Corona ready for last stand

Posted at 05/21/2012 9:09 PM | Updated as of 05/22/2012 7:27 AM

Court operations in Manila may be paralyzed on Tuesday


MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona is ready to face the Senate impeachment court, despite the risks involved in incriminating himself by agreeing to testify.

“I’m not at all worried," said Corona at the sidelines of a mass held at the Supreme Court on Monday.

Court operations may be paralyzed with thousands of judges and court employees expected to join Corona in his march to the Senate building in Pasay City.

An "open season” of questioning is expected when the chief magistrate takes the stand, especially when senator-judges take turns to ask him about his dollar accounts, as well as the US$10 million in "transactional balances" in his accounts from 2003-2011 as alleged by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA) President Jojo Guerrero said court employees in and outside of Manila have expressed readiness to halt court operations. Some will be with Corona, while others will be tuned in to their television sets to monitor the proceedings.

Also expected to join Corona are his wife Cristina and children Carla and Francis, prayer-warriors, and representatives of farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita.

In an earlier phone interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, Noel Mallari, one of the leaders of Luisita farmworker-beneficiaries, said that if they had the resources, they would all be joining Corona. “Isa ang Supreme Court sa mga nakatulong sa makatarungong desisyon para sa mga magsasaka,” he said.

Today, Corona’s family and supporters again wore red shirts bearing the words “Not Guilty” and “Acquit CJ Corona.”

Not bothered

Meanwhile, Court Administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said he hoped that the meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo on Monday morning will not affect the impeachment process.

"I hope it's not really about the impeachment as what the official statement is saying. If there are other important considerations, then I hope it's for the best of the country," he said.

Marquez is also expected to accompany Corona to the Senate.

The influential INC is supposedly lobbying with senator-judges to acquit Corona.

The meeting between Aquino and Manalo is seen by some quarters as a move to lobby for Corona’s conviction.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda denied they kept the information about Aquino's meeting with Manalo.

“It was just to touch base with the INC,” he said.

Lacierda, however, said Aquino explained to Manalo his reasons for supporting Corona's impeachment.

He said there was nothing irregular in the meeting, but admitted the timing was suspect amid news of INC's lobbying for Corona's acquittal.

Arguelles: Impeachment court is not last tribunal

Meanwhile, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles criticized anew the Aquino administration for nitpicking on Corona rather than facing more pressing problems, such as the territorial dispute with China and rising unemployment rate.

He said prosecutors have made a “parody of the impeachment” for brandishing unsubstantiated evidence against the chief justice.

"I don't know why we still watch it. It is just nonsense...The government should stick to other pressing problems," he said.

Arguelles, the archbishop in Corona's province of Batangas, blessed Corona and his family this morning.

“It (the impeachment court) is not the last recourse," he said. "There is another final tribunal that we need to answer to, where we don’t need witnesses, prosecution or defense. There, our evil deeds will be the witness against us and our good deeds the witness for our salvation.”

“Somebody listens whom we will face in the final moment," Arguelles said.