Supreme Court asked to stop impeach trial of CJ Corona
A lawyer, who was suspended by the Supreme Court for eight years for questioning its credibility and independence, has come to the defense of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Along with fellow lawyer Homobono Adaza, Allan Paguia on Tuesday petitioned the high court to stop the Senate impeachment court from proceeding with Corona’s trial, scheduled to begin on Jan. 16.
The petition was the fifth filed in the high court seeking to block Corona’s impeachment trial.
“What we are seeing in the House of Representatives and the Senate is not the rule of law, but a ridicule of law,” Paguia told reporters after filing the joint petition.
“They are disregarding the requirements under the Constitution. It’s common sense that before you sign something, you should have read its contents,” he added.
But Paguia, who stood as counsel for deposed President Joseph Estrada in his plunder trial at the Sandiganbayan, claimed his decision to oppose Corona’s impeachment “did not mean that I’m defending him.”
“We’re not defending anyone. We’re just fighting for the rule of law,” he said, adding that the petition was a “citizen suit.”
Belief in law
Lawyer Vladimir Cabigao, tax informer Danilo Lihaylihay, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Vicente Millora and lawyer Oliver Lozano have filed separate petitions against Corona’s impeachment. Their petitions have been separately raffled off to the justices.
Paguia, a former law professor at Ateneo de Manila University, was indefinitely suspended by the high court from the teaching and practice of law in 2003 after he accused it of taking part in removing Estrada from office through a popular revolt in 2001.
The court allowed Paguia to resume his law practice on Oct. 11, 2011, after he declared that the “suspension has strengthened his belief in… the Rule of Law, due process and equal protection and in the Supreme Court as the final dispenser of justice.”
Failed to verify
In their petition for certiorari and prohibition, Paguia and Adaza claimed the House erred in filing the impeachment case when they failed to “verify” the documents it submitted to the Senate.
They said the Senate committed grave abuse of discretion when it received the documents without checking if the 188 congressmen who supported Corona’s ouster had affixed their signature on the complaint.
“It is the duty of the Senate to determine whether the complaint is verified—meaning it contains (signature) at the time the complaint was filed,” the petition said.
“Not having been verified, the so-called verified complaint is a mere scrap of paper with no legal effect,” it added.
“The Honorable Supreme Court should rule that the respondent Senate, in assuming jurisdiction over a constitutionally and legal flawed complaint for impeachment, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.”
Paguia and Adaza noted it only took three hours and 30 minutes for 188 House members to sign the articles of impeachment.
“Nobody was given a copy of the so-called complaint for impeachment. Nobody was allowed to ask any question,” they said.
Adaza told reporters the House members’ failure to read and sign the articles of impeachment “means they were telling a lie.”
“If they are telling a lie, they are guilty of perjury and misrepresentation. They are also guilty of violating the antigraft and corruption law and the code of conduct (for public officials),” he said.
In the petition, Adaza and Paguia claimed President Aquino’s attacks on the Supreme Court “if… allowed to go unchecked” would result in “a full-blown dictatorship in this country.”
“This would mean that we have not learned our lessons,” they said.
Keeping the distance
A senior Malacañang adviser said that Mr. Aquino had asked members of his official family to distance themselves from the senators who would act as judges in the Corona trial, which is to begin later this month.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad answered in the negative when asked if Malacañang officials were trying to convince senators to decide the Corona case according to the Palace’s wishes.
“We respect the separation of branches here so the President has given us instruction to distance ourselves especially from the Senate because it’s going to act as the trial court here,” Abad told reporters. “We don’t want to be accused of intervening.”
Abad is the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Party, which is chaired by the President. Four senators are Liberal Party members—Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto.
Independence of senators
Asked if the instruction to stay away from senator-judges also covered talking with the Liberal Party senators, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, “I would imagine yes … we have to respect the independence of the senators.”
Lacierda said administration officials need to avoid talking with senators “owing to the independence of the Senate and … also to [avoid] the accusation that we are encroaching on all the branches of government.”
Mr. Aquino’s allies in the House led 188 congressmen to endorse the impeachment complaint. With a report from Norman Bordadora
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