MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda agreed with the Office of the Ombudsman that the supposed dollar accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona may be a basis for impeachment, if he is acquitted this year.
In a press conference, Lacierda said “that’s a course of action” based on the tenor of the letter of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to Corona.
In an article that came out Sunday in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Morales told her former colleague in the Supreme Court: “While you may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, this office has, as reflected earlier, the power and duty to investigate you for any serious misconduct in office for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. It was on this account that this Office conducted an initial evaluation on the complaints.”
Lacierda earlier said the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.
He explained today, “the letter of the Ombudsman was quite clear. They cannot file a case against the Chief Justice because he is an impeachable official. What they can do is to refer any case filed, any case that recommend…They can recommend a case of impeachment against an impeachable official. What they can do, however, is that they can investigate the official concerned.”
No issue on timing, elections
Lacierda also downplayed criticisms the probe seeks to revive the campaign to oust the chief justice, whose impeachment trial will resume in a week’s time.
He said the Ombudsman went through a fact-finding process that led to the “uncovering of certain matters.”
“And, as a result, part of the fact-finding and part of the procedural due process is to ask the Chief Justice to explain several of the properties that were mentioned in addition to this new 10-million dollar deposit that we were all not aware of,” he said.
Whether or not this will be a “game-changing” matter in the trial, he said, will depend on the appreciation of the senators.
“Having said that, I’m limited by my comments to that so I will not comment further on the impeachment trial,” he said.
He also denied the order had something to do with the 2013 elections. One of the petitioners is former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, who is expected to run again for senator.
“She was not being eyed as a senatorial candidate at that point. So there is definitely… This was a complaint filed by the civil society and so this was not filed in anticipation for 2013,” he said.