Manila judges vow to back Corona in row vs Malacanang

Purple S. Romero

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Judges say impeachment charges an assault not only on Corona but on all the rights, power and privileges of the entire judiciary

MANILA, Philippines – They wore mostly red and green during their Tuesday Christmas party at the Diamond Hotel but on Wednesday, December 14, judges of the Manila regional trial court say they will march to Malacañang wearing black.

Judge Antonio Eugenio, newly-installed president of Manila RTC Judges Association, said that holding a black protest and marching to Malacañang are two of the options they are looking at to show their opposition to the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Previously, over 180 members of the House of the Representatives signed an impeachment complaint against Corona on Monday, December 12.

The complaint cited eight grounds, one of which is the Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining the Department of Justice and Bureau of Immigration from enforcing watch list orders against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel.

DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima previously placed the Arroyo couple under the immigration watch list on grounds that they are under preliminary investigation for their alleged involvement in the alleged vote-rigging in the 2007 senatorial elections.

President Benigno Aquino III said the issuance of TRO showed Corona partiality’s to the one who appointed him – Arroyo.

Judiciary’s independence

“They complain that the TRO was issued only after three days. What can you say about the body that issued articles of impeachment after only one hour?” Eugenio said.

He added that now is the time for judges to be vigilant in protecting the independence of the judiciary vis-a-vis the executive and the legislative.
“Let the judges be separate, and let us be independent on our own,” he said.

Eugenio added that the voice of the Manila RTC judges may be “small,” but stressed that “where the judges of Manila go, the rest of the Philippine judges go.”

“Four years ago, Chief Justice Reynato Puno called us the daring judges of Manila. Today calls for daring actions – the dare to get involved, get committed, dare to defend the very institution we represent from those who seek its destruction.”

Assault not on Corona alone?

Eugenio said this following scathing remarks made by Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, who denounced the “blitzkrieg fashion” in which the allies of President Benigno Aquino III in the lower house impeached Corona.

Eugenio said that the impeachment of the chief justice was not just a personal attack on him, but on the whole judiciary.

“Make no mistake. This is an assault not only the person of Chief Justice Corona, not only on his office, not only on the Supreme Court. This is an assault on all the rights, power and privileges of the entire judiciary,” he said.

“We are being forced to surrender our constitutionally-mandated powers and functions to the whim and caprice of political machinations. If you have read the complaint, and I urge all of you to do so, any lawyer worth his salt will have difficulty finding sustainable charges worthy of a conviction in an impeachment proceeding.”

From budget wars to impeachment

This is not the first time the judges and court personnel have been at loggerheads with the Aquino administration.

The judges have previously launched what they termed as “Black Protest Mondays” as part of the budget battle between the judiciary and the executive.

The Department of Budget and Management previously wanted to place P2 billion of the judiciary’s fund and that of constitutional commissions under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Funds, a pool of funds that would be released only when positions are filled.

The DBM introduced this to discourage the practice of converting savings – the money not used due to unfilled positions – for other purposes, as what has been done in the military.

Eugenio and members of three judges’ associations on the other hand, considered marching to Malacanang in the height of the row between the DBM and the judges over the latter’s special allowances. (Read: Judges should blame Congress not budget dep’t for salary mess.) –

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