Impeach complaint drags Corona’s wife

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Complaint cites eight grounds for Corona's impeachment, including posh apartment

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona betrayed public trust, violated the Constitution and is guilty of graft and corruption, allies of President Aquino wrote today in their impeachment complaint to be filed against Corona.

The draft complaint cited eight grounds for Corona’s impeachment. The key complainants named in the document are Representatives Niel Tupas, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Lorenzo Tañada, and Arlene Bag-Ao.

Administration allies are now holding a caucus to tackle the complaint and get at least 95 solons, or one-third of the House of Representatives, to sign the complaint. If there would be changes in the draft, it would more on style not on substance, lawmakers told us.

“Never has the position of Chief Justice, or the standing of the Supreme Court, as an institution, been so tainted  with the perception of bias and partiality, as it is now; not even in the dark days of martial law, has the chief magistrate behaved with such arrogance, impunity, and cynicism,” the complaint noted.

Corona’s “ethical blindness, introduction of political partisanship at the expense of due process, and intrigue into the Court at the expense of the reputation of his fellow justices, his undermining basic, and cherished principles of intellectual, financial and ethical honesty by using his powers not to arrive at the truth, or hold the court to the highest standards, but instead, to cover up and excuse shortcomings of the court, has betrayed public trust by eroding public confidence in the administration of justice,” the draft added.

The draft complaint charged Corona with committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betraying public trust based on the following accusations:

1.) Corona failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required by the Constitution. The draft complaint accused him of accumulating “ill-gotten wealth” through his recent purchase of a posh 300-square-meter Mega World apartment at the Fort in Taguig. “Has he reported this, as he is constitutionally required…in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth? Is this acquisition sustained and duly supported by his income as a public official? Since his assumption as Associate and subsequently, Chief Justice, has he complied with this duty of disclosure?”

2.) Corona failed to meet and observe “stringent standards” set by the Constitution for a “member of the judiciary” to be a “person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.” The draft complaint cited the “flip-flopping” of the “Corona Court” on the case involving the flight attendants and stewards of Philippine Airlines and on the case of the League of Cities, both of which were handled by lawyer Estelito Mendoza. “In this connection, [Corona’s] voting pattern even prior to his dubious appointment as Chief Justice, clearly proves a bias and manifest partiality for President Arroyo.” The complaint added: “It must be noted that under the law, bias need not be proven to actually exist; it is enough that the Chief Justice’s actions lend themselves to a reasonable suspicion that he does not posses the required probity and impartiality.”

Corona and his wife, Cristina Corona, accepted an appointment on March 23, 2007 from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Board of John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC), to a “well-paying job” as its president and director, the complaint said. The corporation is a government-owned-and-controlled corporation, it noted.

The management and rank-and-file of JHMC filed “serious complaints” against Mrs. Corona for alleged “serious irregularities” when she was at John Hay, the complaint said. Yet, “instead of acting on the serious complaints against Mrs. Corona, President Arroyo instructed all members of the JHMC to tender their courtesy resignations immediately.”

3.) Corona “blatantly disregarded” the principle of separation of powers by issuing a “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case involving resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The draft complaint said Corona “with undue haste” immediately tabled Gutierrez’s petition last year stopping the House from initiating impeachment proceedings against her, even if “not all the Justices had received or read the petition.” It added: “This was confirmed by Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in her dissenting opinion to the Feb. 11, 2011 decision stopping the House from impeaching Gutierrez. The latter eventually resigned. Replacing her is one of the justices who voted against the status quo ante order, Conchita Carpio-Morales.”

The draft cited a Newsbreak story on it, which noted that while a “a Supreme Court delivery receipt showed that most of the justices received Gutierrez’s petition, 3 justices received the petition only on Sept. 15, 2011, a day after the status quo ante order was granted.” The 3 justices were Presbitero Velasco, Luis Bersamin and Jose Perez; they all voted in favor of the status quo ante order that favored Gutierrez. (Read: Delivery receipt shows justices voted on Gutierrez petition before receiving copies.)

The draft complaint charged Corona with betraying public trust in the following cases:

4.) Corona carried a “track record marked by partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration” from the time he was named Chief Justice in May 2010. The complaint asserted that his appointment was “dubious” since it was made during the ban on appointments before, during and after an election period. Corona was named Chief Justice after the May 10, 2011 presidential race.

Again, the draft cited Newsbreak’s stories on Corona’s voting record, lodging a “high of 78 percent in favor of Arroyo.” (Read: Justice Corona’s voting record favors Arroyo.)

5.) Corona “arrogated unto himself and to a committee he created” the authority and jurisdiction to investigate plagiarism charges against a sitting justice, Mariano del Castillo. By doing this, Corona “encroached on the sole power and duty” of the House of Representatives to punish erring officials of constitutional bodies. Del Castillo is facing impeachment proceedings in the House.

6.) Corona granted a TRO to Mrs. Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel on Nov. 15, 2011, “to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice.” The High Court consolidated the two separate petitions filed by the couple, giving Mike Arroyo “an unwarranted benefit since the alleged urgent health needs of President Arroyo would now be extended to him.” The SC also immediately decided on it despite “clear inconsistencies” in Mrs. Arroyo’s petition that “cast serious doubts on the sincerity and urgency of her request to leave the Philippines.”

It charged the Chief Justice with culpable violation of the Constitution on the following grounds:

7.) Corona showed “arbitrariness” and “partiality” in disregarding the principle of res judicata [a matter already judicially acted upon] by deciding in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving 16 newly created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province. The SC had already ruled on the case and against the creation of these 16 new cities, but under Corona, the High Tribunal changed its mind again, raising protests from the League of Cities, which was a petitioner in the case. The Court acted on a “personal letter” of lawyer Estelito Mendoza, who was counsel for the new cities, the complaint added.

Finally, the complaint charged Corona with betraying public trust and committing graft and corruption based on the following:

8.) Corona failed and refused to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) Collections. The complaint said that under Corona’s leadership, “the Supreme Court has reportedly failed to remit to the Bureau of Treasury all SAJ collections in violation of the policy of transparency, accountability and good governance.” –

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