Look who’s talking

CHIEF Justice Renato Corona is trying hard to picture himself as a victim of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s alleged assault on the independence and integrity of the judiciary as he rallies his supporters for his defense.

But is Corona really a victim here? Let us review what happened.

Two days after the May 2010 elections, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then in her last few days in Malacañang, unsurprisingly appointed Corona, her former aide and spokesperson, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court despite public protest.

Corona’s appointment was seen as a form of insurance for Arroyo who is expecting a number of criminal cases to be filed in court against her once she steps out of Malacañang.

Corona’s opponents have reasons to worry since his voting record as associate justice of the high court shows he consistently favors Arroyo (a high 78 percent) in politically significant cases prompting them to predict that his appointment as chief justice would undermine the integrity of the judiciary.

They also noted the close relationship of Corona with Arroyo.

They noted that Corona, who loves to describe himself as a very loyal person who never forgets his debts of gratitude, owes his meteoric rise to government more to Arroyo than anybody else even before she first appointed him associate justice of the high tribunal in 2002.

Considering the virtues he cherishes (loyalty and grati-tude), where does Corona’s loyalty now lie?

Another issue being pointed out against the controversial chief justice is the legality of his appointment since it is claimed to be in violation of the constitutional ban on midnight appointments (Article VII, Sec. 15 of the 1987 Constitution).

Nine-Arroyo appointed justices of the Supreme Court, however, resolved this issue with a legal sly. Citing Article 8, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, they declared that the ban on midnight appointments does not apply on the judiciary thereby allowing their patron to appoint Corona as chief jus-tice.

Since his chief justice ap-pointment, Corona continues to vote in favor of Arroyo on poli-tically sensitive issues, the latest of which was the high tribunal’s hurried issuance of a temporary restraining order against a government hold departure order on Arroyo which could have led to her evasion of prosecution. (Arroyo is now under arrest and facing charges of electoral sa-botage).

Now, who then is violating the integrity and independence of the Supreme Court? Who is the real aggressor on the principle of separation of powers?

That remains to be seen during Corona’s impeachment trial but I respectfully submit that the real victims here are not the members of the judiciary and certainly not Corona but our poor people.


I submit that Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice is legal as per decision penned by Supreme Court Justice Lucas Bersamin. However, I also respectfully believe that although it is legal it is not right or proper as it was a shameless act.

Based on the constitutional provision cited by the nine Supreme Court justices who allowed Arroyo to appoint her aide as chief justice, she has 90 days to fill up any vacancy in the Supreme Court. Article VIII, Sec. 4 of the 1987 Constitution states: “…Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.”

The vacancy in this ins-tance occurred on May 17 when Chief Justice Reynato Puno retired. It is from this date that the count for the 90-day period began. Clearly the sta-ted period goes well over the day when Aquino took over the reins of power.

Certainly it is not an immediate absolute duty for Arroyo to make an appointment or for Corona to accept it.

From the very start Justice Renato Corona knew that his appointment by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is controversial as it was clearly done by the latter with impunity obviously to ensure that someone loyal will “watch her back” once she is out of Malacañang.

Corona, a very loyal person, missed the bus of history when he readily and knowingly accepted the poisonous appointment.

Now the poison is out and is damaging the very institution that Corona is supposed to protect.

Under the Article VII, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution: “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make ap-pointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

Clearly this is a Constitutional ban on midnight appointments and yet nine Arroyo-appointed justices of the Supreme Court justified the poisonous appointment of a chief justice through legal sleight by citing Article VIII Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which states: “…Any vacancy (in the Supreme Court) shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.”

Note, however, that based on the wordings of the Constitutional provision cited by the lucky nine, “the vacancy shall be filled within 90 days from the occurrence thereof,” meaning Arroyo is not strictly bound by law to immediately fill-up the vacancy nor is Corona also legally bound to accept the appointment.

The vacancy in the Supreme Court occurred on May 12, 2010 when then Chief Justice Reynato Puno retired.

Arroyo, whose stay in Malacañang would end at noon of June 30, 2010, could have chosen not to make any appointment out of respect for the incoming president, then President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III, but chose otherwise.

Yes, I submit Corona’s appointment is legal as per decision of the nine (9) Arroyo ap-pointed justices but it was never right for not only abetting the clearly shameless circumven-tion of the Constitution and Arroyo’s con-temptuous act against the people by whole-heartedly accepting the appointment, he is also not the right man for it.

He is just too beholden to Arroyo, his patron and boss, to be at the helm of the high court.

Arroyo, who is now facing electoral sabotage charges before a Pasay City court has several motions pending before the Corona-led judiciary.

Ngayon sino ba talaga ang nambabastos sa taumbayan at sa Korte Suprema?

* * *

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For more information call Ms. Elaine Garchitorena at 0495620976.

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