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Corona sends erratum

Purple S. Romero

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The Chief Justice's reply to the 8 articles of impeachment against him

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached on Dec.12, 2011 for graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution. The magistrate has denied the charges against him in a reply sent to the Senate on Dec. 26.

On Dec. 29, 2011, however, his defense team sent an erratum over what they described as “typographical errors” in their reply to the articles of impeachment, when they claimed that other justices voted more times in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo than Corona did.

In essence, the erratum admitted that based on Corona’s voting pattern since he was named to the High Tribunal in 2002 until 2010, Corona’s “pro-GMA votes” constituted 74% of the votes he cast.

In filing 8 articles of impeachment against Corona, more than 1/3 of the House of Representatives (188 lawmakers) have accused him of the following:
1. Corona failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) as required by the Constitution. He bought a posh 300-sq-m Mega World apartment at the Fort in Taguig, but prosecutors said that without him disclosing his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), it would be difficult to determine how he was able to afford such property. Read our investigation into Corona’s properties here.

Corona’s reply: Corona admitted that he and his wife purchased, on installment, a 300-sq. m. apartment in Taguig but which they declared in his SALN.

The Constitution requires the submission by public officials of their SALN. Corona claimed that he filed his with the Clerk of Court. On disclosing the SALN to the public, the SC came out with resolutions in 1989 and 1992 providing conditions to the release of the SALN.

2. Corona did not inhibit in cases involving his former superior, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (Corona was Arroyo’s former chief of staff and acting spokesperson) and despite the fact that his wife, Cristina Corona, was nominated to the board and later appointed CEO of John Hay Management Corp (JHMC) by Mrs Arroyo. His voting pattern showed bias for the former chief executive.

Corona’s reply: He is not the only magistrate who has previously worked with Arroyo, citing Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who used to be Arroyo’s legal counsel and took a leave as senior partner of the Carpio, Villaraza and Cruz law firm (now named Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco), and retired Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, who also used to be Arroyo’s legal counsel. The two also did not inhibit in cases involving the former president.

On his voting pattern, Corona cited the article “Judicial Politics in Unstable Democracies: The Case of the Philippine Supreme Court, an Empirical Analysis 1986- 2010,” from which he quoted the following: “Justice Antonio Carpio who served as GMA’s Chief Presidential Legal Adviser cast 19 pro-administration votes as against 11 anti-administration votes or around 66% pro-GMA votes. Justice Arturo Brion, who served as GMA’s Labor Secretary cast 5 pro-administration votes against 8 anti-administration votes or around 33% pro-GMA votes. Actually, CJ Corona in this study cast 8 pro-administration votes against 28 anti-administration votes or around only 29% pro-GMA votes.”

However, on Dec.29, 2011, he sent an erratum, through counsel Jacinto Jimenez, noting that there were “typographical errors” in the first reply. Thus, what should have been quoted was:

“Justice Antonio Carpio, who served as GMA’s Chief Presidential Legal Adviser cast 9 pro-administration votes as against 11 anti-administration votes or around 55% pro-GMA votes. Justice Arturo Brion, who served as GMA’s Labor Secretary cast 2 pro-administration votes against 0 anti-administration votes or around 100% pro-GMA votes. Actually, CJ Corona in this study cast 14 pro-administration votes against 5 anti-administration votes or around only 74% pro-GMA votes.”

(Disclosure: The author was a researcher for the cited article). 

Corona also argued that his wife was appointed to the JHMC in 2001, prior to his appointment to the SC in 2002.

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 even as copies of the petition have yet to be received by other members of the court.

Corona’s reply:  While copies of the petition were not given to all justices, a detailed report on it was. Also, the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court do not require copies to be furnished to all members when the petition has been identified as urgent. 

4. Corona’s appointment is questionable because it was made amid the appointment ban, which bars the president from making any appointments two months before the election and until her term ends on June 30.

Corona’s reply: The SC has ruled on this with finality, saying the judiciary is exempted from the ban.

5. Corona created an ethics committee to investigate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, who was accused of plagiarism. Only the House of Representatives has the authority to probe and punish erring members of the judiciary.

Corona’s reply: Corona did not the create the ethics committee; it was created under the time of Chief Justice Reynato Puno through a resolution issued by the en banc.

6.  Corona granted a TRO to Mrs. Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel on Nov. 15, 2011, which would have allowed her to go abroad even as she was facing a preliminary investigation for her reported role in alleged cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections. The TRO was issued with undue haste; office hours were extended to allow Arroyo to post the required bond of P2million. The member-in-charge of the TRO also recommended that a hearing be held first before a TRO was issued; this was not heeded.

Corona’s reply: It is “widely known” that the SC will act on the petitions for TRO on Nov.15, hence “it is not surprising” that the Arroyos have prepared for it. The SC en banc is not bound by the recommendation of the member-in-charge, or the magistrate where the petition was raffled to.  Deliberations were conducted before a TRO was issued.

7. Corona disregarded the principle of res judicata [a matter already judicially acted upon] as the Court under him flip-flopped on cases involving the conversion of 16 municipalities to cities, the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province and a labor case involving the Philippine Airlines. The court reopened cases following letters sent by lawyer Estelito Mendoza, counsel for the 16 municipalities and PAL.

Corona’s reply: It is common practice that lawyers and litigants write the SC; the Clerk of Court would refer these to the proper division. Corona inhibited from the case on PAL. The alleged flip-flopping of the Court should not be blamed on Corona, as the SC is a collegial body.

8. Corona failed to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.

Corona’s reply: Reports on the JDF have been submitted to the Department of Budget and Management and the Commission on Audit. On the SAJ collections, the judiciary has exclusive authority over it and thus has “no duty” to remit it to the Bureau of Treasury. – Rappler.com

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