Corona unfit to remain as SC chief justice – House prosecutors

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House of Representatives Chief Prosecutor Neil Tupaz (left) and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, head of the defense team of chief Justice Renato Corona, shake hands before the start of the impeachment trial of the chief magistrate at the Senate on Monday (Jan. 16, 2012). Photo by Gil S. Calinga
House of Representatives Chief Prosecutor Neil Tupaz (left) and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, head of the defense team of chief Justice Renato Corona, shake hands before the start of the impeachment trial of the chief magistrate at the Senate on Monday (Jan. 16, 2012). Photo by Gil S. Calinga

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Philippines (16 Jan. 2012) – The House of Representatives’ prosecution panel asked the Senate impeachment court on Monday to convict Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, saying he is unfit to provide moral leadership given the “sins” he committed against the Filipino people.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., lead prosecutor of the House panel, told the senator-judges at the start of the impeachment proceedings that the chief magistrate must go in order to restore the integrity of the High Tribunal and the confidence of the Filipino people in the country’s justice system.

“As public servants, we took an oath to uphold the people’s will at all times. Today, we lay down before the impeachment tribunal the product of the collective voice of the people. Impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and for graft and corruption is the verdict of the House of Representatives. By issuing such verdict, we took the first step to accomplish our oath as the keepers of the people’s trust,” he said.

Tupas noted that the House prosecution team is not indicting the Supreme Court as an institution, or doing battle with the judicial branch of government.

“We are here to search for the truth so as to restore the strength and independence of the judiciary. We are here because one man — Chief Justice Renato Corona — has bartered away for a pot of porridge the effectiveness, the independence, and the honor of the Supreme Court,” he said.

According to Tupas, the embattled chief magistrate lacks the moral fiber required of a Chief Justice who is supposed to be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.

The Iloilo lawmaker implied that Corona is the exact opposite of the country’s first chief magistrate, Cayetano Arellano, who was “a man of absolute integrity and of the deepest legal wisdom,” and the late Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who “viewed his oath so sacred, and loved his country so deeply, he preferred to die at the hands of the Japanese rather than betray his country.”

He said the Supreme Court itself views the position of Chief Justice as “beyond politics, beyond personal considerations and always about putting honor and justice ahead of every other consideration.”

“The Code of Conduct demands that a judge must be like Caesar’s wife — someone who must not only be pure but must be beyond suspicion at all times. Therefore, a Justice must be judged according to the highest standards,” he pointed out.

Tupas said the Chief Justice failed to meet and observe stringent standards set by the Constitution for a member of the judiciary considering his close association with former President and now detained Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose interests he protected in the High Court every step of the way.

“The prosecution will show how Chief Justice Corona became the crowning glory of the case of accomplices of former President Arroyo, and how he protected GMA’s interest in exchange for his position of prestige and power,” he said.

Tupas said that because of his loyalty to the former President, Corona received “numerous rewards.”

“Kung gusto natin ng hustisya, hindi na dapat ipagkatiwala kay Chief Justice Corona ang pinakamataas na pwesto sa hudikatura,” he said.

Tupas ended his opening statement with a message to Corona. Quoting British military and political leader Oliver Cromwell when he dismissed England’s Long Parliament in 1653, he said: “Before God and country, we say: It is high time for us to put an end to your sitting in that place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice, you are an enemy to good government, as you have sold your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas Escariot betrayed your God for a few pieces of gold. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

The Senate impeachment court adjourned at around 3:40 p.m. and will resume on Tuesday (Jan. 17) at 2:00 p.m. (PNA)

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