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PAL union leader testifies vs Corona

Chief Justice Renato Corona took part in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling favoring Philippine Airlines (PAL) on the retrenchment of 1,400 flight attendants in 1998 despite claiming he had inhibited from the case, a union leader said Tuesday.

“We hope he will be [convicted] so we will have trust again [in the Supreme Court],” Roberto Anduiza, president of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap), told the Senate as the prosecution started on Article 3 of the impeachment complaint against Corona on Day 13 of his trial.

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Article 3 accuses Corona of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for his “failure to meet and observe the stringent standards of the Constitution that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel, which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases.”

Under questioning by Akbayan Representative Arlene Bag-ao, Anduiza said Fasap won three cases in the Supreme Court in connection with the retrenchment of the flight attendants and stewards who went on strike in 1998, but these cases were overruled by another ruling in 2011.

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Anduiza, the lone prosecution witness in yesterday’s trial, said Corona took part in this ruling despite claims by Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez of the Chief Justice’s inhibition.

“I came here because of the Chief Justice’s meddling in our case that led to the reversal of the final decision that was already won,” he said.

‘Justice after 10 years’

Anduiza said Fasap initially won its case in the National Labor Relations Commission, and that this was appealed by PAL until it reached the high court after 10 years.

In a July 2008 decision written by Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, the high court ordered the reinstatement of the crew members and the payment of their back wages amounting to P2.3 billion.

“We were happy because finally there was justice after 10 years, and that we were right, the retrenchment was illegal,” Anduiza said.

PAL filed a motion for reconsideration but this was denied by Santiago. It again sought reconsideration, which was again denied by the high court in a minute resolution.

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Fasap mounted mass actions protesting the long delay in the resolution of the case, and sent a number of letters to the justices. The high court eventually ordered PAL to comment on these letters.

Then, in a resolution dated Oct. 4, 2011, the high court reversed its earlier ruling based on the letters of PAL lawyer Estelito Mendoza to the clerk of court on Sept. 13, 16, 20 and 22.

“We were very angry because no reason was cited,” Anduiza said. Fasap later filed a motion for reconsideration.

Copies furnished Corona

The high court recalled its ruling on October 14, saying it was issued by the Second Division when the Special Third Division was supposed to handle the case.

Mendoza’s letters on Sept. 13, 20 and 22, 2011, were addressed to the clerk of court, but Corona was furnished copies. Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Jose Perez, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Jose Mendoza were also furnished copies of the last letter.

“When we received the October 4 resolution, it appears he (Corona) participated despite claims that he inhibited from this as far as 2008,” Anduiza said, adding:

“In that decision, the names of the justices who took no part were mentioned. But Corona was not mentioned. That’s the odd part.

“We lost our trust in the Supreme Court. This is the final court that will give us justice.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earlier ordered a prosecutor, Isabela Representative Giorgidi Aggabao, to submit a manifestation showing that Corona exercised control and supervision over the high court.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada rose to state that there was a pending Fasap case in the high court, but Bag-ao was quick to point out that the merits of the case would not be discussed.

Slow reader

Tuesday’s trial was enlivened by the remarks of Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, who called on the Senate to join him and the other House prosecutors in their attempt to unseat Corona.

But he managed to take a swipe at his colleagues by panning the impeachment complaint that was passed by the House on December 12.

Responding to a question from Estrada, Fariñas tried to justify his not signing the impeachment complaint. “I read slowly when it was presented to us. You know, when I was still a student, I read seriously,” he said, eliciting chuckles from the Senate gallery.

He said many of the 188 lawmakers who signed the complaint were “speed readers.”

“But I am a slow reader, and then there were too many signatories—188. My signature was no longer needed,” Fariñas said.

He said he had been candid to the media in saying that he was displeased with the way the complaint was prepared by the House committee on justice chaired by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. He said he did not sign “because masama ang pagkakagawa nang konti, ’di na lang ho ako pumirma.”

‘How it works’

Fariñas also engaged Enrile in a lengthy discussion over the sufficiency and clarity of the grounds for impeachment cited in the complaint.

Pointing out to Enrile that the penalty of impeachment was merely removal from office, he said: “This is how it works. The third highest elective official is you. But if 12 honorable senators tell you that you are no longer the Senate President, that’s the end of it. Your time is up.”

Enrile retorted: “Wait, that is true, but I will still remain senator. But if I will be removed as senator, that’s a punishment.”

Fariñas also trained his guns on Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.: “Even if the Honorable Bong Revilla … was elected by 22 million voters, if two-thirds of the senators decide to remove [him] because [he’s] unruly, for example, then he is removed from his job. He can’t complain of [being removed] without due process.”

Enrile responded by saying that what was at stake in the trial was not only Corona’s title as Chief Justice but also his position as a member of the high court.

“My title as Senate President [is not synonymous] with my title as senator. Even if I am removed as Senate President, I am still a senator. You can’t remove the Chief Justice without necessarily removing him as [associate] justice. That’s our difference, isn’t it?”  Enrile said. With Maila Ager, INQUIRER.net

Originally posted: 4:37 pm | Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

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TAGS: Chief Justice Renato Corona, Corona Impeachment, Fasap, Impeachment court, impeachment trial, Judiciary, PAL, Politics, Renato Corona, Senate, Supreme Court
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