MANILA, Philippines – Mayors belonging to the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) on Friday, January 13, said they are willing to testify against impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona over alleged irregularities in the High Tribunal.
At a press conference, Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, the league’s secretary-general, said that the High Tribunal’s “flip-flopping” decisions on the cityhood of 16 municipalities have had a negative impact on cities nationwide.
The LCP said that it would like to know during the impeachment proceedings where Corona stood when the justices deliberated and eventually issued three rulings on the case – initially declaring the conversion of the 16 towns into cities as unconstitutional on May 21, 2009 and ending it with a third ruling reversing the decision on July 2011.
The final ruling exempted the 16 towns from the requirements of cityhood under the Local Government Code.
“For directly participating in irregularities that grossly violate the Supreme Court’s own rules of Procedure, Chief Justice Corona must be made accountable,” LCP’s press statement said.
“In case the prosecutors will ask us to stand as witnesses, we are more than willing to comply,” said Braganza.
The SC’s decision is contained in the 8 articles of impeachment filed against Corona.
Braganza acknowledged, however, that even if the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, finds Corona guilty, it is unlikely that the High Tribunal would reverse its third and latest ruling on the case.
“But in case he (Corona) will be convicted, at least we can be assured of reforms in the Supreme Court and the judiciary,” Braganza added.
The group cited “secret letters from unscrupulous lawyers” as among the reasons behind the justices’ flip-flopping decisions on the cityhood case.
In March last year, the LCP attributed the SC’s reversal of its own decision to an “unusual communication” from the firm of lawyer Estelito Mendoza, who represented the 16 cities.
The LCP has argued that the Local Government Code specifies that municipalities could only be converted to cities when they have a population of at least 150,000, are at least 100 square kilometers big, and has P100 million locally-generated income, an increase from the P20 million annual income originally stipulated in Section 450 of the said code.
In his reply to the Senate on the complaint, Corona described the move to attribute the cityhood decision to him as “unfair,” insisting that the SC is a “collegial body and its actions depend on the consensus among its members.”
Corona also cited a concurring opinion penned by Justice Roberto Abad. “It was a case of tiny shifts in the votes, occasioned by the consistently slender margin that one view held over the other,” Corona quoted Abad.
For his part, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn said that they want the impeachment trial to be able to finally explain to them how the decision was reached.
According to Hagedorn, Puerto Princesa’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) was slashed by P205-M to allocate additional funding to the newly-converted cities. In 2008, Puerto Princesa City had an IRA of P975-M.
Braganza emphasized that the league is not opposed to the creation of more cities. “We just need to be assured that future towns pass through the processes required by law before they are converted,” Braganza said. – Rappler.com