Remove Corona, Hold Arroyo Accountable Says GMP and Bayan

by Anne Marxze D. Umil

MANILA – As the prosecution was presenting Article 7 of the impeachment complaint, exactly on the day that former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was arraigned at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, different caused-oriented groups under Gloria Panagutin! Movement trooped to the Senate on Thursday, Feb 23 calling for the conviction of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

According to Article 7, “Corona has betrayed the public trust through his partiality in granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo in order to give them opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s won TRO.”

“Corona is liable for hastening the Supreme Court issuance of the TRO, for changing the results of the SC deliberations on the conditionality of the TRO and in ensuring that the TRO would be immediately enforced through irregular means, including the extension of office hours,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

Different cause oriented groups held a picket rally in the Senate to call for the conviction of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Corona and also urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to make former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accountable to her numerous crimes against the people.

It will be remembered that on Nov. 15 of last year, the SC issued a TRO against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) watchlist order and thus permitting Arroyo to leave the country for her medical treatment abroad. According to the manifestation of Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, in the Nov. 15, 2011 SC decision, the TRO would only take effect after the Arroyos have complied with the conditions. However, Corona promulgated the TRO even though two of the three conditions had not yet been complied with by the Arroyos.

These conditions include the payment of a P2 million ($46,783) bond and submission of a special power of attorney. “The unilateral change and distortion of the decision of the Court is one of the gravest acts of partiality of CJ Corona to favor his former boss, and appointing authority, Gloria Arroyo,” Colmenares said in his manifestation.

Reyes, on the other hand, said Corona cannot hide behind the mantle of collegiality since documents from the SC revealed his individual role and partiality in the granting of the TRO. “The TRO fiasco showed us how Arroyo intended to use the SC as her last line of defense to evade accountability. We saw how the SC was all too willing to accommodate Arroyo’s demands.”

Suppression of evidence

The Gloria Panagutin! meanwhile expressed alarm that the recent turn of events undermines efforts to make Arroyo accountable for her many crimes against the Filipino people during her term as president.

“Recent developments in Senate trial and in the SC are truly disturbing. What we have witnessed in the past few days is the systematic suppression of key pieces of evidence that could help shed light on the transgressions committed by the Chief Justice,” Fr. Joe Dizon, spokesman of Gloria Panagutin! said.

The group cited the decision of the Senate to reject certain witnesses offered by the prosecution panel to substantiate the allegations contained in Articles 3 and 7.

In Article 3, Corona committed culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayed the public trust by failing to meet and observe the stringent standards under Article 8, Section 7 (3) of the constitution that provides that “A member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence” in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in discussing with litigants regarding cases pending before the Supreme Court.

The Gloria Panagutin! also cited the current SC decision imposing a TRO on the presentation as evidence of the dollar accounts of Corona, as well as its refusal to provide vital documents and allow its Justices and staff to testify before the impeachment court.

Last Feb. 9, the SC issued a TRO against the opening of dollar accounts of Corona in the impeachment court. Corona has five foreign currency accounts in the PS Bank but the TRO prevented the impeachment court from examining the latter’s account – Dizon challenged the Senate impeachment court to stand up for the truth, justice and accountability and do not simply accept the decision of what the group call the Corona-led SC.

“They (senators) could not escape scrutiny by the Filipino people who have long been yearning for justice and accountability from the country’s highest officials. The trial is not only about removing Corona from the SC. More importantly, it’s about making Arroyo liable for her many crimes,” Dizon pointed out.

Bayan
condemned the SC Feb. 14 resolution which seeks to suppress evidence by declaring certain documents as confidential and by preventing court officials from testifying before the Senate.

“The public deserves to know what actually transpired during the deliberations of Arroyo’s petition for TRO. The Senate should oppose this grand cover up by the SC. It is frustrating that the Senate through its rulings has further narrowed the avenues for seeking the truth on Corona’s misdeeds.”

Meanwhile, lead public prosecutor for Article VII, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the Feb.14 SC resolution is a “self serving tool to impunity and to hide the truth.”

In a statement Colmenares said, “The SC Valentine resolution is an affront to the power and duties of the impeachment court. It castrates the power of the impeachment court to look into the vital information, including confidential, material and relevant to crimes and impeachable offenses committed by the CJ or other impeachable members of the SC. The Impeachment Court should not allow an “internal rule” of the Supreme Court to cripple its constitutional power of impeachment.

He added that the resolution also goes against the principle of transparency and accountability which is violative of the right of the people to information based on Section 7 of the Bill of Rights which is enshrined in the Constitution.

“While we are all searching for the truth, the Supreme Court now under Chief Justice Renato Corona is doing all it can to bury it, especially the facts and circumstances where he showed partiality so that Arroyo can escape accountability for her crimes against the Filipino people. If the truth does not come out in the impeachment trial against Corona we have no one to blame but Corona Supreme Court. This is no different from Arroyo’s executive confidentiality to prevent the witnesses and evidences be presented in the congressional investigation of NBN ZTE deal and Hello Garci scandal,” added the progressive solon.

Convict Corona, jail GMA

Dizon called on to the Senator judges not to use the impeachment hearing for grandstanding for the 2013 or 2016 elections. Dizon stressed that Corona has betrayed public trust and therefore, he is no longer fit to be chief of the highest court in the land.

“In canon law, the decision to remove a parish priest is always based on the best interest of the people. Here in the impeachment trial, the Senator judges should always consider the best interest of the people and the country when they finally make their judgment on this historical event,” said Dizon.

He stressed that Arroyo appointed Corona to be her protector against the possible cases she would face after her presidency.

“It is clear as day that Corona was appointed by Arroyo so the SC can be her gatekeeper when the time comes that people will make her accountable. I appeal to the Senator judges to remove Corona from the SC. The only way to bring back the trust of the people in the SC is to remove Corona.”

Meanwhile, Bayan said, the Corona’s impeachment and Arroyo’s arraignment remind the people that much still need to be done to hold Arroyo truly accountable for all her crimes.

“It was the SC TRO that precipitated the filing of a criminal case against Arroyo, in an effort to render the SC TRO moot and keep Arroyo in the country. We reiterate our position that Arroyo should be jailed for the criminal case she faces before the Pasay RTC. Her continued hospital detention smacks of special treatment and double standard. Her accountability should not be limited to the 2007 elections but should cover gross human rights violations, plunder and wholesale election fraud 2004”

The groups also criticized President Aquino for being sluggish in holding Arroyo accountable. Bayan said the TRO was the result of the failure of Aquino to prosecute Arroyo during his first year and a half in office. “Arroyo’s attempt to escape justice was helped by no small means by the inability of the Aquino government to file cases in court against the former president. And were it not for Arroyo’s attempt to flee, though the TRO, the Comelec would have not immediately filed the case of election sabotage at the Pasay RTC.”

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liz Ilagan also said DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima’s testimony brings to mind how the Aquino administration almost bungled the case against Arroyo with delays in the filing of cases against the former president. “Several other cases have been filed against Arroyo, all of which are moving at a pace so much slower than a snail’s. Have they not learned their lessons? Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Ilagan.

“The lethargy and indolence with which the Aquino administration continues to direct the prosecution of the plunder and human rights cases against Mrs. Arroyo casts doubt on President Aquino’s determination and sincerity in pursuing accountability. This remains a cause for outrage and unrest,” she added.

Paulo Quiza, spokesman of Bayan-National Capital Region also said Aquino has done nothing to ensure that Arroyo and her cohorts will be prosecuted for their numerous human rights violations cases, election fraud, corruption among others “If Aquino is really serious in prosecuting the former president, then his government could have filed cases in various courts against Arroyo. What’s more disappointing is that, to date, no serious case against Arroyo has been filed directly by the Aquino administration,” Quiza added.

Bayan said that while Corona’s removal from the SC will, to some extent, help in the prosecution of Arroyo, the people should be reminded that it is still the Executive branch which has the ultimate responsibility in ensuring that GMA is held accountable. (Bulatlat.com)

 

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