MANILA, Philippines - Will Renato Corona be the first Supreme Court Chief Justice to be impeached?
Speculations about Corona's possible impeachment started after President Benigno Aquino III publicly chastised the Supreme Court, with Corona merely 2 seats away, during last Monday's justice summit.
In his speech, Aquino attacked the court for issuing decisions that blocked the administration's reform efforts. He also revived talk that Corona is a midnight appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, noting that he was appointed chief justice after the May 2010 elections.
In an interview, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said it is likely that an impeachment complaint will be filed against Corona by Aquino's allies in the House of Representatives.
"As a politician, I am reading between the lines. To me, yes, it's possible. I am not a lawyer and I am not familiar with the courts but I think this will lead to someone filing charges to impeach Corona," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Osmeña noted that Aquino received a lot of criticism for crossing the line and allegedly showing disrespect to a co-equal branch of government, which is the Supreme Court.
However, he noted the Supreme Court "really overstepped its bounds and somebody had to stand up for the Filipino people."
"You cannot continue tolerating a court until they're 70 and they've been appointed by Gloria, they have been so partial to Gloria, that who's going to stand up for the Filipino people? Matatakot ako iakyat yung kaso ko sa Supreme Court tapos kalaban ko si Gloria, patay na ako. So you really want a Supreme Court that can exercise fairness in all its decisions and it's very obvious that the majority, not every member but a majority of the Court, has been so openly partisan towards Gloria that I am scared for the country because there are a lot of important cases that fall before the Court," he said.
All your sins come out
Osmeña said if an impeachment complaint is filed before the Lower House, its endorsers only need a third of the votes of Congress to transmit it to the Senate for trial.
"In the Senate, it's going to be hard because you need two-thirds of the vote. That means you have to look at the numbers," he said.
He also noted that an impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo over an allegedly plagiarized ruling on the case of comfort women was already voted sufficient in substance by a majority of the House justice panel.
Osmeña said that if an impeachment complaint against Corona reaches the Senate, it could be humiliating for the Chief Justice because all the allegations against him will come out in public during the trial.
"What is painful though is all your katiwalians come out and it's public. Remember, in the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada, we lost the vote but it was the public who said he was guilty," he said, noting that the botched impeachment trial led to the so-called EDSA Dos revolution that deposed Estrada.
PNoy neither confirms nor denies impeach move
Yesterday, Aquino did not give a direct answer when asked if he was laying the basis to have the Chief Justice impeached following his speech on Monday at the First Criminal Justice Summit where he railed against the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice.
"Pwede bang sabihin ko na lang na nag-umpisa ako sa mga tanong at medyo parami-rami itong mga tanong na tila walang katugunan, walang sagot. Meron tayong nakasaad sa Saligang Batas na checks and balances," Aquino said.
When asked if he would tell his allies in Congress to support any move to impeach the Chief Justice, Aquino said: "I do not tell you my plans or anybody else. Basta at this point in time, it is important these questions should be propounded and that's the only thing I did."
Shades of 86?
Osmeña, meanwhile, said the scenario now between the Supreme Court and Malacañang is different than in 1986 when then-President Corazon Aquino, mother of Benigno Aquino III, asked the Chief Justice to resign.
"The situation is different because Cory Aquino was the president of a revolutionary government. She could fire anyone if she wanted. Instead, she asked the chief justice to resign," he said.
After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, Aquino took her oath of office as President before then Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee. She later asked Chief Justice Ramon Aquino to resign so she could appoint a new chief justice.
Over 20 years later, President Benigno Aquino III would also break tradition and ask Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales to administer his oath of office. This was after Aquino protested Corona's appointment as chief justice because of the midnight appointments ban.
Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez earlier told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda" that it is unlikely that Corona would resign despite being lambasted publicly by Aquino III last Monday.
"[Resignation] is not something he has mentioned. Hanggang 2018 pa siya...It is just unfortunate that the Chief Justice was appointed by someone that many do not like. Now they are attacking him. It's not his fault. Why would he resign?" he asked.