President Benigno Aquino III believes the verdict of the Senate impeachment court on Chief Justice Renato Corona will be the “exclamation point” in his anticorruption reforms.
“It’s not Corona per se. It’s the whole system. If he gets acquitted, it’s a license I think for everybody to continue what they have been doing,” Mr. Aquino said.
Even so, he expressed optimism that the prosecution had a strong case to get a conviction from the senator-judges.
“Our premise is that our society is being damaged by abuses in the judiciary. The damage will continue as long as we continue to hold back on reforms,” the President said Monday night in an interview at the wake of Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot.
He said the paltry conviction rate of 14 percent and the six-year average time to adjudicate cases were among the ills plaguing the judiciary.
He cited two high-profile cases in which influential groups used the courts to bend the rules in their favor—that of Banco Filipino (which is demanding P25 billion in fresh infusion of funds from the central bank), and the one of Meridian Gaming, whose franchise to operate a jai-alai in the Cagayan province ecozone is under litigation.
“If you are able to (impeach) the Chief Justice, it sends the message to the rest of the judiciary that it’s not business as usual. That’s the ultimate objective. So if you prolong it, business remains as usual,” the President said.