qualifications, to screen all the applicants so let’s just follow the constitutional process if and when there is going to be a vacancy,” added Marquez in a mix of English and Filipino.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Aquino said there is no shortlist yet for the post but he already asked his legal team to prepare for a vacancy. He added that he is open to choosing a chief justice from outside the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also said the Palace is looking for a chief justice “of the likes of” his first appointee to the Court, Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Corona’s impeachment deepened a row between the executive and judicial branches of government, with Corona and Marquez tagging it as an attack on the judiciary. Corona’s trial at the Senate will begin in January 2012. He is accused of culpable violation of the constitution, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.
“No need for verification”
In the press conference, Marquez reiterated that Corona will not go on leave during the duration of his trial. The prosecution urges Corona to go on leave to spare the Court of the controversy and so that he can concentrate on his defense.
Marquez also defended the chief justice amid criticism from House prosecutors that he did not sign his reply to the articles of impeachment, making it unverified.
Prosecution panel spokesperson Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo said Tuesday, “Because this important part of his answer to the complaint is missing (the signature), we will not be able to hold the chief justice liable for perjury if he is found lying in any of his allegations in his answer.”
Marquez responded, “There is no requirement for the answer to be verified …. It’s not in the constitution, it’s not in the impeachment rules.”
Corona submitted his reply to the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, December 26. The prosecution is expected to submit its comment on Monday, January 2.
Marquez, however, clarified that he is not Corona’s spokesperson for the trial. He said the chief justice will introduce his spokesperson by mid-January or before the trial proper starts. – Rappler.com