MANILA, Philippines—One of the senators who will decide on the fate of embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona sees no problem with President Benigno Aquino already considering a replacement even before the impeachment trial could start.
But Senator Gregorio Honasan warned the President, who has been criticized lately for allegedly showing dictatorial tendencies: “I hope he has a clear plan, where to bring all this in the long run.”
Honasan, who will sit with 22 other senators as judges in the impeachment court, said Aquino had the “prerogative” to draw up a short list of prospective chief justices to succeed Corona in the event he was ousted.
“How do you second-guess the President with all his prerogative, with all the public support behind him? That’s unassailable,” the senator told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “No one will be presumptuous to question him, including the timing and the wisdom of his decision.”
Aquino’s mouthpiece, Edwin Lacierda, on Tuesday said the President was looking for a chief justice with qualities similar to those of Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Sereno, one of Aquino’s three appointees to the 15-member Supreme Court, dissented to the issuance of a temporary restraining order against travel restrictions imposed on former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
At the time the TRO became available, no charges had yet been filed against Arroyo, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima defied the Supreme Court order. The Commission on Elections soon filed an electoral sabotage case against Arroyo and Pasay Judge Jesus Mupas issued an arrest warrant in a few hours.
“Even if he looks for a replacement for Corona now, that’s none of our business in the Senate,” Honasan said.. “He has tremendous prerogative.”
But the senator said Aquino’s actions, including his Liberal Party’s initiative to impeach Corona at the House of Representatives, should all lead to concrete results “that would be good for the country.”
“With this initial step, which is a political one, hopefully the result will allow us to address the fundamental economic problems of the country,” he said. “We are all praying that he has a clear plan and vision.”
Honasan said he was looking at an “expeditious” impeachment trial. Senator Joker Arroyo said the whole process should be over in a month, while Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III’s timeframe is three months.
“We have to do this as expeditiously as possible, without sacrificing due process, so we can attend to other important problems of the country,” Honasan said.