MANILA, Philippines - He did not sign the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona but Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla believes at least one of the Articles of Impeachment is serious enough to be considered indictable.
In an interview, Remulla said the third impeachment article accusing Corona and his wife, Cristina, of culpable violation of the Constitution is considered a serious offense.
The complaint stems from Mrs. Corona's acceptance of the appointment on March 23, 2007 from then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the board of the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC). At the time, Corona was already an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Remulla said Corona's decision to allow his wife to take the position and receive favor from the sitting President already shows a conflict of interest.
"A member of the judiciary has to be independent. When he allowed his wife to accept [the position], that itself put him in peril already. It is a conflict of interest. In some ways, it will put the court to question because of being given favor by the executive. It is a compromise," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Any person in that position should never allow any member of his family to accept a position in government. Maybe as executive assistant or confidential assistant...But a position appointed by the President, that is problematic," he added.
The complaint filed against Corona revealed fellow JHMC board members, management and JHMC rank-and-file employees accused Mrs. Corona of acts of misconduct and negligence and opposed her election as director and president.
Instead of acting on the complaints, President Arroyo "instructed all members of the JHMC to tender their courtesy resignations immediately. After the resignations, Mrs. Corona was retained and even promoted after President Arroyo expressed her desire for Mrs. Corona’s election as OIC Chairman of the JHMC Board. "
The complaint said Mrs. Arroyo wrote several desire letters to ensure that Mrs. Corona was elected to several positions in the JHMC. It said Mrs. Corona received "a substantial salary, aside from other perks of the job, including cars and various travel opportunities."
Remulla said the complaint against Corona's wife is "the most indictable offense of all" and one that could be the most painful for the Corona couple.
"That is the most indictable offense of all. It's very painful. The behavior of your wife is too intimate for public discussion. It's already spreading, there are already stories about what she did when she was there so it's going to be very painful," he said.
Asked if this might cause Corona to resign, he said: "When family is involved, it's possible. It's not worth the position if your family suffers. That's the Filipino way. Pamilya ang pinakamahalaga. These are all temporary positions but in the end, it's all family."
Non-disclosure of assets
In the interview, Remulla said the Chief Justice should also be made to account for failing to disclose his assets, liabilities and net worth. The lawmaker said all public servants are required by law to declare their assets.
In the case of Corona, he said the Chief Justice may have simply refused to release his SALN.
"One problem with the Supreme Court, they are so proud and imperious that they treat themselves as as an independent republic," he said.
In the impeachment complaint, Corona is suspected to have accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits. It said Corona allegedly owns, among others, a 300-square-meter apartment in a posh Mega World Property development at the upscale Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Saving Merci, Gloria
Remulla also admitted that he felt strongly that Corona and the Supreme Court made a mistake when they issued a status quo ante order to stop the House of Representatives impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez last year.
House Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas earlier said the issuance of the status quo ante order, dated Sept. 14, 2010, prompted him to form a team to investigate if Corona could be impeached for breaching the separation of powers of the legislative and judiciary. It was later learned that not all of the SC justices had read Gutierrez's petition before the SC issued the status quo ante order.
Remulla said he felt sick when the SC issued the order since "it derogated unto itself the power of Congress. But it was a collective act and not an individual act of the Supreme Court."
"Is it legal or proper? it may be legal but it was not proper," he said.
He also said the SC made a mistake when it issued a temporary restraining order on the watchlist order against former President Arroyo without hearing the government's objection. He said that if Arroyo had left and not returned, it would have put the entire justice system in peril.
The lawmaker also took Corona to task for allowing the Supreme Court to flip-flop on the decision involving the creation of 16 newly-created cities. The SC had previously ruled that the creation of the 16 cities was unconstitutional but changed its decision several times after it allowed up to four motions for reconsideration.
"Flip-flopping 5 times is very, very disturbing. He has to lead the court in that manner. There are cases where he can say: 'We have rules. Let's follow our rules.' It's a leadership question," he said.
Stop 'chamber justice'
Remulla said it would be very hard to prove the accusation that Corona used the judiciary's funds for his personal expenses "unless Tupas has the goods."
Likewise, he said lawmakers backing Corona's impeachment should not have bothered accusing the Chief Justice of partiality in the cases involving Mrs. Arroyo. Corona is accused of favoring Mrs. Arroyo in her cases, having served as her spokesperson and even executive secretary.
Remulla said the argument against Corona's voting record does not hold water since the Supreme Court is a collegial body and the Chief Justice has only 1 vote. Showing that Corona voted at least once against Arroyo would destroy the argument, he added.
The congressman said Corona's impeachment is a reflection of the problems faced by the judiciary.
He said many of his lawyer-friends have stopped practicing their profession "because it has come down to chamber practice."
"It is very painful when you try studying the law and in the end, it is not what you know but who you know. It is a wake up call to the Supreme Court and whoever is the next Chief Justice to set straight the justice system from the Metropolitan Trial Courts, to the Municipal Trial Courts, to the regional trial courts and the Court of Appeals to make them behave better because it has been very painful for a lot of us," he said.