Says all 'Arroyo justices' should be impeached
MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima lashed back at Chief Justice Renato Corona for calling President Benigno Aquino III's constant criticisms against the judiciary tantamount to a looming dictatorship.
In a statement released to the media today -- a day after Corona's much talked about speech before magistrates, judges and court personnel at the high court -- De Lima called the Chief Justice "a walking constitutional violation."
De Lima stressed that the impeachment of Corona by Mr. Aquino's allies at the lower House only intends to make him accountable for his actions, for being one of the "Arroyo justices" who are out to protect former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
"The Supreme Court and the judiciary do not belong to Corona. Corona is not the judiciary. Corona may belong to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Some members of the Court may belong to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the Supreme Court, the institution, the Supreme Court of the people, can never belong to Corona or to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," De Lima said.
"Impeach all 'Arroyo Justices'"
The justice chief went as far as saying all "Arroyo justices" should be impeached and replaced by new appointees.
"[W]hen the Arroyo justices start thinking that in protecting Arroyo, they are shorn of any accountability, not even by impeachment, then it is time the people, through their representatives in Congress, impeach them. It is time the president and Congress reclaim the Court for the people," she said.
De Lima hit Corona for saying in his speech that Mr. Aquino wanted his immediate ouster so the incumbent chief executive could appoint a Chief Justice he could "hold by the neck" who shall cater to all his wishes.
"What he (Corona) did not say is that by being appointed Chief Justice by Arroyo despite the constitutional prohibition on midnight appointments, it was his own neck that was held by Arroyo. More than President Aquino appointing a Chief Justice he holds by the neck, which he never got to do, it is Arroyo who appointed the Chief Justice, Corona, so that she can hold him by the neck long after her term was over," De Lima said.
"For this is the very essence of a midnight appointment, to hold the midnight appointee by the neck, the outgoing president making a tail-end appointment to assure her power in government long after her term is over," she added.
'Hello Garci' of the judicial department
De Lima, who refused to heed a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the high tribunal on the travel ban against Mrs. Arroyo prior to the filing of any case against the latter in a court of law, likened the chief magistrate's appointment to the 2004 'Hello Garci' election controversy.
This, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that held the high tribunal is except from the midnight ban.
"As Arroyo was the beneficiary of 'Hello Garci,' Corona was the beneficiary of a constitutional violation. From the moment of his appointment, Chief Justice Corona was a walking constitutional violation. His appointment was the 'Hello Garci' of the judicial department," De Lima said.
"A midnight appointee held by the neck by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Corona should be as he was rightly impeached for the simple reason that, like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, he is nothing more than a usurper to a public office. Corona, in his own twisted view of reality, may call the president a dictator, but he can never question Aquino's mandate as the duly elected president of the people.
"Unlike the president, all that Corona can show for himself is the illegal and unconstitutional appointment as a usurper to the Office of the Chief Justice by the other usurper Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And as history shows, usurpers make the worst tyrants, because of their false sense of entitlement to something that was never theirs from the start," De Lima said.
Corona: administration's motive is to make the SC compliant
In his speech before thousands of supporters on Wednesday, Corona said that while he respected the constitutionally guaranteed process of impeachment, he did not agree with the abuse of power and authority and disregard for the rule of law that came along with the filing of the verified complaint against him.
"[A]ng hindi natin kinikilala ay ang pag-abuso ng kapangyarihan at proseso para samantalahin ang lahat ng paraan, makapagtalaga lamang sila ng sarili nilang mga mahistrado sa Korte Suprema. Itong impeachment ay dala ng kasakiman na magkaroon ng isang Korte Suprema na kayang diktahan, na nakukuha sa tingin, at magkakandarapang ipatupad ang kanilang bawat hiling," he said.
In his speech, the chief justice, supported by magistrates of the high tribunal, Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals (CA), Court of Tax Appeals(CTA), and lower courts, said this was the real motive in moves to oust him from office.
Corona maintained that as a candidate for the highest post in the Judiciary, he went through the rigid selection process spearheaded by the Judicial and Bar Council(JBC) headed by then Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
"Matagal na po itong pinagpasyahan ng Korte Suprema. Matagal nang tapos ito. Kung may reklamo man sila sa hatol ng Korte Suprema, sana ay noon pa, ipinaglaban na nila... Hindi ko po maintindihan kung bakit nanggigigil ng husto sa akin ang mahal nating pangulo, magmula pa po sa kanyang pagkaluklok sa pwesto.
"Paano po naman naging kasalanan ang pagtanggap ng isang dakilang karangalan tulad nito? Ito ay isa lamang pong paninira ng aking katapatan sa katungkulan, kasama na po ang puri at dangal ng Kataas taasang Hukuman," Corona said.
Respect due process, the rule of law
He also denied allegations he is out to protect Mrs. Arroyo.
Addressing the issuance of a TRO by the high tribunal in favor of the former chief executive, Corona said: "Kahit sinumang abogado ay magsasabi sa inyo na hindi po pwedeng yapak- yapakan ang karapatan ng sinuman sa ilalim ng Saligang Batas, habang hindi mo pa napapatunayan na siya ay nagkasala. May mandato ang korte na ipagtanggol higit sa lahat ang karapatang pang-tao ng indibidwal kontra sa labis-labis na kapangyarihan ng pamahalaan, lalong-lalo pa kung wala pang naisasampang kaso."
"Matagal na itong prinsipio at hindi na kailangang idebate. Ito ang tinatawag na presumption of innocence and respect for human rights," he added.
The Chief Justice called on the public to be one with the Judiciary in safeguarding democracy and the rule of law, and not be deceived by "lies" peddled against the Supreme Court and the judicial department. He stressed the independence of the Judiciary and pledged continuing allegiance to the Constitution.