GUILTY: When the defense acted as prosecutors


The rule is that the prosecution must prove the strength of its case. It cannot rely on the weakness of the defense. But in the historic conviction of Renato C. Corona, it was strangely the defense that ensured that   Corona would be the first officer in Philippines history to be removed from office through impeachment.

The prosecution rested its case solely on Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, to wit: that he failed to disclose to the public his statement of Statement of Assets, Liability and Net Worth as required under the Constitution. This could have meant either of two things: one, he did not disclose his SALN as required by law; or two, he was not truthful in his declarations thereat.

At the onset of the trial, the prosecution immediately subpoenaed the former CJ’s SALN that it had alleged, and rightfully at that, should have been made public. This means that the prosecution could not have meant to prove that his declarations in the SALN were untruthful precisely because they had not seen them. This was why they wanted Marites Vitug and Harvey Keh to take the witness stand:  to state that they were denied access to these SALNs.

I reckoned that the Congressmen must have thought that the former CJ would go the way of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierres. That is, that he would resign as soon as the articles are filed. But the former CJ did not resign. Confident, perhaps, that the prosecution did not have the goods on him, he opted to wage battle with the prosecutors and Malacañang.

The CJ was right. The prosecution did not have the goods on him. It appears that the prosecution only commenced with its case build-up after the transmittal of the impeachment articles to the Senate.  In fact, they were so excited when the Land Registration Authority provided them with a computer printout of 45 properties allegedly belonging to the former CJ that they run to town with it even before they had the chance to verify the veracity and accuracy of the list.

And for it, they got tremendous flack. While they managed to prove the existence of 11 properties, the damaged has been done. Senators would take turns lambasting them for vilifying the name of the former CJ by revealing raw information to the public rather than to the impeachment court.

After which the prosecution had very little. There was BIR Commissioner Kim Henares who testified that the ex-CJ could not have lawfully acquired his declared property with his declared lawful income alone. But this was declared immaterial because the articles of impeachment did not allege that the ex- CJ amassed ill-gotten wealth.

Then there was the flip-flop in the PAL attendant’s case under Article three. But even if the flip-flop did happen, the Senate was not impressed since this could not be attributable to the CJ alone, the SC being a collegial body. The prosecution then sought to prove that Corona received lots of free trips from PAL through the so-called platinum card. But this too was not allowed. Finally, the prosecution presented Justice Secretary Leila De Lima who unfortunately, did not have personal knowledge on how the former CJ allegedly altered records of court proceedings to make it appear that the majority of the court had already enjoined her from preventing former President GMA from leaving the country. Justice Serreno, in her dissent, claims that this was subject to certain conditions- which had not yet been complied with.

By the time the prosecution had rested, the betting was that the former CJ would be acquitted. But the strangest thing happened: the defense actually picked up the cudgels for the prosecution. First, they summoned Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and enabled her to present to the impeachment court the AMLAC report detailing that the ex-CJ had US$10-12million in bank deposits. Then the defense flip-flopped and contrary to its initial refusal, allowed the CJ to take the stand. In his opus, the ex-CJ proved what the prosecution could not: that he had US$2.4 Million and about 80 Million pesos in deposits, sums which he did not declare in his SALN. The climax was when the former CJ walked-out of the proceedings after his 3 hour monologue. That was the turning point. Even those who were unsure of the CJ’s guilt could not absolve him lest they themselves earn the public ire.

The rest is history. On the basis of both the testimony of the Ombudsman and the former CJ, and courtesy of the latter’s walkout, the  Senate found Corona guilty. Thank goodness for the defense. It did a splendid job for the prosecution!

Corona’s contemptible performance


Like millions of others, I was glued to the television the other day watching Chief Justice Renato Corona testify in his own impeachment trial.

Everything about last Tuesday was dramatic. First, there was his refusal to take the stand. He then relented and agreed to testify after the Ombudsman had detailed Anti-Money Laundering Council documents indicating that the chief justice had at least $12 million in various accounts. Prior to last Tuesday, his counsels and talking heads assured the public that Corona would “tell all” and would expose the malice of the individuals who falsely testified against him.

On the day itself, there was a meticulous script acted out by “B” actors, who now deserve acting awards. There was the traditional mass officiated by religious leaders closely identified with former President Gloria Arroyo, the usual illegal mass action by court officials and employees, and even a hero’s send-off for the embattled Corona.

At the Senate itself, the script was literally visible: a couple of pages of a monologue read out by Corona himself, a major deviation from ordinary court proceedings where witnesses are never allowed to deliver opening statements. This was a very carefully written script. Its writers knew that the opus would be allowed by a court that has repeatedly declared that it would respect the magistrate if and when he takes the stand. More importantly, its writers knew that the people would be watching.

And boy, what a show it turned out to be!

The scripted monologue itself was pathetic. Not only was it very poorly written, it was also bereft of the truth that Corona promised the nation. Half of it was mud thrown at the President, Ronald Llamas, and even Franklin Drilon. The other half was about the dirty laundry of the Basas.  Was Corona unmindful that his own children and wife were members of the same clan? The Senate President repeatedly asked him if he was finished, but he went on with his litany on matters, which were irrelevant and immaterial. And when he finally addressed the issue leveled against him by the Ombudsman, he resorted to a negative pregnant: the Ombudsman was lying but he admits having dollar deposits which according to him, are absolutely confidential and need not be declared in his SALN.

Prior to his appearance, a little known employee of the BIR, of all agencies, which the chief justice himself quoted in his monologue, opined that dollar deposits do not have to be disclosed in the SALN.

After which, he resorted to a conditional waiver of the secrecy of his dollar and pesos deposits, which takes effect only if and when the 188 congressmen who voted to impeach him and Franklin Drilon sign similar waivers. Talk of a cheap trick!

And after an excruciating two hours of vilification and self-pontification, he states that he is the chief justice of the Republic and leaves the stand.

I still can’t decide which was more offensive: his litany of mud or his walkout. I ask this because he is not just a very high official sought to be removed from his office. He is the chief justice if the land and as such, should personify the prestige and dignity of the legal profession. By resorting to mudslinging at the stand, Corona broke all rules of evidence that were developed over time to ascertain precisely the truth of controverted matters. And by walking out, he has shown contempt not only for the Senate sitting as an impeachment court, but to the rule of law itself, which as chief justice, he should be the first to uphold. If his departure were really for medical reasons, why did he not ask for leave of court? That would have been easy and would certainly have been granted on humanitarian grounds. It does not help that he was captured on camera clearly intent on leaving the Senate on cue. Clearly, what he and his advisers did not anticipate was that the Senate President would order the lock-out of the Senate to prevent him from leaving.

As I write this, it has become apparent that the chief justice will not return to the Senate as he is reportedly in the intensive care unit. I do not question his state of health as that is now between him and his creator. What I condemn is his performance that degraded the legal profession and eroded the people’s trust in the rule of law.

At the very least, Corona has proven to all that he does not deserve to remain as chief justice!

Corona’s (not so) secret account


 

The crown's dollars

 

I expected Annabelle Tiongson, manager of the Katipunan Branch of PSBank, to do as she did. Why shouldn’t she? As Niñez Cacho-Olivarez reported, the bank document that formed the basis for the prosecutors to subpoena Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar account at PS Bank came from Tiongson herself. Had the Senate ignored the court ruling enjoining the opening of this dollar account, Tiongson would have been the Clarissa Ocampo of this impeachment trial. But because the Senate honored the Court ruling, the best course of action for her was to deny its authenticity.But should the nation believe her hook, line and sinker?

Of course not. To begin with, no less than Corona, by seeking an order from his colleagues at the Supreme Court to restrain the opening of his dollar account, has himself admitted that the said exists. If it is but a figment of the prosecution’s imagination, as the defense would want us to believe, what is there to be restrained by the Court? Any which way, the mysterious dollar deposit works in favor of the prosecution, and courtesy of the CJ’s actuations at that.

There is  a presumption in our rules of evidence that he who suppresses the presentation of evidence does so because it is against him. Here, the chief justice’s insistence on secrecy can only be because the existence of the dollar account will prove anew that he failed to declare his dollar deposit in his SALN.

In any case, the PSBank dollar account is only icing for the prosecution. What is undeniable now is that Corona did not declare a total amount of P31 million cash in his SALN. The defense insists that SALNs are subject to correction. Cuevas should tell that to the court interpreter in a Regional Trial Court in Davao who was fired because he failed to declare in his SALN a market stall. Said the Court “We have repeatedly held that although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the Judiciary x x x Personnel in the Judiciary should conduct themselves in such a manner as to be beyond reproach and suspicion, and free from any appearance of impropriety in their personal behavior, not only in the discharge of their official duties but also in their everyday life. They are strictly mandated to maintain good moral character at all times and to observe irreproachable behavior so as not to outrage public decency.”

I guess Corona believes that the high ethical standards can only be demanded from lowly court employees and not from the Chief Justice himself.  It is obvious that in Corona’s mind, being primus inter pares, or the first amongst equals, is tantamount to a shield of immunity even for criminal acts.

And lest we forget, the undeclared 31 million in cash is over and above the real estate property that he also failed to declare in his SALN. There were at least three pieces of real estate property that he failed to declare: a condominium unit in Spanish Bay Tower, another unit in Makati at the Columns, and a lot in McKinley Hills. There too is the undervaluation of the Bellagio unit by at least 24 million pesos. Altogether, Corona, the Honorable magistrate, did not declare a total of at least P65 million worth of property.

The question is why. Well, the sage and statesman Jovito Salonga, when he wrote the law requiring the filing of truthful SALNs, knew that property which is not proportional to a public official’s salary is presumed ill-gotten under another statute, the unexplained wealth act. Need we say more?

Perhaps Corona should heed the ruling of his own Court. In another ruling ordering the dismissal of a regional revenue officer for failing to disclose two cars in his SALN, the court said: “(T)he SSAL (sworn statement of assets and liabilities) is not a mere scrap of paper. The law requires that the SSAL must be accomplished as truthfully, as detailed and as accurately as possible  x x x  It serves as the basis of the government and the people in monitoring the income and lifestyle of officials and employees in the government.”

 

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Probity and discounts


Sometimes, a fumble can lead to a win. This was what happened two days ago at the Senate in the impeachment hearing of Chief Justice Renato Corona. On Monday, we were enthralled by a declaration that the chief justice was given a whopping 40-percent discount amounting to P10 million by Megaworld. I was then an invited commentator at DZMM. Just out of curiosity, I went online on my iPad and typed “Megaworld and Corona” in Google search. Lo and behold, there it was: Megaworld vs. Judge Cobarde, a decision penned by no less than then Associate Justice Corona which was a P25 million win for the company.The case of Cobarde arose from a complaint filed at the regional trial court for almost P30 million in unpaid brokers fee for the sale of a resort beside Shangri-La hotel in Mactan Island. In the course of the proceeding, the parties entered into a compromise agreement whereby Megaworld agreed to pay the complainant almost P30 million. There was in fact a partial payment of about P5 million, leaving a balance of about P25 million. Later, Megaworld commenced proceedings to vacate such a judgment based on a compromise agreement. This kind of  a judgment is normally immediately final and executory. Megaworld lost in both the RTC and in the Court of Appeals. In the Supreme Court, Justice Corona penned the decision reversing the CA and declaring the judgment on a compromise as null and void. It spared Megaworld from paying the balance of P25 million.The year of promulgation of the Cobarde judgment was 2004. Construction of the Bellagio started in 2003 and was finished in 2008. I asked the question: is the P25 million victory related to the P10 million discount? If it is, both Megaworld and Corona could be liable for  violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices act. Bribery is the giving of any consideration in exchange for a favor. Unlike other laws, our anti-graft laws punish both the giver and the receiver.

I was hence not surprised when the following day, the Megaworld marketing director stated that what the company had given the Corona’s was a P5-million price reduction because of water damage sustained by the unit as a result of a typhoon; a further P3 million discount since the consideration was paid within one year, and a further P2 million discount. Now it can be told, it was not a P10-million discount. Just a 5 million discount over and above another 5 million price reduction.

I am of course not concluding anything as of yet. Senator Serge Osmena rightfully demanded from Megaworld evidence of the alleged water damage, as well as evidence of insurance coverage since almost all buildings, finished or otherwise, have insurance against water damage. These will prove if the damage to the unit was in fact commensurate to the price reduction. Anent the discount, I think Megaworld has for all intents and purposes admitted that it gave the Coronas an extraordinary discount since it has previously admitted that normal discounts for cash transactions is only 15 percent of the selling price. If the normal selling price is P24 million, as it claimed, the maximum discount should only have been P3.6 million. Why did Megaworld officials give the Coronas P5 million in discount?

In any case, the material point already proven by the prosecution is that the Coronas grossly understated the value of the Bellagio property since it was only declared as having a value of P6 million. Worse, there was a complete omission of the P14 million cash that they used to purchase the property. Previously, the prosecutors also proved that two other properties, a lot in McKinley Hill and another unit at the Spanish Bay Tower at the Fort, were also not declared in the SALN. Again the reason all public officers are required to file their SALNs annually is to enable the public to inquire whether there has been an increase in a public officer’s assets on a year-to-year basis given that their incomes are fixed by law. If a public officer could not adequately explain how he acquired the additional assets, the law presumes it  to have been ill-gotten.

I am distraught too at Megaworld’s spin in its releases. It claimed that it have lost two cases and won only one case from the Supreme Court. It is always silent on the fact that its victory was worth P25 million and that the decision was penned by Corona himself. It highlights a loss where it failed to collect P5 million, omitting the fact that this involved the same losing party in Cobardo. It also highlights a loss in the case of Tanseco vs. Megaworld where Corona was a member of the division that rendered the judgment.

The point, though, is that a magistrate should be purer than Caesar’s wife. No upright and becoming magistrate should have accepted an extraordinary discount specially from a winning litigant in his own court, moreso if he himself penned the winning decision.

True, the prosecution failed to introduce what it characterized as a 40-percent discount into the records. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the people now know the kind of magistrate Corona is.

Can the Senate ever be a court?


The Bellagio where CJ Corona has a unitSome of our senators have to be reminded that while the Constitution refers to the Senate as an “impeachment court” for purposes of impeachment, this does not change the fact that: one, it is still the Senate, one of two houses of the legislative branch of government; and two, its members remain to be members of the Upper House, elected at large as representatives of the people. The phrase “impeachment court” should hence not be construed to mean that senators are fulfilling a judicial role, as in fact they are not part of the judiciary. It should only be construed to mean that after an impeachable officer has been impeached, it is the Senators who will decide the fate of the said officer; that is, whether said officer should be removed from office.

Hence, it is wrong for our senators to be donning judicial robes which—in all jurisdictions worldwide—are worn only by judges from the judicial branch of government. The practice in the United States, from which we patterned our rules on impeachment, does not include the donning of such robes. On the contrary, senators treat such impeachment proceedings as part of the daily chores of the Senate. And typical of jurisdictions with strong party systems, American senators almost always vote along party lines.

When the Senate thus decides the fate of these impeachable officers, its decision would not be judicial in nature. It will be a policy decision. Senator Antonio Trillanes hit the nail on the head when he declared that the Senate will decide the fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona on the basis of what is best for the country. Certainly, evidence presented by the parties cannot be ignored. But in the appreciation of this evidence, the rules of court, precisely because it is the Senate and not a court, is applicable only on a suppletory basis. It is still the interest of the country that should be the primordial consideration of the senators.

This is why I am alarmed that this early, the Senate leadership appears bent on conducting the impeachment proceeding as if it were a real court. For instance, it has said that it will gag the parties to the proceedings from commenting on the proceedings pursuant to the sub judice rule. This is glaring error. To begin with, the sub judice rule was developed as a tool to protect the objectivity of jurors in court proceedings. In jurisdiction where the guilt of the accused is adjudged by a jury of his peers consisting of ordinary individuals with no training on the rules of evidence, it was originally thought important to protect them from any and all information that may affect their appreciation of facts. Its application to jurisdictions with no jury systems such as ours, have been tempered. Judges after all, unlike ordinary individuals, are trained in both law and evidence. Judges hence are less likely to be affected by extraneous information. As held by a UK Court in Ref v. Duffy: “…A judge is in a very different position to a juryman. Though in no sense superhuman, he has by his training no difficulty in putting out of his mind matters which are not evidence in the case. This, indeed, happens daily to judges on assize.”

But even in jurisdictions that still rely on the jury system, the constitutional dedication to freedom of expression as a human right has drastically affected the application of the sub judice rule. One decision of the European Court of Human Rights held: ‘Provided that it does not overstep the bounds imposed in the interests of the proper administration of justice, reporting, including comment, on court proceedings contributes to their publicity and is thus perfectly consonant with the requirement under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that hearings be public. Not only do the media have the task of imparting such information and ideas: the public also has a right to receive them. This is all the more so where a public figure is involved, such as, in the present case, a former member of the Government. Such persons inevitably and knowingly lay themselves open to close scrutiny by both journalists and the public at large. “

Moreover, our own Supreme Court has ruled that contempt for violating the sub judice rule is now subject to the clear and present danger test: In Chavez v. Gonzalez, the Court ruled: “Our laws are of different kinds and doubtless, some of them provide norms of conduct which even if violated have only an adverse effect on a person’s private comfort but does not endanger national security. There are laws of great significance but their violation, by itself and without more, cannot support suppression of free speech and free press. In fine, violation of law is just a factor, a vital one to be sure, which should be weighed  in  adjudging  whether  to restrain  freedom of speech and of the press. The totality of the injurious effects of the violation to private and public interest must be calibrated in light of the preferred status accorded by the Constitution and by related international covenants protecting freedom of speech and of the press. In calling for a careful and calibrated measurement of the circumference of all these factors to determine compliance with the clear and present danger test, the Court should not be misinterpreted as devaluing  violations  of law.  By all means, violations  of  law  should  be  vigorously  prosecuted  by  the State  for  they  breed their own evil consequence. But to repeat, the need to prevent their violation cannot per se trump the exercise of free  speech  and  free  press,  a preferred right whose breach can lead  to  greater evils”(emphasis supplied).

In Corona’s motion to cite the public prosecutors in contempt, the question is: what clear and danger arose from the disclosure of the Chief Justice’s condominium units? Absolutely none.

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Quick answers to Father Bernas


The Bernas Connection with GMA: Niece-in-law Luli

Last Monday, Fr. Joaquin Bernas posited questions for the Senate to answer in connection with the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Reading his questions closely, I realized that what he raised were, in reality, grounds why he believes the Senate should dismiss the Articles of Impeachment. It becomes imperative thus, for believers in the rule of law, to address each of the questions raised by the Jesuit.

Article 1 (on partiality and subservience to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo)

a. May the Senate review the Court’s decision (in De Castro v JBC)?

Answer: Yes, insofar as it may impact on the resolution of the chief justice’s fitness to remain in office for accepting an appointment which is contrary to the language and intent of the constitution and hence, immoral and unjust. This much Bernas has previously written: “Any person who accepted the post of Chief Justice from Mrs. Arroyo would open himself or herself to impeachment by the next Congress.”

b. Is it illegitimate to assume that the votes of Corona represented independent judgment?

Answer: Yes. Given his voting record in favor of Arroyo and his very close personal and professional relationship with her, it is indeed illegitimate to assume that his decisions represented independent judgment.

Article 2 (on the non-disclosure of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth):

a. The command on making assets and liabilities public is qualified by the clause “in the manner provided by law.” Is there a law providing the manner and did Corona violate it?

Answer: Yes, the manner is provided in Republic Act 6713. The law provides: that it shall be “made available for inspection at reasonable hours” and “shall be made available for copying or reproduction after ten (10) working days from the time they are filed as required by law”. Corona, furthermore, had the duty as Chief Justice, to establish compliance procedures for the SALN requirement.

c. What evidence will be presented on the alleged illegally acquired property?

Answer: A picture of one such property was published in the newspapers.

Article 3 (on lack of competence, probity and integrity)

a. Is the flip-flopping of the Court in collegial decisions attributable to Corona alone or to a body struggling to arrive at justice? Did Corona himself flip-flop?

b. Is the Court prohibited from modifying prior decisions or doctrines?

Answer: The real question as stated in the House Reply is this: Did he do anything, as the constitutional and moral leader of the Supreme Court, to prevent or even discourage the never-ending change in the purportedly final decisions of the Supreme Court?  No, the Court can change its prior decisions. But this requires changed circumstances -which were lacking in the cases of flip-flopping identified in the impeachment complaint.

c. When and by whom was Mrs. Corona appointed to John Hay Management Corporation? Is a husband obliged to compel his wife to turn down an appointment? Or did he try to dissuade her at all? Or was he overruled by the wife?

d. Can a husband be made answerable for acts of the wife?

Answer: Under the circumstances mentioned in the Complaint, the appointment of Mrs. Corona was inappropriate. Best proof of this was when she herself resigned after Corona became Chief Justice. Why should an appointment be appropriate when the spouse was an Associate Justice and why should it become inappropriate after he has become CJ? Truth is, it was inappropriate full stop. It was inappropriate because  the appointment of a spouse of a Justice to a government-owned and -controlled corporation as a form of a political  dole is wrong .

e. Will Justice Carpio be asked to testify about the alleged lobbying about pending cases?

Answer: I would hope to. Truth will set the nation free

Article 4 ( on the disregard for separation of powers in the Gutierrez case)

What can be made of the fact that the status quo ante order was a resolution of eight justices? How did Corona vote on the later reversal of the status quo ante order?

Article 5 (on wanton arbitrariness and disregard of the principle of res judicata)

a. Were not the League of Cities case and the Dinagat case collegial decisions upholding acts of Congress? Were the laws involved statutory responses of Congress to the people as “master” as against the greed of the League of Cities?

b. Was not the Fasap (Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines) decision also collegial?

Common Answer: Again, what is being impugned as betrayal of public trust are the individual actions of the Chief Justice in these cases. As emphasized in the Reply, it is, however, without prejudice to impeaching the other justices who disregarded the principle of res judicata.

c. Is the Supreme Court powerless to look into the activities of its members (e.g., plagiarism) especially if it involves things that might affect the reputation of the Court?

Answer: No, when the matter falls within the original jurisdiction of the Court such as bar and other administrative matters. It has, however, no jurisdiction to deal with impeachable offenses, such as plagiarism, and certainly not in a manner that would preclude Congress from exercising its powers to initiate and decide on impeachment cases.

d. Was not the creation of new districts in Camarines Sur done by Congress, the representative of the people?

Answer: Yes, but what is being questioned is the individual vote of the Chief Justice in the case which impugned precisely the constitutionality and legality of the law creating a new district to favor a presidential son.

e. Who decides the application of the principle of proportionality (or “one man, one vote”) in the size of districts?

Answer: It is  law that defines proportionality. Aquino in his case argued that the legal requirements were not met.

Article 7 (on the temporary restraining order allowing Mrs. Arroyo and her husband Mike to escape prosecution)

a. The constitutionality of the restriction on the right to travel through a Department of Justice circular on hold-departure orders is pending before the Court, with the decision expected after New Year. Should the Senate preempt the Supreme Court decision?

Answer: The questioned TRO almost made the issue moot. It was hence the Arroyo Court itself that preempted its own decision on the merits when it issued the restraining order.

b. What is the import, if any, of the existence of a House bill and a Senate bill disempowering the DOJ?

Answer: None whatsoever. They are mere pending bills and have not become law

c. The continuing effectivity of the TRO has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. What power does the Senate have over it?

Answer: It is relevant on the issue of partiality of the Chief Justice in favor of Mrs. Arroyo. Certainly, the dissenting opinions of Justices Lourdes Sereno and Antonio Carpio prove anomalies and irregularities in the promulgation of the questioned restraining order.

Article 8 (on the refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund).

a. Involved in this is the interpretation of the extent of fiscal autonomy of the Court. What is the jurisprudence on this? Will the Senate apply or depart from existing jurisprudence on the subject?

Answer: No branch or agency of government is immune from fiscal accountability. Fiscal accountability is not synonymous with impunity for malversation of public funds.

UP lawyer to SC spokesman: Shut up and ship out


Hay Mali!

UP Law Professor and human rights lawyer Harry Roque assailed Supreme
Court Administration and Spokesman Midas Marquez for acting as the
personal spokesman of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Marquez has no business serving as the personal apologist of the
embattled Chief Justice. He should be speaking for the entire Supreme
Court, not just Corona, and explaining collegial decisions, not just
the views of his boss,” Roque said.

“Worse, by defending Corona to the hilt using the Supreme Court as his
platform, Marquez is practically saying that there’s nothing wrong
with culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of the people’s
trust and graft and corruption for which Corona now faces an
impeachment trial by the Senate,” Roque pointed out.

Roue added also reminded Marquez that “the impeachment of CJ Corona
has absolutely nothing to do with the workings or decisions of the SC,
thus he has no business speaking out on Corona’s impeachment in his
capacity as SC spokesman.”

“Marquez has blatantly blurred the lines separating the duties of an
SC spokesman from that of a private spokesman or lawyer who should be
doing the talking for CJ Corona pertaining to his impeachment,” he
stressed.

“Let Corona’s designated private lawyers speak for him, not someone
who is paid his salary with taxpayers’ money,” Roque said.

Roque added that Marquez may even be held criminally liable for
overstepping the bounds of his duties.  “After all, the personnel,
offices and other resources of the SC cannot be conscripted or used in
defense of any members of the high court facing impeachment, whether
he be the Chief Justice.”

“Marquez will end up a towering disgrace to the lawyering profession
if he insists on acting as Corona’s spokesperson and repeating the
same chicanery and falsehoods peddled by his boss,” Roque said.

“From one lawyer to another, here’s my friendly advice to Midas: ‘Shut
up and ship out’. Either you resign and join Corona’s legal team or
shut up and stop dragging the entire Supreme Court in your obvious
attempt to please your boss”, Roque said.

The wrong IBP statement


IBP President Roan Libarios

Was both sad and disappointed when the Integrated Bar of the Philippines took the stand that the impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona was an affront to the independence on the Judiciary. Sad because I hold the IBP very dearly, having served as its Presidential Assistant for Human Rights for two years during the incumbency of President Feliciano Bautista. Disappointed because knowing almost all of its national officers personally, including its incumbent President Roan Libarios whom I had the pleasure of serving with when he was National Vice-President of the IBP, I do not understand how they can misread the importance of impeachment as a constitutional tool for public accountability of public officers. It was indeed a wrong statement.

The IBP anchored its stand on the false belief that any and all means to promote accountability on the part of our magistrates is an affront to the Judiciary. Nothing can be farther from the truth. When the Constitution made the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government, it did so mindful that there was a need to promote both independence and accountability of our magistrates. To achieve independence, the Constitution gave the Court both fiscal autonomy and security of tenure for all magistrates to serve until age 70. But to balance this independence, the Constitution included the remedy of impeachment to remove magistrates with otherwise fixed terms should they commit culpable violations of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and graft and corruption. To provide the Court only with means to make it independent but bereft of an instrument of accountability would be to make a monster out of our courts. Hence, contrary to the position taken by the officers of the IBP, impeachment is a constitutional tool to promote accountability and not the sword of Damocles that it portrayed it to be.

Furthermore, as I argued in my paper which I delivered only this month in Hong Kong University on the occasion of the 4th International Conference of the Asian Society of Constitutional Law, the impeachment is a tool by which our policy makers, both from the House of Representatives and the Senate, can uphold the supremacy of the Constitution particularly on the issue of Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice. Normally, legal formalism demands that we accept as final and executory decisions made by the Supreme Court particularly where it interprets the Constitution. In Angara v. Electoral Tribunal, the Court declared that when it declares an act of any branch or instrumentality as unconstitutional and hence, null and void, this is not an exercise of “judicial supremacy”, but one that “upholds the supremacy of the Constitution”.

But what happens when the Court abdicates this duty to uphold the Constitution as it did in De Castro v. JBC when it resorted to constitutional draftsmanship in upholding Corona’s appointment as a midnight Chief Justice in a manner contrary to the language and intent of the Constitution? Are all the other branches of government precluded from defending the Constitution? Certainly not.

All public officers from all branches of government took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Here, the remedy is clearly impeachment, as the issue to be resolved by our policy makers will include that of the correctness and the wisdom of the Court’s ruling in De Castro. Surely, the people that gave life to the Constitution did not intend to grant unto the Court a monopoly of upholding the supremacy of the highest law of the land.

As correctly observed by Senator Joker Arroyo, Article 1 of the articles of impeachment will involve purely legal issues which includes the constitutionality of Corona’s acceptance of the post of Chief Justice.

I would also have appreciated it if the IBP’s leadership attempted to consult its members prior to issuing its statement against the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. Certainly, as the compulsory national organization of lawyers, there is virtue in hearing what its members, all of whom are trained in constitutional law, have to say before issuing a statement that appears to bind all of its members. As it turned out, I am a bona fide member of the IBP and I have been whole-heartedly supporting the impeachment of Corona as a means of strengthening the constitution and the Court as an institution. My leaders in the IBP did not consult me before they issued their official position despite the fact that the articles of the IBP do contain a provision on consultation with its members. I am now constrained to put on record the fact that I do not approve of the IBP stand and that I have not authorized them to speak on my behalf on this particular issue. This is sad, but necessary.

In any case, I am pleased that the House of Representatives chose lawyer Mario “Ayo” Bautista to lead its panel of private prosecutors in the impeachment trial. Ayo was my boss during my first year of litigation practice and I know him to be a brilliant and dedicated litigator. With him on board, I am sure that the people’s interest would be promoted and safeguarded in the impeachment trial.

I’m sorry to write a serious article for my last column for the year. Rest assured, I will try to be less serious in the upcoming New Year.

Happy New Year to one and all!