MANILA, Philipines – A former lawyer of dismissed chief justice Renato Corona wants Justice Secretary Leila de Lima out of the race for the position of chief justice.
Rico Quicho, one of the defense lawyers of Corona during the latter’s impeachment trial, filed an opposition against De Lima before the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens the nominees for the President.
Quicho also moved for the inhibition of Iloilo Rep Niel Tupas from the JBC proceedings. Tupas, chief prosecutor in the Corona impeachment trial, is one of the two representatives of Congress in the JBC. The other one is Sen Francis Escudero, who voted to convict Corona.
Quicho said De Lima lacks the “competence, integrity and independence” required of a chief justice. On the other hand, he said Tupas is “partisan” because he served as the lead prosecutor in Corona’s impeachment trial.
Quicho also told Rappler that Tupas’ political affiliation – he is a partymate of President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal party – makes him vulnerable to presidential influence, thus weakening his independence as a JBC member.
In May, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, declared Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for not declaring assets amounting to P183-M. The verdict caused Corona’s immediate dismissal as chief justice.
De Lima testified against Corona during the trial. She also defied a Supreme Court order in November 2011 which allowed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband to travel abroad.
President Benigno Aquino III has until August to name a replacement. The JBC has set a self-imposed deadline of July 30 to submit a shortlist to Mr Aquino. That will also be the day the council will decide whether to disqualify De Lima or not.
Apart from Quicho’s letter, De Lima faces disbarment complaints.
In 2011, lawyers Ricardo Rivera and Augusto Sundiam went to the Supreme Court to file two disbarment complaints against De Lima.
Rivera said De Lima should be disbarred for defying the SC order that favored Mrs Arroyo.
Sundiam, on the other hand, said De Lima should be disbarred because of her stinging statement against Corona, whom she called on national television a “tyrant who holds himself above justice and accountability.” – Rappler.com
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