‘Painful step for positive change’
A time for “cleansing”, proof that “nobody is untouchable.”
The general reaction of several Cebu law school deans, judges and lawyers to yesterday’s conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona was a positive view that the impeachment was a much-needed, albeit painful, step to positive change for the country.
“This makes the judiciary even stronger; bad eggs are removed,” said Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Meinrado Paredes, a former executive judge.
“This is a triumph of justice. This proves that our system of checks and balances is effective.”
Even the Senate gained the admiration and gratitude of those who said the lawmakers performed well.
Joan Largo, incoming dean of the University of San Carlos’ College of Law, said the senator-judges “truly became representatives of the people this time around” and based their verdict on evidence presented, and not on political ties.
“They (senators) went beyond political affiliations. They listened to the voice of the people,” said Largo.
“This is a strong message that Filipinos haven’t given up hope on good governance. We can demand accountability and transparency. It can still be done without resorting to revolution or people power. We are a nation that still values integrity in the office,” she added.
The trial’s outcome will restore public trust in Congress and the judiciary, Largo said.
“We want to get rid of graft. People really want transparency and crave for good governance. Abuse of power will end, ” Largo said.
Largo said Corona’s impeachment holds a lesson for all government officials.
“This is democracy at work. Although painful, we have to undergo pain for the purpose of cleansing. We have to learn from our experience,” she said.
In terms of evidence, the USC law school professor said: “Corona made several admissions (about dollar and peso accounts left out of his SALN). Admission is the highest form of evidence.”
Every single decent Filipino thinks the Chief Justice is no longer fit to be chief magistrate of the highest court of the land. The chief justice should be an example of probity, competence, and integrity. He (Corona) is not in any of those things,” Largo told Cebu Daily News.
Another law school dean said the task ahead of “cleansing” the government should continue.
“The Chief Justice should not be singled out. It is unfair to run after just one person,” said Jonathan Capanas, dean of the University of San Jose-Recoletos’ College of Law.
“People working in the government should now start reflecting. Nobody is untouchable. Possessing a high position in government isn’t a guarantee not to obey the law.”
He said he agreed with the outcome.
“The evidence presented against Corona was strong enough (to convict him). He wasn’t able to explain his bank accounts. His ’walkout’ did not help. Instead, it drew the ire of the senate-judges as well as the public,” Capanas said.
RTC Judge Paredes said Corona has the right to contest the verdict against him by filing a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.
But Paredes said he doesn’t believe it will prosper because of the lack of the requirement of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Senate impeachment court.
“Whether guilty or acquitted, he (Corona) is already damaged goods. He no longer has moral ascendancy over us in the lower courts. The most honorable way is to resign,” he said.
Lawyer Democrito Barcenas, who campaigned for President Aquino in 2010, disagreed that Corona can still appeal his case.
An appeal is “not constitutionally possible.”
“The Senate has sole power to try an impeachment case. Judgement becomes final and executory. Anytime, the president can appoint a new SC chief justice,” Barcenas said.
“Filing a petition for certiorari does not mean Corona can stay. He must step down as early as possible. If the president appoints another chief justice, who will recognize Corona? No one will recognize a usurper,” Barcenas said.
He said he was very happy that Corona was convicted by the Senate as it proved the “political maturity of Filipinos and strengthened the political institution.”
“We were able to impeach the corrupt SC high official within the rule of law.
Top government officials, whether in the executive, SC, or Congress must not abuse powers of the office because if your are corrupt and you betray people’s trust, the day of reckoning will always come,” said Barcenas, a director of the Philippine National Oil Corp.
Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Cebu City chapter, said he hopes Corona’s successor will be “transparent, independent- minded, and will uphold the constitution and the rule of law.
He said the IBP chapter respects the verdict.
“The public should learn that we are a democratic society. That’s the rule of law. We have to abide by it,” he said.
Michael Yu, former IBP Cebu City chapater president, said Corona’s conviction set the bar higher for public office.
“The impeachment proceeding has sent a strong signal to all that we are serious in our anti corruption campaign. As a nation, we have realized that we are sensitive to public accountability and this is a good step forward to a new chapter of our country as we realize that our poeple want a better Philippines for themselves and their children,” Yu said.
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