MANILA – A law dean on Wednesday joined the ranks of those believing that President Benigno Aquino III's meeting with some of the senator-judges at the height of impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is a clear ground for impeachment.
Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law, said the President's meeting with Senator Bong Revilla and other senators smacks of impropriety especially because his administration had been fortright in its desire to remove Corona from office.
He said Aquino's action, if reports are to be believed, is an impeachable offense because it is a "culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust."
"How can a president be true to his oath of enforcing the law and upholding the Constitution kung siya mismo ang mamumuno sa paglabag sa basic precept of law which is due process?" he told dzMM.
Dean Aquino, however, conceded that impeaching the president, given the numerical superiority of his allies in Congress, is highly unlikely.
Dean Aquino explained that the President, through his public declarations of his desire to have Corona ousted, had made himself a party in the trial.
"In any ordinary judicial proceeding, kapag ang isang partido o tao na may interes sa kaso ay kausapin niya ang judge sa isang sa isang 'ex parte conversation,' ibig sabihin yung wala yung kabila, then that is considered very improper. The judge maybe administratively disciplined," he said.
The President on Tuesday disclosed that aside from Revilla, he also met with Senators Jinggoy Estrada, TG Guingona, and Ralph Recto at the height of the impeachment trial of Corona.
He justified his meeting with them, saying he wanted to confirm reports about the pressure being exerted by some “sectors” on the senator-judges to allegedly decide the case not based on its merits.
He said it would have been “irresponsible” of him not to have “countered” the pressure.
No private meeting needed
Dean Aquino refused to buy the President's reason, saying the meetings have put into question the validity of the outcome of the impeachment trial.
"If it is very clear that Malacañang was rooting for the ouster of Corona, then the people can only reasonably conclude that nung kinausap ni Pangulo ang senador, then the only purpose was to obtain the conviction of the chief justice," he said.
The dean said a reminder publicly made from Aquino to the senator-judges would have sufficed.
"Sino ang right-thinking Filipino na maniniwala dyan? Why do you have to tell the judges to vote according to the merits? They know that. That’s what they are supposed to do. You don't have to tell them to do that," he said.