Corona's lawyer wants de Lima disqualified

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2012 04:20 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2012 07:30 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - One of the lawyers of former Chief Justice Renato in his impeachment trial, formally filed his opposition to the nomination of Justice Sec. Leila De Lima for the top judicial post. 

In a 7-page letter to the JBC dated July 12, Atty. Rico Paolo Quicho also sought the inhibition of Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr., Corona trial Lead Prosecutor, in the Judicial Bar and Council's (JBC) search for the next Chief Justice.

Quicho told the JBC that De Lima "does not possess the qualities of competence, integrity, probity and independence" as shown in the filing of disbarment cases against her.

He said the justice chief violated her oath as a lawyer when she "willfully disobeyed" a lawful order, no less by the Supreme Court, restraining the Department of Justice (DOJ) from further implementing a travel ban against former Pres. Gloria Arroyo in November.

"She had the duty to obey legal orders of duly constituted authorities in the Constitution," he pointed out.

De Lima cannot be appointed to the top judicial post for as long as these disbarment cases are pending, he said. 

"Since membership in the bar is an integral qualification for membership in the bench, the moral fitness of a judge also reflects his moral fitness as a lawyer. A judge who disobeys the basic rules of judicial conduct also violates his oath as a lawyer and this can be expected in the reverse," Quicho said.

He added that De Lima's "apparent unworthiness to be a member of the bar results in her unworthiness to be appointed as a member of the bench."

To sit in the Supreme Court "is a position held to an even higher standard of integrity and ethical conduct" than lawyers, he stressed, adding that the moral fitness of a judge should reflect his or her moral fitness as a lawyer.

De Lima contributed to Corona removal

De Lima's appearance in Corona's impeachment trial contributed to his removal from office in May and her acceptance of her nominations from several individuals indicates she was motivated by "desire for personal gain, glory, and advancement in the pursuit of having CJ Corona removed from office rather than the genuine desire to serve," Quicho told the JBC.

He also pointed out that De Lima's "active public rebuke" against Corona showed her personal motive.

Tupas indelibly tainted with politics

As for Tupas, Quicho said Corona's impeachment has "tainted him indelibly with the color or politics." He described Tupas as a "partisan participating in a process which the Constitution had envisioned to be devoid of partisan politics" --- a scenario the framers of the 1987 Constitution wanted to avoid, he added.

"He was the lead prosecutor in the impeachment process against CJ Corona that led to the vacancy of the position. As a member of the JBC he is now tasked to submit a list for that very same position to be appointed by the same President who happens to be his party mate in the Liberal party. Based from these circumstances, Cong. Tupas cannot be expected to act with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency in performing his duty as a JBC member," Quicho stressed. 

“Surely, there is not a dearth of good men and women from whose ranks the next Chief Justice of the land may be selected; and not a scarcity of competent and impartial men and women to participate in the selection. There are several names in the list of nominees. The presence of Senator Francis Joseph Escudero in the Council already sufficiently satisfies the requirement for a representative from Congress therein. Striking Sec. de Lima off the list of nominees and having Cong. Tupas voluntarily inhibit from the selection will not hurt the process. On the contrary, it will infuse credibility and respectability where these may, for one reason or another, already be lacking,” he added.