House divided on impeaching 8 justices who blocked opening of Corona dollar accounts | Inquirer News
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House divided on impeaching 8 justices who blocked opening of Corona dollar accounts

/ 08:08 PM February 10, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The House  majority is divided whether to seek the ouster of the eight Supreme Court justices who voted to block the opening of the dollar accounts of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate trial court.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he does not see any basis for the impeachment of the eight magistrates because they were just “doing their jobs.”

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Belmonte, head of the Liberal-party coalition in the House, said House prosecutor and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas might have voiced out his wish to impeach the eight justices in frustration after the issuance of a temporary restraining order sought by Philippine Savings Bank president Pascual Garcia III, who testified at the impeachment trial on Corona’s deposits at the bank’s branch on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

Garcia was torn between suffering criminal liability for disclosing Corona’s dollar accounts without the chief magistrate’s consent or incurring the ire of the senator-judges who insisted that the Senate impeachment court was superior to the High Court.

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In a text message, Farinas said: “If they (188 lawmakers) don’t want to impeach, I won’t either with more reason. Article IV of their complaint against the Chief Justice is exactly the same as this (the TRO issued by the eight justices). But I’d rather not comment further on the case,” said Fariñas, a Nacionalista Party member, who did not sign the complaint.

Article IV accused Corona of his alleged disregard of the principle of separation of powers when he led the SC in hastily issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives in the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who was eventually impeached but resigned before the start of her trial last year.

Another prosecutor, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, a Nationalist People’s Coalition member, said that while the House could impeach all of the eight justices like Corona, he would prefer to take a more sober approach to the stalemate.

“I would opt for a concurrent resolution from both Houses expressing their belief that the impeachment body is supreme and beyond ordinary processes of the SC. That’s a milder rap to put some sense to the SC than another impeachment. I think the SC (has) abused its power of judicial review,” said Aggabao.

Eastern Samar Rep. Benjamin Evardone, the spokesperson of “Movement 188” or the group of lawmakers who signed the Corona impeachment case, said the House majority should hold a caucus to decide what action to take against the “abusive” justices, specifically impeachment as proposed by Fariñas

The associate justices who voted to stop the Senate from compelling PSBank officials to disclose information on Corona’s foreign currency deposits are Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama, Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza.

The eight are all appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo except for Reyes who was appointed by President Aquino last August.

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Five associate justices rejected the TRO bid–Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Mariano del Castillo (who has a pending impeachment case against him at the House).

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares warned that “the eight justices will go down with (the Chief Justice) should they persist in supporting Corona’s already discredited attempt to hide the truth.”

Colmenares noted that the Foreign Currency Deposits Law does not assure absolute confidentiality of dollar accounts, citing the China Bank case where the SC ruled that confidentiality only applies to foreigners but not to Filipino account holders “otherwise all corrupt officials, drug lords and gambling lords will just deposit their stash in dollar accounts to escape prosecution.”

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