Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Shaky Grounds

SC Chief Magistrate Renato Corona
The railroaded impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is but the culmination point. No matter how hard Malacanang deny having any part on the Impeach Corona move, the truth is too glaring to be dismissed.

We all know how Aquino himself, personally laid the groundwork that led to the indespicable action of ravenous and pork-crazed members of Congress. Didn't Aquino on at least two occasions, pointed to Corona as the remaining stumbling block to his much-hyped yet empty "tuwid na daan?"

Isn't it much of a coincidence that following his attack on Corona his minions in Congress held a secret meeting at the house of Rep. Boyet Gonzales to discuss the draft impeachment complaint against Corona they will pass around to congressmen to sign. The caucus called by Speaker Belmonte last Monday was a mere cover-up for the Gonzales resident covert meeting last weekend.

A party-list representative said that Corona impeachment is a "foregone conclusion" considering that more than half of the members already signed it. In fact, a day before both houses of Congress adjourned, the complaint has been transmitted to the Senate.

The impeachment complaint has three grounds citing eight articles of impeachment. I've read the impeachment complaint courtesy of a good friend who is a member of Congress. And in my opinion the impeachment case against Corona is built on shaky grounds.

Among those cited in the impeachment complaint is the Chief Justice's culpable violation of the Constitution for non-disclosure of his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth). Article XI Section 17 of the 1987 Constituion provides that:

"A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law."

But it should be recalled that in 1989 during the incumbency of Cory Aquino the Supreme Court ruled on a request by one Jose Alejandrino for SALNs for members of the highest court then. The Supreme Court en banc resolution dated May 2, 1989 states:

(1) All requests for copies of statements of assets and liabilities shall be filed with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, in the case of any Justice; or with the Court Administrator, in the case of any Judge, and shall state the purpose of the request.

(2) The independence of the Judiciary is constitutionally as important as the right to information which is subject to the limitations provided by law. Under specific circumstances, the need for the fair and just adjudication of litigations may require a court to be wary of deceptive requests for information which shall otherwise be freely available. Where the request is directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer, or interested party in a case pending before the court, or where the court is reasonably certain that a disputed matter will come before it under circumstances from which it may, also reasonably, be assumed that the request is not made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and, with the implicit threat of its disclosure, to influence a decision or to warn the court of the unpleasant consequences of an adverse judgment, the request may be denied.

(3) Where a decision has just been rendered by a court against the person making the request and the request for information appears to be a “fishing expedition” intended to harass or get back at the Judge, the request may be denied.

(4) In the few areas where there is extortion by rebel elements or where the nature of their work exposes judges to assaults against their personal safety, the request shall not only be denied but should be immediately reported to the military

(5) The reason for the denial shall be given in all cases.

In September 22, 1992, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Andres Narvasa approved a resolution denying all requests for the disclosure of SALNs of members of the judiciary. Even former Chief Justice Reynato Puno denied similar request made by PCIJ.

Another party-list representative said that the impeachment complaint was drafted in such a way that it does not attack the Supreme Court as an institution. But if one of the grounds of the complaint is due to a resolution that the high court made some 19 years ago you are out of order Mr. Congressman.

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