Palace says it wants an independent SC

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Dec 15 2011 03:07 PM | Updated as of Dec 27 2011 04:20 AM

MANILA - Malacañang defends President Aquino against allegations his administration is trying to wrest control of the judiciary, amid the speedy transmittal of an impeachment compliant against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, supported by the House Majority coalition.
 
The Palace has asked Corona to take a leave of absence from his judicial duties.

INDEPENDENT COURT

Saying Corona and his wife's close relationship with Mrs. Arroyo have put his own independence into question, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says, President Aquino wants an Supreme Court that's free of political biases.
   
"This is not an attack on the judiciary.  This is a case of accountability against Chief Justice Corona, "Lacierda said on [email protected]
   
"The President as a budding dictator? I think that's entirely false. I think that's a way of misrepresenting what the President wants from the judiciary, what he wants from the SC. And what he wants is an independent SC, untainted by political consideration."

LEAVE OF ABSENCE

But Supreme Court Spokesman and Court Administrator Midas Marquez says, Corona taking a leave, much less resigning from office, is not an option.
   
"I don't think he will take a leave anytime soon," Marquez said on ANC "Headstart."
   
"Resignation is not an option... The impeachment case was just filed and right after, we hear two more justices will be impeached. We don't know if that's Justice del Castillo and one more, or Del Castillo and two more. If this happens, you can already see the trend: there's a determined effort to replaced incumbent justices with justices appointed by the incumbent President."
   
"If it reaches that point in time when he thinks he will not function fully as Chief Justice because he will focus on his case, then he will be the first one to go."

WEAK CASE

But, Marquez says, with half of the charges pertaining to decisions that were made by the entire court and not just Corona, the impeachment complaint against Corona is standing on shaky ground. 

He notes, Corona had inhibited from the case involving the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippine (FASAP), which was criticized by President Aquino, adding not all of Corona's decisions favored former President Gloria Arroyo.
   
"Chief Justice Corona was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2002.  In 2003, barely a year from his appointment, he had a ponentia declaring an Executive Order by the former President as unconstitutional.
   
"A year after being appointed, he already bent a decision against the former President, they did not cite that.
   
"A number of cases wherein he participated and concurred with the majority, declaring or nullifying pronouncements, orders of the former President, they didn't cite that either."
   
He reiterates, Corona is prepared to face baseless accusations against him point-by-point in the Senate.
   
He adds, they are finalizing the defense panel for the impeachment trial, and prominent lawyers are volunteering their services for free.
   
"I'm pleasantly surprised because there are so many big-name lawyers who are offering their services for free... As a lawyer, a member of the bar, an officer of the court, I think they saw it upon themselves to protect the institution, to protect the Chief Justice."

COURT HOLIDAY

Asked whether the court ordered a work stoppage on Wednesday, Marquez says that the gathering was an open manifestation of support for the Chief Justice, who was merely coerced to stand up for the highest court of the land.

"Do we sanction judges and court employees who came to the Supreme Court to listen to an important message of the Chief Justice? The court can have their Christmas parties, suspend hearing but they cannot suspend hearings to listen to an important message of the Chief Justice for the judiciary? The chief justice didn't want to to do this, it was not to his liking. He was pushed to the edge."
   
But the Palace is not convinced the work stoppage wasn't initiated by the court.
 
Lacierda cites a previous attempt by members of the high court to foment a walkout at the height of the budget deliberations on the allowances of the judiciary.