GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Misamis Oriental Gov Oscar Moreno knows what it takes to prosecute a high public official. In December 2000, he was one of the members of the House of Representatives who impeached and prosecuted then President Joseph Estrada.
If he had his way, Moreno would prefer not to comment on how his peers have been prosecuting the second Philippine official to be impeached in a decade, Chief Justice Renato Corona.
When asked about it, he merely said: “I just hope the country will emerge stronger, wiser and more mature after the trial, regardless of the outcome.”
Moreno declined to comment on how the prosecution has handled the case so far. He’s apparently wished them well though. In one of the sessions of the ongoing trial, Moreno was seen bantering with members of the prosecution panel.
Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, on the other hand, has not issued any public statement on the trial. But he is said to have told those who repeatedly sought his comments that he just wanted the trial to “take its due course.”
Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez likewise initially refused to comment on what has transpired so far in the trial. But he later said the exercise is fast turning into a “circus.”
He added: “I just hope that when all these are over with, we will be able to restore the respect and dignity of public office.”
Corona and his perceived nemesis in the High Tribunal, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, are no strangers to the governor.
It was Carpio who administered the oath of office of Dominguez when the latter first won in 2004 and again in 2010. (Dominguez is on his third and last term.)
Dominguez also invited Corona during the groundbreaking ceremony of the annex building of the Hall of Justice in Sarangani, which was funded largely by Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao.
(During the trial, it was revealed that Mrs Corona traveled to General Santos City in 2011 using a PAL platinum card issued to the Chief Justice. This coincided with the March 3, 2011 official visit of her husband in nearby Sarangani, where the latter was guest of honor during the said groundbreaking ceremony.)
General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino Custodio, a former congresswoman who signed all 3 impeachment complaints against Corona’s benefactor and former boss ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said she is so far satisfied with the conduct of the trial.
“My only hope is for the process to take its course,” Custodio added. She conceded that the trial is divisive but stressed it’s part of a healthy political process.
The city mayor however said Corona may no longer have the moral ascendancy to remain in office, regardless of the outcome of the trial.
“For me, public office is a public trust. If the public does not trust you anymore, whether it is valid or not…it (Corona’s continued stay as chief justice) is going to be a disservice to the institution,” Custodio added.
Custodio’s observation is shared by lawyer Carlos Zarate, immediate past president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’s (IBP) Davao City chapter.
Incumbent IBP Davao City chapter president Jonathan “Butch” Jocom said Corona’s impeachment trial should serve as a wake-up call for Supreme Court justices.
But Jocom stressed that their chapter has adopted the stand of the IBP national leadership. The lawyers’ group is perceived to be supportive of Corona and has criticized the way the House rushed the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.
Roan Libarios, IBP national president, is from Butuan City and, like Gov Moreno, was also part of the prosecution panel during the Estrada impeachment trial.
A member of the left-leaning lawyer’s group Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindnanao, Zarate believes one of the reasons behind the impeachment of Corona was the Supreme Court’s decision on Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the Cojuangco side of the President’s family.
Predictably, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao sees the Corona impeachment trial as an extension of the contradiction between and among the country’s “ruling elite.”
“(The trial) only shows the irreconcilable conflict of self-interest within the ruling class, and furthermore exposes just how deep and barefaced bureaucrat-capitalism has rapaciously divested from the Filipino people,” communist leader George Madlos said in a statement issued on January 20, four days after the trial began.
Its Moro counterpart has also taken a disinterested stand on the trial of the country’s chief magistrate.
Majority of the Mindanaoans, after all, have more pressing concerns, such as recurring brownouts and security threats. – Rappler.com
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