There’s been no shortage of rude words between Chief Justice Corona and President Aquino. As the impeachment trial against Corona has progressed, the Senate has focused on his SALN and allegations of corruption. Now, the chief justice has responded by challenging the president to release his psychological records. According to PhilStar, Corona said that the President has an obligation to assure the public that their leader is “in his right mind.” Harsh words! I can’t imagine that the relationship will ever be repaired if Corona escapes impeachment.
Category Archives: Corona
I haven’t written much about the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona in the Philippines partly because events are moving so quickly that it’s hard to post anything without it becoming obsolete the next day. Nonetheless, the main development now seems to be that prosecutors have found inconsistencies on Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) (for an overview of the charges, see here and here). This alone is an impeachable offense. Other allegations of corruption have arisen, including misappropriation of World Bank project funds (see the World Bank memo asking for the return of 8.6 million pesos here).
While I’ve been following the news pretty closely, I certainly don’t recall any discussion of corruption as the basis for impeachment before the House voted last December. While these allegations of corruption certainly paint a disturbing picture of Corona’s chief justiceship, I’m surprised that the trial has moved in this direction rather than focusing on the stated basis for impeachment, namely Corona’s decisions. I hope the focus on real crimes means that the Philippines can minimize the damage the impeachment trial will have on judicial independence. If future judges see this impeachment as the legitimate removal of a corrupt official rathe than a politically motivated attack then all the better. However, while judges don’t often state their positions publicly, what I’ve seen in news reports is that judges are sticking by their chief justice – at least for now.
Aquino’s legacy on the rule of law is still being determined. On the one hand, judges complain that the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona is becoming essentially trial by publicity. On the other hand, some human rights activists credit the president for going after former general Jovito Palparan, one of the masterminds behind extrajudicial killings against suspected leftists (although Palparan remains at large). Ironically, under the Puno Supreme Court had pushed for bringing human rights violators to justice while the Arroyo administration stalled.
I’m still recovering from the Christmas break and trying to get catch up on the news. Here are a few important items:
According to The Jakarta Post, the Constitutional Court ruled that former political party members could not hold a seat in any election-organizing body, such as the General Elections Commission (KPU) or the General Elections Monitoring Body (Bawaslu), within 5 years of their retirement. The ruling was justified as preserving the impartiality and independence of those bodies.
There’s been more maneuvering in the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order against the Senate to prevent the impeachment from proceeding to a formal trial. Even more interesting, according to PhilStar, the case has been assigned to Justice Carpio, widely seen as Corona’s most likely replacement. Stay tuned for what looks like high legal drama.
While there has been much talk about a final showdown between the Aquino administration and the Corona Court, I was shocked to hear from BBC yesterday that the Congress actually impeached Chief Justice Corona. Just a few hours before I had read an article in which Corona talked of a secret conspiracy to oust him. Normally I’d have dismissed such talk, but at this point I’ve really got to wonder what the Aquino administration is thinking. The Philippines Supreme Court has been relatively independent since the EDSA. It has waded into a variety of politically charged questions, including term limits for President Ramos, the legality of EDSA II, and extrajudicial killings. The impeachment against Corona is the first time a Philippine justice has been impeached on blatantly political grounds. Even the impeachment against Davide nominally focused on the Court’s alleged misappropriation of funds. Sadly, even if the Senate refuses to convict Corona the whole imbroglio might make Philippine justices think twice about taking on political cases.