Thursday, 16 February 2012

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines Impeachment Allegations

Do you really understand why the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines was impeached?

He was impeached last December 12, 2011. Renato Corona was the third Philippine official after President Joseph Estrada on 2000 and Ombudsman Merceditas Guitierrez earlier in 2011 which resigned before the trial, to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The Complaint for the Impeachment of the Honorable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was based on the grounds of Betrayal of Public Trust, Culpable Violation of the Constitution, and Graft and Corruption.


ALLEGATIONS

I. Partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration from the time he was appointed as associate justice to the time of his 'midnight appointment' as chief justice.









Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno was to retire on May 17, 2010, seven days after the presidential election; however, Sec. 15, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution clearly prohibits the President from making appointments within two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, except for temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety. This caused a suit to be brought to the court, in which the court ruled on March 17, 2010, that the ban on appointments does not cover the judiciary. The court ruled with finality on April 20, 2010, with nine justices concurring, one dissenting, three inhibiting and two dismissing the case for being premature. This caused the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body that recommends nominees to the president, to resume its sessions in determining the list to be submitted.

Renato Corona was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010. In a statement, the executive said that among the nominees submitted by the JBC, Corona was the "most senior Supreme Court justice".
With Benigno Aquino III winning the election, he invited all heads of the three branches of government to his inauguration, although instead of the tradition of him being inaugurated by the Chief Justice, he instead chose to be sworn in by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the sole dissenter on the case. At the first few months of Aquino's presidency, he consolidated power by removing government officials closely associated with the Arroyo administration. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who cannot be simply removed from office, was impeached by the House of Representatives on March 22, 2011; the Senate was set to begin the second impeachment trial in history when she resigned on April 29, 2011. Aquino announced the appointment of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman to replace Gutierrez on his 2011 State of the Nation Address.


II. Betrayal of public trust and /or culpable violation of the constitution when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets and Liability and Networth (SALN). As required under Sec.17,Art.XI of the 1987 Constitutio.








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Article 11, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution 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.”

Condos, land
Based on Corona’s SALNs and land records submitted by registers of deeds during the trial, Corona apparently has some explaining to do over the following properties:
A 631.6-sq m lot in Quezon City he bought in 1995 which was never declared in all his SALNs.
A Marikina property—seven parcels of land covered by seven transfer certificates of title—he declared only in his 1992 SALN even when this still belongs to him. A 113.02-sq m condominium in Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig, acquired in 2004, that was not declared until 2010.
A 62.7-sq m condo acquired by installment in 1997 but declared only in 2003; and a condominium unit in The Columns in Makati that was not reflected in his 2003-2009 SALN and was belatedly declared in his 2010 filing.



III. Betrayal of Public trust and /or committed culpable violation of the constitution when he blatantly disregared the principle of separation of powers by issuing a "STATUS QUO ANTE" order against the house of representative in the case concerning the impeachment of then ombudsman Merceditas Navarro- Gutierrez.








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On September 13, 2010, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition before the Supreme Court seeking to enjoin the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives from proceeding with the impeachment proceedings against her. Gutierrez’s sixty-paged Petition prayed for a Temporary Restraining Order against the impeachment proceedings. With undue haste, the following day after filing, The chief justice allegedly immediately tabled Gutierrez’s Petition although not all the Justices had received or read the Petition. He railroaded the proceedings to have a Status Quo Ante Order issued in favor of Gutierrez. This was confirmed by Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in her Concurring Opinion to the February 15, 2011 Decision. A Supreme Court delivery receipt published by the news magazine Newsbreak also showed that most of the justices received the Petition after the deliberations, while three (3) justices who voted to issue the Status Quo Ante Order received the petition only on September 15, 2011, a day after the status quo ante order was granted. These justices were Justices Velasco, Bersamin and Perez. The issuance of the Status Quo Ante Order is a betrayal of the public trust since it clearly showed a high-handedness, bias, subservience and partisanship. The issuance of a Status Quo Ante Order against a co-equal branch of government, without even the benefit of the Justices' reading the decision, is a tyrannical abuse of power to favor a litigant and to obstruct the impeachment process. The issuance of the order also directly violates the principle of separation of powers since the Supreme Court prevented the House from doing its constitutional mandate of initiating impeachment proceedings.



VI. Wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the principle of res judicata in the cases involving the 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island (sic) into a province.










Supreme Court changed its mind four times, entering different judgments on the constitutionality of laws creating the cities of Baybay in Leyte; Bogo in Cebu; Catbalogan in Samar; Tandag in Surigao del Sur; Borongan in Eastern Samar; Tayabas in Quezon; Lamitan in Basilan; Tabuk in Kalinga; Bayugan in Agusan del Sur; Batac in Ilocos Norte; Mati in Davao Oriental; Guihulngan in Negros Oriental; Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte; Carcar in Cebu; El Salvador in Misamis Oriental; and Naga in Cebu.
The court declared the new cities legal in April 2011, and made its decision final in July 2011.
Dinagat Islands had been a part of the First District of Surigao del Norte Province until becoming a province on its own on December 2, 2006 with the approval of Republic Act No. 9355, the Charter of the Province of Dinagat Islands, in a plebiscite.
On February 11, 2010 the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the creation of Dinagat Islands Province null and void on grounds of failure to meet land area and population requirements for the creation of local government units. Dinagat Islands then reverted to Surigao del Norte Province. On March 30, 2011, however, the Supreme Court reversed its ruling from the previous year, and upheld the constitutionality of RA 9355 and the creation of Dinagat Islands as a province.

V. Betrayal of Public Trust and/or committed violation of the constitution by failing to meet and observe the stringent standards under ART. VIII, SECTION 7 of the constitution that provides 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 decision 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 regarding cases pending before the supreme court.








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He was appointed to the Supreme Court on April 9, 2002 by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Prior to his appointment, he served Arroyo for many years as her chief of staff, and spokesman when she was Vice-President, and later as her Presidential Chief-of-Staff, Presidential Spokesman, and Acting Executive Secretary. In Art. VIII, Section 7 (3) of the 1987 Constitution provides that “[a] Member of the Judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.” Members of the Judiciary are expected to have these four qualities mandated by the Constitution because these form the very foundation for maintaining people’s faith in the Judiciary. Thus, it has been ruled by no less than the Supreme Court that “People who run the judiciary, particularly justices and judges, must not only be proficient in both the substantive and procedural aspects of the law, but more importantly, they must possess the highest degree of integrity and probity and an unquestionable moral uprightness both in their public and private lives.” Although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness than a seat in the Judiciary. High ethical principles and a sense of propriety should be maintained, without which the faith of the people in the Judiciary so indispensable in an orderly society cannot be preserved. Just very recently, the flip-flopping of the Corona Court on Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) v. Philippine Airlines, Inc., et al. – the recall of a September 7, 2011 Decision of the Supreme Court’s Second Division denying a Second Motion for Reconsideration of the 2008 ruling in favor of FASAP, on a mere letter from Philippine Airlines’ counsel Atty. Estelito Mendoza, and without requiring a comment from or notice to the other parties to hear their side. He lack of ethical principles and his disdain for fairness which has eroded the faith of the people in the Judiciary. The matter is made worse since the recall is reported to have been at the instance of Mr. Corona, who admitted that in 2008, he inhibited from the case. How then can he justify his interference in this case today? Why take part or interfere now? What is even more disturbing is that under Mr. Corona’s watch as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court allegedly appears to be acting on mere letters kept hidden from those concerned and the other parties and all from the same lawyer Estelito Mendoza. It must be recalled that the same Estelito Mendoza wrote a personal letter to the chief justice which also caused the flip-flopping in the League of Cities v. COMELEC case. It must also be recalled that Estelito Mendoza is also the same person who filed Administrative Matter No. 10-2-5-SC, and was among the petitioners in the Supreme Court who posited that Mrs. Arroyo may appoint the next Chief Justice despite the constitutional ban; and through which petition, made it possible for the Supreme Court to legitimize and provide not only a strained but obviously erroneous basis for the midnight and constitutionally-prohibited appointment of Mr. Corona. In this connection, Mr. Corona's voting pattern even prior to his dubious appointment as Chief Justice, clearly proves a bias and manifest partiality for Mrs. Arroyo. It must be noted that under the law, bias need not be proven to actually exist.
Mr. Corona further compromised his independence when his wife, Cristina Corona, accepted an appointment on March 23, 2007 from Mrs. Gloria Arroyo to the Board of the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC). The JHMC is a wholly-owned subsidiary corporation of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), a government-owned-and-controlled corporation created under Republic Act No. 7227. Shortly after assuming her well-paying job at JHMC, serious complaints were filed against Mrs. Corona by her fellow Board members, as well as from the Management and rank-and-file employees of the JHMC. Instead of acting upon the serious complaints against Mrs. Corona, Mrs. Arroyo instructed all members of the JHMC to tender their courtesy resignations immediately. After the resignations, Mrs. Corona was retained and even promoted after President Arroyo expressed her desire for Mrs. Corona’s election as OIC Chairman of the JHMC Board. Despite the numerous other complaints against Mrs. Corona, including one from Baguio Mayor Reinaldo Bautista where he protested Mrs. Corona’s move to replace the members of the JHMC Management Team, in violation of the terms of City Council Resolution No. 362 which protects the security of tenure in the JHMC of local residents occupying key positions in the corporation, and despite adverse findings in the COA report that also established that she was improperly holding office in St. Ignatius Village in Quezon City, Mrs. Corona was not removed from her position. She was even allowed to rack up unnecessary expenses totalling Six Hundred Ninety Thousand And One Hundred Eighty-Three Pesos (P690,183.00) which she spent holding office in Quezon City when JHMC’s operations were all in Baguio City.

Mrs. Corona’s appointment is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct that provides.

Judges shall not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. The prestige of judicial office shall not be used or lent to advance the private interests of others, nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.” 

Judges shall not use or lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance their private interests, or those of a member of their family or of anyone else, nor shall they convey or permit others to convey the impression that anyone is in a special position improperly to influence them in the performance of judicial duties.” 

Judges and members of their families shall neither ask for, nor accept, any gift, bequest, loan or favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him or her in connection with the performance of judicial duties.”

Judges shall not only be free from inappropriate connections with, and influence by, the executive and legislative branches of government, but must also appear to be free therefrom to a reasonable observer.”



VI. Betrayal of the public trust by arrobating unto himself, and to a committee he created, the authority and jurisdiction to improperly investigate a justice of the supreme court for the purpose of exculpating him. such authority and jurisdiction is properly reposed by the constitution in the house of representative via impeachment. 








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Canon 2, sec. 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct demands extremely high moral standards of all judges and Justices: they must “ensure that not only their conduct is above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.” This is but consistent with a very long line of jurisprudence laid by the Supreme Court that judges should avoid all forms of impropriety, including the appearance of impropriety. It is also practically a universal rule among judiciaries worldwide.
The Vinuya vs. Executive Secretary case concerned a petition by other legal scholars on behalf of the surviving Filipino “comfort women” (women pressed into sexual slavery by occupying Japanese forces during the Second World War), on the theory that the prohibition against rape and sexual abuse in times of war is jus cogens in international law, and therefore the State had a duty to pursue their claims from the Japanese government. Upon review of the Court's decision denying the comfort women's petition, it was alleged that rampant plagiarism was committed by the ponente, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo..

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo allegedly committed 32 counts of plagiarism in writing the decision on the case of World War II "comfort women", a lawyer said Tuesday.

Plagiarism
the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work, as by not crediting the author

Four grandmothers who were sexually abused and made to become comfort women during the Japanese occupation, together with their lawyers, attended the House of Representatives committee of justice hearing of the impeachment complaint against del Castillo.
The comfort women were the main complainants against del Castillo for alleged plagiarism as ponente or main author of the decision in the Vinuya case, which denied the petition filed by a group of comfort women seeking to compel the government to espouse their claims against the Japanese government. 

The alleged plagiarism comprised the verbatim lifting, without attribution and encompassing both the original authors' written text and footnotes, of significant portions of books and articles from international law journals that supported the theory. At least three foreign authors works were allegedly plagiarized. But aside from the issue of plagiarism itself, after copying from the articles, the Court allegedly made them appear to support the opposite conclusion; i.e., the Court used them to deny the petition, whereas the materials per se should have been seen to favour the grant.

It appears that, with a clear intent of exonerating a member of the Supreme Court, in violation of the Constitution, formed an Ethics Committee that determined the culpability of a Justice of the Supreme Court – an impeachable officer. Chief justice had no power to do this since under the Constitution, the power to make accountable impeachable officers belonged to the House of Representatives. Thus, he allegedly betrayed the public trust by arrogating unto himself, and to a Committee he created, the authority and jurisdiction to investigate an alleged member of the Supreme Court. To reiterate, such authority and jurisdiction has been reposed by the Constitution in the House of Representatives via impeachment. By constituting such a committee, and by arrogating unto himself power to determine the culpability of Justice del Castillo and exonerating him in the end, Respondent thereby encroached on the sole power and duty of the House of Representatives to determine, by impeachment, whether Justice Del Castillo was to be held accountable, in violation of the principle of separation of powers of the Legislature and the Judiciary.

VII. Partiality in granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of former president Gloria Macapagal-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.

The Supreme Court, under Mr. corona, inexplicably consolidated the separate petitions filed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel Arroyo in order to question the validity of the Watch List Orders issued against them by the Department of Justice pursuant to DOJ Circular No. 41 ironically issued by the DOJ under Arroyo’s administration. By consolidating the petitions, the Supreme Court under Respondent unduly gave Miguel Arroyo an unwarranted benefit since the alleged urgent health needs of President Arroyo would now be extended to him.

Worse, the Supreme Court, under Mr. Corona allegedly, immediately acted upon the Petition and granted the TRO despite the fact that there are clear inconsistencies in former President Arroyo’s petition that casts serious doubts on the sincerity and urgency of her request to leave the Philippines. As detailed in the dissent of Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, President Arroyo presented "inconsistent, and probably untruthful statements" about her situation. Justice Sereno cited documents submitted by the former president's doctors belying her claims of threat to life. Aside from changes in the list of countries she wanted to visit, President Arroyo was also planning to participate in two conferences. Hence, Justice Sereno noted: "It seems incongruous for petitioner who has asked the Department of Justice and this Court to look with humanitarian concern on her precarious state of health, to commit herself to attend these meetings and conferences at the risk of worsening her physical condition."

Moreover, it appears from reports that the ponente to whom the petitions were raffled was an Associate Justice. Under the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court, a TRO can only be considered upon the recommendation of the ponente. Evidently, in view of certain objections against the grant of the TRO, a holding of a hearing within the short period of five (5) days was recommended. Despite this recommendation, the Mr Corona allegedly engineered a majority of 8 votes (as against five dissenters) the immediate grant and issuance of the TRO in favor of former President Arroyo and her husband in blatant violation of their own internal rules.

It also appears from the coordinated acts of the Arroyos that they were coordinating with the chief justice. For how can it be explained that they made multiple bookings on the same day expecting that they can leave the country on the very same day their plea for a TRO was to be decided? It is not difficult to see that the hasty issuance of the TRO was a brazen accommodation to the Arroyos. Not only that. The chief justice allegedly bent over backwards to aid and abet the Arroyos’ plan to leave the country on the very day of the session on their TRO plea. The Court’s office hours that usually end at 4:30 pm were extended to allow the Arroyos to post a measly P2 million bond later and the Court process server was drafted to serve the TRO upon the DOJ and the OSG after office hours.

Nov. 15, 2011 ,former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (C) arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The Pasay Regional Trial Court had denied a motion by Mrs. Arroyo to revoke an arrest warrant that led to her detention for vote-rigging. Felda L. Domingo, court legal researcher at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112, said in a phone interview “Upon assessment of the information [filed by the Commission on Elections], the annexes in the complaint... there was a belief on the part of the judge that there was probability in the accusations,”

VIII. Betrayal of public trust and/or committed graft and corruption when he failed and refused to account for the judiciary development funds (JDF) and special allowances for the judiciary (SAJ) collection.

The Supreme Court has an independent source of income other than its share in the national budget. It collects from every litigant filing a complaint docket fees, which are used for the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) and basic legal fees, which go to the Judicial Development Fund (JDF). It is worth noting that the Judiciary Development Fund and the Fiduciary Fund partake of the nature of trust funds. The JDF is being collected for the benefit of the members and personnel of the Judiciary to help ensure and guarantee the independence of the Judiciary in the administration of justice. It is also intended to augment the allowances of the members and personnel of the Judiciary and to finance the acquisition, maintenance and repair of office equipment and facilities.

Mr Corona has allegedly failed and refused to report on the status of the JDF Funds and the SAJ collections. Under his leadership, the Supreme Court has reportedly failed to remit to the Bureau of Treasury all SAJ collections in violation of the policy of transparency, accountability and good governance. There is likewise the reported failure of chief justice to account for funds released and spent for unfilled positions in the judiciary and from authorized and funded but not created courts.

In particular, the annual audit report of the Supreme Court of the Philippines contained the observation that unremitted funds to the Bureau of Treasury amounted to P5.38 Billion
On the other hand, the Special allowance for Judiciary along with the General Fund, Judiciary Development Fund in the amount of P559.5 Million were misstated resulting from delayed and/or non-preparation of bank reconciliation statements and non-recording /uncorrected reconciling items.

The World Bank has also questioned the Chief justice over the use of a $21-million loan it granted the Supreme Court.
An “aide memoire” issued by the international bank is questioning the Chief Justice over the misuse of the million dollar loan intended for the judicial system reforms.
According to the memorandum, the World Bank showed a portion of the $21-million loan it granted the high court in 2011 for judicial reforms had been used for other purposes such as local and foreign trips of some court officials.
The World Bank noted that it appears that plane fares for some members of the tribunal who went to Cebu on March 18, 2011 were taken from the loan.
The World Bank also questioned the travel allowance of two court officials, which reached P170,000 or $4,000 each for a three-day trip to Sydney, Australia. The amount was on top of the lavish room accommodations and dinners also shouldered by the Supreme Court.

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