Rattled by the support the legal community, more specifically, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona, President Aquino, through his confrontational spokesman, yesterday slammed the IBP and its executives, virtually saying that the members of the lawyers’ group are legal ignoramuses and that the spokesman, who is also a lawyer, is the expert, not only in legal matters, but also the expert in interpreting the Constitution.

At the same time, both Aquino and his alter ego in the Justice department appear to have conspired against the CJ and his spouse, by suddenly reviving a year and a half old complaint filed against her, while the propaganda machine of the House prosecutors went on overdrive, charging that the CJ has been putting the pressure on private lawyers to desist from helping the congressmen-prosecutors’ in their impeachment case against Corona.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday said that the IBP has a very poor grasp of existing laws and jurisprudence on impeachment and claimed that the position of the IBP on the filing of an impeachment case against CJ Corona does not represent the voice of lawyers, such as himself.

The IBP is the national organization of lawyers in the Philippines and is the mandatory bar association for Filipino lawyers that include Lacierda. The IBP has been active in safeguarding the integrity of the Bar exams; promoting ethical practices of lawyers, judges, lawyer-politicians, and lawyer-government officials; refraining from any partisan political activity, especially during local and national elections; developing legal education and research in law schools and continuing legal education centers, and expanding legal aid offices throughout the country to provide free legal services to indigent Filipinos.

At a press briefing, Lacierda virtually gave IBP President Roan Libarios a lengthy lecture on the law and jurisprudence related to impeachment and insisted that the process which led to the filing of an impeachment case against Corona is “sanctioned by the Constitution.”

Lacierda also accused Libarios of being biased for Corona.

He said the IBP is absolutely wrong to claim that the filing of the impeachment case againt Corona was railroaded as many of the signatories in the articles of impeachment admitted to not having read their contents because the Constitution’s prerequisite is a simple one-third of the votes of congressmen.

“The Constitutions provides that if one-third of the votes of the congressmen or endorsement of the congressmen has been secured, it immediately goes to the Senate and the complaint is treated as the Articles of Impeachment. It’s found in the Constitution so I don’t see any reason for the IBP to accuse the executive or the legislature of railroading the process. If it’s found in the Constitution then it must be sanctioned by the Constitution,” Lacierda said.

“I don’t think it’s proper for the IBP to accuse the executive branch or the legislature of railroading a process that is mandated by the Constituition. The process, again, is provided for under the Constitution so I think the IBP should very well recognize that there is a mechanism such as impeachment in a removal for a sitting justice,” he added.

Lacierda also stressed that the filing of the impeachment case against Corona is not an attack on the Supreme Court. On the contrary, he said it is meant to strengthen the institution itself and guarantee its independenece.

“What we question is the independence of the judiciary. Again, this is not about an attack on the institution itself. This is about strengthening the institution and if the IBP cannot see beyond what we are doing right now then it has taken on a partisan stand especially of its president, IBP president Roan Libarios, who does not speak for me as a lawyer.” he said, adding that although he is an IBP member, “ the IBP does not reflect my position.”

Apparently projecting himself as legal expert, Lacierda claimed the “Constitution says that the House of Representatives is the sole trier of the impeachment ” and that “the Constitution provides that the legislature will try, will impeach the Chief Justice, and the Senate will convict the Chief Justice.”

“It’s a role that is reserved exclusively to the legislature. The Supreme Court case of Francisco versus House of Representatives should not apply in this case primarily because it has already been transmitted to the Senate, it’s up for trial and therefore it is beyond the purview of the Supreme Court. Now, it becomes a political issue or a political question as what we say in the legal community and, therefore, it is now up to the representatives of the people to decide the fate of the Chief Justice,” he said.

Lacierda said that the SC should already stop resisting CJ Corona’s impeachment and “let the process take its course.”

He said it will be improper for the SC to be issuing any ruling against the impeachment as that would mean a “a biased position in favor of one of its own members.”

“The impeachment process has begun and let it finish its course in the Senate,” Lacierda said.

He said that President Aquino’s burning desire to kick Corona out of the SC is not about taking control of the judiciary but has something to do with his desire to establish an independent court.

“What we want is an independent Supreme Court—that’s what the President has always wanted and has always advocated. We hope that this exercise of impeachment would also tell what we have been saying all along to the Filipino people that the executive branch and the legislative branch are all accountable to the Filipino people. The judiciary must be accountable as well to the Filipinio people and not to be accountable only to one patron or one person,” he said.

“Impeachment is a check and balance provision in the Constitution. It’s not…it is something that even the executive branch is liable to, the officers of the constitutional commissions are liable to. So it is something that we have maintained and some decisions of the Supreme Court have shown that it has bartered away its independence. And, therefore, that’s what the President has been fighting for and has been advocating: we want judicial consistency; we want independence from the Supreme Court—we want an independent Supreme Court,” he added.


[PHOTO - Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona speaks at the SC compound in Manila on Wednesday against attacks on him by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Looking at him is his wife Maria Cristina. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN]

Meanwhile, the spouse of the CJ is herself crying foul over the decision of the Justice department (DoJ) to revive a harassment suit filed against her by an official of the John Hay Management Corp. which she used to head.

The complaint involving the alleged misuse of the company’s funds during Mrs. Corona’s watch coincides with the controversial impeachment complaint filed before the Senate by lower house lawmakers against the CJ.

In her counter-affidavit before senior Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, Mrs. Corona specifically denied the charges lodged against her by Frank Daytec Jr., who is himself is facing criminal charges for theft of company property and had fled to Canada shortly after filing the charges against Mrs. Corona more than a year ago.

“It does not take much effort to see that this is directly and unequivocally connected to the political pressure by some quarters for my husband, Chief Justice Renato Corona, to inhibit from certain cases pending in the Supreme Court or altogether resign from the Court, or otherwise be impeached.

The Chief Justice is clearly the target, not me.” said in a statement distributed to newsmen.

The allegations of Daytec, according to Mrs. Corona, “are all bare-faced lies” and “is purely black propaganda” disguised as a suit to further malign the image of her husband, who is facing impeachment trial before the Senate.

Daytec’s lawyer-sister Cheryl Daytec during yesterday’s preliminary investigation of the case, countered Mrs. Corona’s claim saying that the case is primarily against her and not her husband and it was just “unfortunate” that the revival of the case coincided with the impeachment of the latter.

Daytec, however, admitted that their camp is also wondering why it took the DoJ more than one year to act on the complaint of her brother. Mrs. Corona did not appear before the investigating panel headed by State Prosecutor Vmar Barcellano as she opted to swear in her affidavit before Fadullon.

Her lawyer, Stanley Fabito said Mrs. Corona’s presence is necessary during the preliminary investigation stage.

Meanwhile, the propaganda machine of the House prosecutors is churning, with their spokesman, Rep. Miro Quimbo, claiming, but without presenting any evidence, that private lawyers helping the government panel in the impeachment complaint against the CJ are being pressured to back out of the prosecution panel.

Quimbo said that lobby groups supporting Corona have been pressuring private lawyers not to extend assistance to the government panel. “We heard that various groups supporting Chief Justice Corona are exerting pressures, dissuading private lawyers from supporting us. They are raiding our supporters and backers,” Quimbo said yesterday.

But Quimbo said the lawyers have not backed out despite the pressure of a backlash.

“But I salute these private lawyers because they have remained steadfast in their commitment to seek justice and institute reforms in the judiciary,” Quimbo said.

Quimbo said they decided to withhold the names of private lawyers.

Quimbo also refused to name those who are allegedly putting pressure on the private lawyers.

“This is a desperate attempt to undermine the mandate of the prosecution panel,” the Marikina lawmaker said. Gerry Baldo


Integrated Bar slams Palace, House for ‘breakneck’ impeachment by Rey Requejo

THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the national association of lawyers, on Wednesday denounced the bid of the Palace and the House of Representatives to exercise political control over the Judiciary by ramming through the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“As a sentinel of freedom and democracy, the IBP considers the breakneck and high-handed impeachment delivered by the House as a menace and an open subversion of the constitutional prerogatives of the Supreme Court as the final interpreter of the law and the arbiter of rights,” the group said in a statement.

The Palace and its allies in the House denied the lawyers’ charges.

IBP president Roan Libarios warned that the impeachment trod on the powers and prerogatives of the 15-member bench as the final interpreter of law and arbiter of judicial disputes.

By violating the equal-protection clause, Congress reduced the impeachment from a mechanism of accountability to a political tool to prosecute and even persecute the chief justice and other magistrates, Libarios said.

His group said the House, acting on the whim of President Benigno Aquino III, arrogated unto itself the power to interpret the law over and above the Supreme Court by impeaching the chief justice based on the decisions issued by the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court is emasculated by partisan actions, to whom shall the people turn to against excesses by those who are in power?” Libarios said.

The IBP said the grounds invoked to impeach Corona referred to the collegial decisions of the Supreme Court.

“In all of the cited cases, the record shows that the chief justice was not the ponente [author] but merely concurred in the majority or minority opinion. Neither did the chief justice flip-flop or change his position in any of these cases,” the group said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda maintained Malacañang’s hard line against the chief justice.

“The independence of the Judiciary has long been bartered away by Chief Justice Corona,” he said.

“We are demanding the restoration of the independence of the Judiciary from his patron.”

In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Congress had no interest in exercising political control over the Judiciary.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II brushed aside the IBP’s allegations.

“Perhaps the current leadership of the IBP is not aware of the constitutional provision that vests the House of Representatives with its power of impeachment,” Gonzales told the Manila Standard.

“The fact that the President showed an interest in it does not change anything.” With Maricel Cruz


Brief History of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (the “IBP”) is the official organization of all Philippine lawyers whose names appear in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court.

The IBP came into being when the Supreme Court created on October 5, 1970 the Commission on Bar Integration which was tasked “not only to ascertain the advisability of integration of the Bar, but even more, to serve as a common vehicle of the Court and the Bar in fashioning a blueprint for integration and putting the same into actual operation.” Republic Act No. 6397, which became effective September 17, 1971, confirmed the power of the Supreme Court to adopt rules of court to effect the integration of the Philippine Bar.

Then on January 9, 1973, the Supreme Court, by a per curiam resolution, pursuant to its constitutional mandate, ordained the integration of the Bar in accordance with its Rule 139-A, effective January 16, 1973.

Within the next succeeding months, the IBP was organized. On February 17, 1973, local chapters all over the country were finally formed and elections for chapter officers were held.

Then on March 17, 1973, the first batch of representatives to the IBP House of Delegates composed of 104 delegates representing the IBP Chapters nationwide convened in Manila and elected its first set of IBP Governors.






Integrated Bar of the Philippines: Fundamental Objectives

To elevate the standards of the legal profession; To improve the administration of justice; To enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility more effectively.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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