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Palace destroying objectivity of Corona impeachment—Joker Arroyo

Senator Joker Arroyo

Senator Joker Arroyo fears that Malacañang, which is already searching for a replacement for Chief Justice Renato Corona, could bring about a public mindset that would defeat the objectivity and neutrality of the impending impeachment trial.

“What I lament is that while the Senate enjoins political neutrality, Malacañang does not.  In fact, it caused the filing of the impeachment complaint.  Now they’re already looking for the replacement of the Chief Justice. Things like that,” Arroyo said in a phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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The Senate is scheduled to begin the impeachment of Corona in about three weeks.

Arroyo fears that Malacañang’s announcement that it was scouting for Corona’s successor “could bring about a mindset that would affect the public.”

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Arroyo, who was appointed prosecutor in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada more than a decade ago, is also  concerned about the reporters who would cover Corona’s trial.

“What we should guard against is not the trial per se but the commentaries (because)… the media would be the annotators of what is happening.  You can imagine that,” he said.

Arroyo said he had been to several Senate caucuses where Corona’s coming impeachment trial was discussed.  On these occasions, Arroyo said he could “sense” the determination of his colleagues to stay objective.

This, he explained, stemmed from frustration born of the abrupt halt to Estrada’s impeachment trial in January 2001.

The private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Estrada walked out after the senator-judges rejected newly introduced evidence that would have supposedly bolstered Estrada’s links to “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game.

Politically neutral

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The walkout triggered an impromptu gathering of disgruntled citizens at the Edsa Shrine that eventually led to Estrada’s ouster.

“I think most senators would adhere to (neutrality) precisely because… the Estrada trial… was prematurely terminated. We cannot afford that again. That is why I think that the senator-judges, conscious of what happened, will be politically neutral. Most of us could feel it in our caucuses (and) it should be that way,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo said that part of this determination was the desire to see Corona’s trial come to a close—meaning that a verdict would be handed down after all the evidence and rebuttals shall have been presented and scrutinized.

Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson Midas Marquez earlier  raised a howl over President Benigno Aquino III’s reportedly  searching for Corona’s replacement.

Not arrogance

The order was “presumptuous and arrogant,” Marquez said.  He reminded Malacañang the Constitution states that only the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) can screen and select candidates for justices of the high tribunal.

But Malacañang on Thursday defended its move. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said “it isn’t arrogance when one prepares for certain eventualities.”

President Aquino’s directive for his legal team to look for possible replacements for Corona doesn’t mean the executive branch was supplanting the JBC, Valte said.

Corona’s replacement—if ever he’s removed through impeachment—would be chosen from the list first submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council, she said.

“The scouting does not mean you would disregard the JBC. On  the contrary, it is normal practice for the government to look at its options and then wait for the short list from the JBC,” she said.

“Allow us to remind attorney Marquez that in 2010, even before the post was vacated by the former Chief Justice [Reynato] Puno, people were already on the lookout for his replacement,” Valte said.

“The (JBC) had convened even before there was a vacancy. So it isn’t contrary to human experience that people start preparing even if there is still no vacancy. Second, we prepare for contingencies—that’s about it,” she said.

“Of course, you also expect us to do our homework,” countered Valte.

She said Malacañang was also bracing for the possibility of Corona being acquitted by the Senate.

Asked if the government had a contingency plan if Corona were acquitted, Valte replied, “We always have a contingency plan.”

Pressed to reveal what the contingency plan was, Valte said, “Not at the moment. I apologize… not at the moment.”

“Let’s wait to see how the trial would proceed,” she said.

Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Thursday said Malacañang would not be able to dictate the outcome of Corona’s impeachment trial.

If the Palace appeared to have gotten its way in the 285-member House of Representatives, this will not necessarily be the case with the 23 senators who will decide on the fate of the Chief Justice, Pimentel said. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Corona Impeachment, Government, Joker Arroyo, Judiciary, Politics, Renato Corona, Senate, Supreme Court
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