MANILA, Philippines – If the 4 Supreme Court justices the prosecution wants subpoenaed would appear before the impeachment court, they would be able to finally shed light on this contentious matter: did Chief Justice Renato Corona participate or not in a labor case involving the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Airlines (FASAP)?
Corona insisted that he has inhibited from the labor case since 2008.
But FASAP said this is a lie, as Corona was allegedly part of the en banc that, on Oct.4, 2011, recalled an earlier ruling by the Court’s second division ordering the flag carrier to reinstate some 1,400 employees it retrenched in 1998 following the financial crisis.
In that en banc verdict, the SC decided to re-open the case, which had already been ruled on with finality by the second division.
The SC decision came after Philippine Airlines management lawyer Estelito Mendoza wrote the Court 4 times in 2011. Mendoza questioned why the second division issued a decision on the case when it was the third division that handled previous pleadings related to the legal dispute.
On Tuesday, February 7, the prosecution asked the impeachment court to issue a subpeona to the following SC justices:
a. Justice Martin Villarama
b. Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
c. Justice Bienvenido Reyes
d. Justice Presbitero Velasco
Velasco is also a member of the second division, whose other members include Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco, Teresita de Castro and Mariano del Castillo.
Bob Anduiza, FASAP president, has also been asked to testify in the impeachment court.
The FASAP case is cited in Article 3 of the impeachment complaint, which alleges that Corona betrayed public trust because he failed to meet the requirements of probity and integrity.
Article 3 is scheduled to be tackled this week.
FASAP spokesman Dennis Ortiz told reporters at a protest rally on Tuesday, February 7, that Corona should be made liable for the recall of the SC case, even if it was an en banc resolution and was thus voted upon by other 14 justices. Ortiz said that as Chief Justice, he could have used his stature to question the recall.
What puts Corona in hot water in this case, though, is the issue of conflict-of-interest.
The prosecution said that Corona and his wife, Mrs. Corona, received PAL platinum cards before the SC decided on the FASAP case. Rep. Arlene ‘Kaka’ Bag-ao said in news reports that the said privilege is only extended to those close to the PAL boss, tycoon Lucio Tan.
SC’s special en banc
SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said that the high tribunal will hold a special en banc session on Thursday, February 9, to tackle the prosecution’s request to have the 4 justices subpoenaed.
He said that the court wanted “to take a stand” on this issue, as the Court’s status as one of the co-equal branches of the government should be taken into consideration.
The SC took up the matter during its en banc deliberations on Tuesday, February 6, but Marquez said some magistrates wanted to submit their written views on the issue. – Rappler.com
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