MANILA, Philippines - The case that will test the constitutionality of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona by Congress has been assigned to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, his closest rival for the top Supreme Court (SC) post, an insider revealed over the weekend.
The insider also said the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the Senate from proceeding with the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice would be tackled by the magistrates in their first full-court session on Jan. 17.
Carpio is reportedly among those being pushed as possible replacement for the Chief Justice should the Senate decide to oust Corona.
The source explained that a TRO, as prayed for in the petitions of lawyer Vladimir Cabigao, tax informer Danilo Lihaylihay, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Vicente Millora and lawyer Oliver Lozano, could immediately be issued only if there is a recommendation from the member-in-charge and approval from the chief justice.
In this case, Corona is expected to inhibit from the petitions where he is the subject, the insider explained.
“They (justices) would most probably put it to a vote,” the source told The STAR.
The chief justice has the power to act on cases and issue a TRO upon recommendation of the member-in-charge and consultation with justices when such action is urgently needed during recess of the tribunal.
Such order would then be subject to affirmation of the majority of the justices in their next full-court session.
With the case assigned to Carpio, a court observer who refused to be identified due to a pending case in the SC said the senior justice should be asked to also inhibit himself from the case due to delicadeza (propriety) since some sectors are pushing for him to replace Corona.
“Justice (Lourdes) Sereno should also inhibit since Malacañang already announced she is being considered as possible replacement,” the lawyer said.
It was learned that all four petitions were separately raffled to different justices last week. But under the rules, the case of Lihaylihay that had the lowest docket number went to Carpio.
Under the internal rules of SC, different petitions anchoring on the same legal grounds shall be consolidated and will be assigned to the magistrate who will get the lowest docket number.
Once the case shall be consolidated in full-court session, it is expected to be assigned to Carpio.
SC spokesman Midas Marquez refused to confirm this, saying he has yet to check with the office of the clerk of court after the long holiday break.
Marquez only revealed the petitions would be tackled by the justices on Jan. 17.
“As to what action or actions the court will take, we cannot preempt that. Let’s just wait and see,” he said.
Petitioners questioned the swift proceedings in the House of Representatives, which only took five hours for the approval of eight articles of impeachment by 188 congressmen.
They also alleged the lawmakers who signed the petition to impeach Corona were coerced into signing the document they had not read or studied in depth.
Some lawmakers identified with the Aquino administration urged the SC not to act anymore on the case and just let the trial proceed.
Marquez earlier criticized Malacañang for initiating its search for the possible replacement of Corona even before his trial in the Senate, saying such move was “too presumptuous” and “too arrogant” since there is no vacancy yet to speak of and the selection process should be left to the Judicial and Bar Council.