Why is the country’s chief justice on trial?

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/16 January) Chief Justice Renato
Corona, or at least his defense panel, is facing senator-judges Monday
afternoon on the first day of his historic impeachment trial.

Corona is the third high-ranking government official impeached by
Congress after then President Joseph Estrada and Ombudsman Merceditas
Gutierrez.  Estrada was later ousted before the impeachment court
could decide on his trial in 2001. Gutierrez has since resigned last
year.

Corona is the first Philippine chief justice to be subjected to an
impeachment. He has hired a power house defense panel among them
retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, his 83-year old lead counsel.

The prosecution panel of the House of Representatives, led by Iloilo
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr, has submitted eight articles of impeachment or
reasons they need to probe in the Senate why Corona should be removed
from office.

The articles were the following (as the panel submitted to the Senate):

•       Partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo
administration from the time of his appointment as Supreme Court
associate justice up to his dubious midnight appointment as Chief
Justice and up to the present.

•       Failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets,
liabilities, and net worth (SALN) as required under Section 17 Article
XI of the Constitution.

•       Failure to meet and observe the stringent standards under the
Constitution that provided that a member of the judiciary must be a
person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence in
allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel
which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and
executory cases; in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs.
Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in
discussing with litigants cases pending in  the Supreme Court.

•       Blatantly disregarding the principle of separation of powers by
issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives
in the case concerning the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas
Gutierrez.

•       Wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the
principle of res judicata, or resurrecting decided cases, and in
deciding in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving the 16
newly created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a
province;

•       Arrogating unto himself, and to a committee he created, the
authority and jurisdiction to improperly investigate an alleged erring
member of the Supreme Court for the purpose of exculpating him. Such
authority and jurisdiction are properly reposed by the Constitution in
the House of Representatives via impeachment.

•       Partiality in granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor
of Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an
opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of
justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the
effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the
conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.

•       Failure and refusal to account for the Judiciary Development Fund
and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.

Impeachment is provided by the Constitution of the country to make
public officials serving higher office accountable.

“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must,
at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost
responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with
patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives,” according to Article
XI Section of the 1986 Philippine Constitution.

Subject to impeachment are the President, the Vice-President, the
Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional
Commissions, and the Ombudsman. They may be removed from office on
impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the
Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high
crimes, or betrayal of public trust.

All other public officers and employees of government may be removed
from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.

According to section 3 item 6 of Article XI, the Senate “shall have
the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment”.

When sitting as an impeachment court, the Senators will be on oath or
affirmation. In this trial on the chief justice, the Senate President
sits as the presiding officer.

When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court shall preside, but he or she cannot vote. A
conviction in an impeachment trial requires a two thirds vote of all
members of the Senate.

A convicted official in an impeachment will be removed from office and
shall be disqualified to hold any office under the Republic of the
Philippines.  But the party convicted shall be liable and subject to
prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law. (Bukidnon News
Research)

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