SC defends Corona in PAL ruling ‘flip-flop’
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court defended Chief Justice Renato Corona amid allegations that he has a hand in the recall of the high court’s decision favoring employees of the Philippine Airlines, which was part of the articles of impeachment.
“In light of the allegations of the dissent (of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno) is the role of the Chief Justice in the recall of the Sept. 7, 2011, resolution. The Chief Justice acted only on the recommendation of the ruling Division since he had inhibited himself from participation in the case long before,” said the high court in its resolution dated March 13, 2012, which was released to the media only on Wednesday.
The resolution, penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion, was issued after the case between the Philippine Airlines and its dismissed employees was elevated for a full court deliberation.
The high court affirmed its October 2011 ruling recalling its Sept. 7, 2011, resolution that ruled in favor of the 1,400 PAL crew personnel who were dismissed in 1998.
Under Article III of the Articles of Impeachment, Corona allegedly committed culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayed the public trust when he interfered in the PAL case after private lawyer Estelito Mendoza wrote the Supreme Court, resulting in the recall of its September 2011 resolution.
Brion explained that it was the members of the Second Division handling the PAL case who initiated a meeting with the Chief Justice to inform him of the need to recall their Sept. 7, 2011, ruling at the risk of being accused of “flip-flopping.”
“The confusion of this matter could have been brought about by the Chief Justice’s role as the Presiding Officer of the Court en banc (particularly in his meeting of Oct. 4, 2011) and the fact that the four most senior Justices of the Court (Chief Justice Corona, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco and Teresita Leonardo de Castro) inhibited from participating in the case.”
The high court admitted that part of the division’s consideration was the letter of Mendoza who pointed out that based on the compositions of justices and the reshuffle due to the retirement of some justices, the SC’s third division should have issued the ruling.
However, Mendoza’s letter was not the only consideration but also the series of inhibitions of justices, retirements of justices and the high court’s reorganization due to retirements and new appointments, according to the resolution.
Brion said it was the Supreme Court division’s agreement, not the Chief Justice’s, to recall the September 7 ruling immediately in order “to have the intricate issues ventilated before the Court en banc.”
“To be sure, it was not due to any conspiracy to reverse their ruling to affirm the previous court rulings already made in favor of [dismissed PAL employees]; the Division’s response was simply dictated by the legal uncertainties that existed,” the high court said.
“In the absence of any clear personal malicious participation, it is neither correct nor proper to hold the Chief Justice personally accountable for the collegial ruling of the Court en banc,” the high court said.
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