MANILA, Philippines - Civil society groups critical of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday welcomed the Senate impeachment court's decision to remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona from public office.
The decision of the Senate impeachment court "is in accord with the people's clamor for accountability and the highest standard of ethical conduct from the chief magistrate," according to Bibeth Orteza and Fr. Joe Dizon, spokespersons of Pagbabago! and Co-Convenors of Gloria Panagutin Movement.
"In accordance with the law, Corona together with all other public officials in much less exalted positions, are called upon to 'discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest.' Clearly, Corona is in culpable violation of public trust and his own oath of office," they said in a press statement.
Orteza and Dizon said their campaign to bring Arroyo to justice is the reason why they joined efforts to impeach Corona and have him stand trial in the Senate.
"The widespread outrage against the Corona Court TRO that would have allowed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the First Gentleman to leave the country and escape prosecution propelled the impeachment of Corona by the House of Representatives," they said.
However, they said accountability and justice does not end with Corona's removal from office.
"It includes his erstwhile political patron, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and her principal cohorts," they said.
Orteza and Dizon said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who has gathered evidence against Corona, should also use her vast powers to go after Arroyo.
"In fact, two years into the Aquino presidency, plunder cases filed by cause-oriented groups and private individuals-none by the Aquino administration- have either been gathering dust in the Office of Ombudsman or have been downgraded to simple graft and corruption charges such as the ones on the NBN-ZTE Broadband scam," they said.
They added that while civil and criminal suits for human rights violations have been filed against Arroyo and former military generals under her administration, "there have been no serious attempts at prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and their coddlers."
They cited the case of former Army Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is wanted for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
They said the removal of Corona and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez should prompt President Benigno Aquino "to deliver on its promise to make Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and cohorts answer for their crimes against the people."
"We likewise stress that Corona's removal from the Supreme Court must not be taken advantage of to serve any vested interests. The fear of Hacienda Luisita farm workers that the Supreme Court ruling on the issue of compensation for the Cojuangcos based on a lower valuation could be reversed with Corona's removal must be assuaged," they said.
"The Hacienda Luisita farm workers fought long and hard for land to finally be distributed to their rightful owners. They do not owe their legal victory to Corona. And they will certainly not allow his replacement by an Aquino-appointed Chief Justice as the means to reverse their landmark victory," they added.