De Lima warns SC: Aquino to reclaim court for the people | Inquirer News
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De Lima warns SC: Aquino to reclaim court for the people

By: - Reporter / @T2TupasINQ
/ 02:35 PM December 15, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila De Lima strongly warned the 10 Arroyo-appointed associate justices at the Supreme Court they could face impeachment as well, saying President Benigno Aquino was “reclaiming the court for the people.”

“The Supreme Court belongs to the people,” De Lima said in a statement three days after Aquino’s allies in Congress moved to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona.

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“And when the Arroyo justices start thinking that in protecting [former President Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo, they are shorn of any accountability, not even by impeachment, then it is time the people, through their representatives in Congress, impeach them. It is time the President and Congress reclaim the Court for the people,” De Lima said.

Thirteen members of the high tribunal, including Corona, were appointed by Arroyo. Corona and Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo have separate impeachment cases.

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Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said two more justices could also face impeachment complaints. He did not elaborate.

The unprecedented push to impeach Corona came after the Supreme Court made a series of decisions that Malacañang said hindered government efforts to prosecute Arroyo for alleged corruption.

“Some members of the Supreme Court may belong to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But the Supreme Court, the institution, the Supreme Court of the people, can never belong to Corona or to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” De Lima said.

Aside from Corona and Del Castillo, other justices appointed by Arroyo are Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Arturo Brion, Roberto Abad, Presbitero Velasco, Jose Mendoza, Jose Perez, Martin Villarama and Lucas Bersamin.

Meanwhile, the associate justices appointed by Aquino are Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas Bernabe.

Aquino, who won presidential elections last year in a landslide, has never fully recognised Corona’s legitimacy as the Supreme Court chief justice.

This is because Arroyo appointed Corona shortly before she stepped down as president, in what Aquino said was a violation of a constitutional ban on so-called “midnight appointments” by an outgoing leader.

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Aquino’s allies have said Arroyo planted Corona in the Supreme Court as part of her efforts to protect herself from future criminal prosecutions.

Arroyo, who ruled the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, has been accused of rigging elections, plundering state coffers and a wide range of other corruption while in power.

She has denied all the accusations.

The government filed the first of what it promised would be many charges against Arroyo last month for allegedly rigging the 2007 senatorial elections.

Corona made a defiant speech to court officials on Monday in which he vowed to resist the political pressure.

“I assure you, I do not intend to leave them to do as they please. I am not going anywhere,” Corona said in a speech to court employees.

“I want all of you to know that your chief continues to be in command and will lead the fight against any and all who dare to destroy the court and independence of the judiciary.”

Corona said his impeachment was linked to the Aquino administration’s eagerness to control the high court by installing justices “who will grant their every request.”

“It seems that they’ve become restless because they cannot designate their own chief justice if they will follow the Constitution. That’s why they labeled me as a stumbling block to economic development and to the realization of their campaign promise,” he said.

The Chief Justice said the allegations against him were malicious and mere fabrications.

“Maybe the enemies of the court thought that since they cannot dictate upon me and other members of the tribunal, they can force us to resign,” he said. “But I will never allow this attempt to put the Supreme Court under the control of another branch of the government. I will be the first to oppose it. I will be the first to fight it.”

The Supreme Court on November 24 ordered that the sprawling Hacienda Luisita controlled by Aquino’s family be given to more than 6,000 farmers who had worked there for years. With reports from Agence France-Presse, Inquirer

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TAGS: Conflict, Impeachment, Judiciary, Renato Corona, Supreme Court
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