By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – A day after Renato Corona was ousted as chief justice for inaccuracies in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, the Supreme Court (SC) approved yesterday the release of the full SALNs of all justices and judges.
Speaking to reporters, acting SC spokesperson Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said the justices agreed in a special full-court session yesterday to set aside the May 2, 1989 resolution prohibiting public disclosure of SALNs of members of the judiciary.
“It was a collective decision of the justices,” she said. “The net effect is that the earlier resolution has just been set aside.”
However, Guerra said the justices still have to meet in special session on June 13 to come up with the guidelines on the issuance of their SALNs for 2011.
Guerra said it is best to wait for the release of the resolution and guidelines where the SC would explain the grounds for the ruling.
“Let’s not forget CJ Corona set a precedent in issuing the waiver (on bank deposits),” she said.
In the 1989 full-court resolution, the SC laid down guidelines on requests for copies of the SALNs of the chief justice and associate justices.
The ruling, reiterated in 1992, stated that it is unlawful for any person to obtain or use any statement filed under Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, for any purpose contrary to morals or public policy, or any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.
The SC expressed willingness to have the clerk of court furnish copies of the SALNs of justices to any person upon request, provided the request has a legitimate reason.
But even requests of journalists for copies of the SALNs of SC justices were denied.
“The independence of the judiciary is constitutionally as important as the right to information, which is subject to the limitations provided by law,” read the ruling.
“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.”
In 1992, the SC denied the requests of a graft investigation officer of the Office of the Ombudsman and a military captain for certified true copies of the SALNs of two judges.
Carpio is acting chief justice
SC justices discussed yesterday in full-court session the Senate verdict removing chief justice Renato Corona and its accompanying consequences, particularly the administrative reorganization in the court.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was designated acting chief justice in accordance with SC rules.
He will serve temporarily until President Aquino names a new chief justice within 90 days from the vacancy.
Carpio called the full-court session at 2 p.m.
Senate clerk of court Jessie Tamondong delivered the notice of the decision finding Corona guilty to the office of the SC clerk of court before 10 a.m.
The Senate ruled that the decision is immediately executory.
Twelve of the 14 remaining justices attended the special session. Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta were attending a prior commitment in Baguio City.
With Carpio’s designation, the justices in effect have accepted the Senate’s interpretation that the verdict on Corona is immediately executory, according to Guerra, who was designated acting chief of the SC public information office.
“We have an acting chief justice,” she said. “You can draw the necessary implication from that.”
Guerra said Carpio took over the top SC post “since he is the most senior of the justices.”
Carpio had extended the stay in office of their staff in the PIO as well as the staff of Corona for 30 days, she added.
Guerra takes the place of Midas Marquez, who was coterminous with Corona as SC spokesman and chief of the SC PIO.
The SC also approved several other administrative issuances, which were not immediately released to the media, Guerra said.
‘Judicial independence gone’
Judge Franklin Demonteverde of the Bacolod Regional Trial Court believes judicial independence has passed away with the conviction of Corona.
“The men and women in judicial robes are grieving as they cower in fear while the sword of Damocles hovers over their heads,” he said.
“These honorable men and women will be walking on dangerous grounds lest they step on the toes of the powers that be. While we abide by the decision of the impeachment court, we can only pray – God help the judiciary!”
Bacolod Councilor Caesar Distrito said the senators had voted on the basis of political survival, not on the basis of evidence.
“I admire Senators (Joker) Arroyo, (Miriam Defensor-) Santiago, and (Ferdinand) Marcos (Jr.) for standing with the rule of law,” he said.
“Although I disagree with the decision of the Senate convicting CJ Corona, as it was shown that evidence were taken illegally and still they considered it, we have no choice but to respect it. “But if Corona was made accountable for such failure to disclose all his assets, then I think the same standards should be applied to all, from the President down to the barangay officials.”
On the other hand, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. believes Corona’s conviction has upheld the nation’s democracy.
“This should serve as a lesson to everybody, especially the public officials, that the government will catch the corrupt because even the chief justice is convicted,” he said.
“A strong message was handed out that the justice system is fair and high officials of government can be convicted,” Marañon said.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, one of 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint, said the conviction of Corona “just raised the bar of standards for public officials.”
Mayor David Albert Lacson of E.B. Magalona town, Association of Chief Executive (Mayors) of Negros Occidental president, said Corona was given his day in court.
“He went through due process,” he said. “(But) the hammer came down, a decision was made. We have to abide by the law.”
Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer said the senator-judges made the right decision based on evidence presented.
Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedez Alvarez said the conviction of Corona proved that no one is above the law.
“Even the highest officials of the land should comply with our constitutional duties as public officers,” she said.
“After today, I hope we can all move on now as we have a lot of work to be done and a lot of bills to be passed in Congress.”
Lawyer Andy Hagad, convenor of Negrenses for Corona’s Removal, said the conviction of Corona has given teeth to the SALN as a means to check the corrupt in government.
“It is no longer just a piece of paper that they play around with and pay little attention to,” he said. “The SALN has become our sword against the corrupt. Mabuhay ang Pilipino.”
Former Bacolod vice mayor Renecito Novero, a lawyer, said he sympathized with Corona on his sad fate, but that it should be as it is. “Interpreting the law according to his (Corona) fashion will indiscriminately provide sanctuary to crooks and thieves in government,” he said. “The Senate’s overwhelming decision is a clarion triumph of truth and rectitude. Daang matuwid. The Filipino people are ultimately the victor.”
Bacolod Councilor Em Ang said: “We might disagree with the position of some senator-judges but the legal process must be respected. I just hope that lessons have been learned from this political-legal exercise. “Now this case is behind us, our senators must quickly go back to serious work, as there are a lot of significant bills that have been languishing in the Senate because of the impeachment trial.”
Alex Ozoa of the Negrense 4 Noy Movement congratulated the senator-judges and the 188 lawmakers, as well as Rep. Rudy Fariñas, one of the prosecutors who delivered a closing argument.
“A big nail was removed from the matuwid na daan of President P-Noy,” he said. – With Danny Dangcalan
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Palace: No rush in choosing new chief magistrate
By Joyce Pangco Panares
Manila Standard Today
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday he will not be rushed into choosing a new chief justice to avoid making the mistake of appointing someone like the impeached chief magistrate Renato Corona.
In a statement, Mr. Aquino said the next chief justice “must have integrity, must be independent in decision-making, efficient and just.”
He outlined Corona’s sins, which ironically did not include the offense for which he was removed from office: his failure to disclose all his assets.
Instead, the President focused on the Supreme Court’s decisions that proved unfavorable to his administration.
“Doubts have prevailed for the longest time that justice was only for the rich and powerful. We want a system where the scales of justice are balanced, and where the innocent can be assured of protection and the guilty are held accountable,” the President said.
“It was not our intention to pick a fight. But perhaps we were wrong in thinking we will be given fair treatment.”
Mr. Aquino repeatedly said the impeachment was not a personal fight against Corona, although the ousted chief justice “represented the dirty face of the judiciary.”
On Wednesday, the Senate representative to the Judicial and Bar Council said all applicants and nominees to the position vacated by Corona would be required to execute a waiver on the secrecy of their bank deposits and their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Senator Francis Escudero said the waivers would be in favor of the council.
“From now on, we should measure everyone aspiring to join the government with the measure we used with former chief justice Corona,” he said.
Since that was the standard used in impeaching Corona, it should apply to all.
“If you don’t want to declare [your assets], you should not run or accept any government position. But if you are in the government, you must declare them.”
Escudero assured the public that he would block any move to appoint a party-mate or somebody close to the President as the new chief justice.
“There are reports that the next chief justice is an ally or close to the President. We will not allow this to avoid criticisms or any political color to all that happened,” he said.
Senator Franklin Drilon, a virulent Corona critic, has been mentioned as a possible replacement, but Escudero said there was no indication that the senator was interested in the position. He said he hoped the President would choose to appoint someone not in any way identified with him or with any particular group.
“I am hoping that the vetting will be from the outside circle of the President’s official family, friends and the current Supreme Court composition so that we strictly adhere to the new leaf we all are looking forward to,” Escudero said.
“The nation has been heavily divided with the recent impeachment exercise, [so] it’s time for all of us to work for healing, reconciliation so we can already move on and move forward.”
Escudero said the Judicial and Bar Council must convene soon to avoid a vacuum in the Supreme Court with Corona’s removal, noting that any vacancy must be filled within 90 days.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the President must appoint a chief justice from among those already in the Supreme Court, because it was the chief justice that presided over the Judicial and Bar Council.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III said Corona had received the notice of judgment by the impeachment court.
At the Supreme Court, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who took over as acting chief justice following Corona’s removal, called his colleagues to a special meeting attended by everyone.
Carpio convened the special full court session after the Court received a copy of the resolution of the Senate impeachment court removing Corona from the top judicial post after finding him guilty in the impeachment trial.
The meeting tackled the Senate verdict and its accompanying consequences, particularly the high court’s administrative reorganization.
Carpio, as the most senior member of the Court, will take over as chief justice and serve as temporary head until President Aquino appoints a new chief justice within 90 days.
Twelve of the 14 remaining justices of the high court attended the special session. Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta were attending a prior commitment in Baguio City.
Also during the en banc session, the Court approved the release of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of all justices and judges in full.
Acting Court spokeswoman Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said the decision set aside a May 2, 1989 resolution prohibiting the public disclosure of the statement of assets of the members of the judiciary.
“It was a collective decision of the justices. The net effect is that the earlier resolution has just been set aside,” Guerra said, adding that new guidelines would have to be issued.
She said she was taking over from Midas Marquez as Court spokesman and chief of the public information office.
But Marquez stays on as court administrator, a permanent position that has a fixed term that ends when he reaches the age of 65.
Employees of the high court called on President Aquino to choose the next chief justice from within the judiciary.
Jojo Guererro, president of SC Employees Association, said they preferred an insider to replace Corona.
“We hope the President appoints a new chief justice from among the justices because they understand very well what the [high court] and its rank-and-file employees really need,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rey E. Requejo
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/May/31)
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Carpio is acting chief justice while Aquino searches for Corona replacement
By MARK MERUEÑAS
(Updated 8:01 a.m.) – After Chief Justice Renato Corona’s historic ouster, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the next most senior justice at the high court is expected to replace him in an acting capacity as the highest judicial official in the country.
According to Supreme Court rules, Carpio will have to sit as chief magistrate in an acting capacity until President Benigno Aquino III finds a replacement for Corona, who on Tuesday was removed from office after a 20-3 guilty verdict from the Senate impeachment court.
Asked when Aquino would name Corona’s replacement, palace spokesperson Valte said that under the Constitution, the President has 90 days to appoint the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
“From what I understand, the position will be vacant because the decision of the Senate impeachment court is immediately executory,” she added.
Until the President names the new Chief Justice, the most senior of the SC Associate Justices takes over as acting Chief Justice, she said.
Carpio, having been appointed to the high court ahead of Corona, had seniority among the high magistrates. In 2010, however, after Carpio said President-elect Benigno C. Aquino III should be allowed to appoint the next chief justice, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—the outgoing president—appointed Corona as chief justice.
Carpio is the co-founder of the Carpio Villaraza & Cruz law office (CVCLAW), which later became the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco law office.
The law partnership is known in legal circles as “The Firm,” in reference to the 1993 film bearing the same title, which was based on the 1991 novel by John Grisham. It tells the story of an American law firm with powerful but shadowy connections in government and the business sector.
Corona had earlier accused “The Firm” of spearheading a smear campaign against him, a claim the firm denied.
Aquino will have to choose an appointee to replace Corona from a list of nominees to be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council, which is tasked to receive and screen applications and nominations for a judicial post.
As acting chief justice, Carpio will also head the JBC.
Defense lawyers visit Corona
Meanwhile, defense lawyers trooped to The Medical City Tuesday night to check on Corona, who has been confined at the hospital since last week after suffering from hypoglycemia.
Corona suffers from diabetes and has had two heart bypass operations.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas led the panel in meeting with Corona at The Medical City, radio dzBB’s Divine Caraecle reported Tuesday.
Cuevas and members of the defense panel arrived at The Medical City at 8 p.m. and met with Corona.
“As lawyers, we have to be very honest with him. And just tell him what happened at the hearing today,” defense lawyer and spokesperson Rico Paolo Quicho told reporters Tuesday.
The lawyer said his team has not yet discussed whether or not to elevate the Senate’s guilty verdict to the Supreme Court.
“We have not yet talked about what we’ll do after or the near future… Wala pa kaming formal na desisyon,” Quicho said.
In an interview over dzBB Wednesday morning, defense lawyer Karen Jimeno said the chief justice has not yet decided whether he would file for a petition for writ of certiorari regarding the impeachment court’s guilty verdict or not.
“May ibang may mga pananaw na yung remedy dito na petition for certiorari ay maaaring available, pero syempre kailangan nilang tignan in this case kung meron ba talagang ‘grave abuse of discretion’ doon sa impeachment court noong lumabas itong desisyon,” Jimeno said.
“Magiging iba-iba siguro yung paningin dito but wala namang desisyon na mag-file ng case ng petition para doon sa impeachment case,” she said.
The Senate had earlier insisted it has sole jurisdiction over impeachment cases, while Corona’s lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas had repeatedly said they can still file a petition for review with the SC if the impeachment court had committed grave abuse of discretion in hearing the case.
For now, Corona and his team of lawyers said they were respecting the Senate impeachment court’s decision.
“Kailangan respetuhin ang pagpapasya ng senator-judges… From the beginning we already said we will respect whatever decision the Senate may come up with,” Quicho said.
In a three-page signed statement, Corona said he respected the guilty verdict but lamented how the proceedings seemed to have been tainted by “dirty politics [masamang pulitika].” – with a report from Amita Legaspi/KG/HS/YA, GMA News