MANILA, JUNE 1, 2012 (PHILSTAR) President Aquino said yesterday he would make full use of the 90 days provided by law for selecting a replacement for ousted chief justice Renato Corona.

In a televised speech at Malacańang, Aquino said he has 90 days to ensure that the next chief justice will be independent, competent, and with the integrity needed to lead the judiciary.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will meet on Monday to tackle the process of nominating a replacement for Corona, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said yesterday.

“Since the council has no chairman because the Senate impeachment has found CJ Corona guilty and has removed him from office, we may designate a temporary presiding officer,” he said.

Tupas, as chairman of the committee on justice of the House of Representatives, sits in the JBC, whose ex-officio chairman is the Chief Justice.

Council members include the chairman of the Senate committee on justice, a representative of academe, one former Supreme Court justice, and a representative of the private sector.

Tupas said an acting chief justice cannot sit as council chairman “because the Constitution explicitly states that the Chief Justice, not an acting chief magistrate, heads the JBC in an ex-officio capacity.”

He said the designation of a temporary presiding officer has a precedent.

He recalled that during the Ramos administration, the JBC once made such designation when the Chief Justice was indisposed.

“The council is a collegial body. It can function even without the Chief Justice, like in this case when the Chief Justice is removed from office through the impeachment process,” he said.

He said the JBC has to come up with a list of three nominees for Chief Justice “since under the Constitution, President Aquino has to appoint a replacement within 90 days from the time the vacancy occurs.”

“Without such list, the President cannot appoint a replacement. He also cannot appoint one not in the JBC’s nomination list,” he added.

Tupas headed the House panel that successfully prosecuted Corona in his Senate impeachment trial.

He said the ousted chief justice should not listen to some of his lawyers who are suggesting that they appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court.

“He should realize that his conviction by the impeachment court is the end of the road for him. There is no appeal process in impeachment. The Constitution is very clear on this,” he said.

He said Corona would expose himself to more embarrassment if he listens to the suggestion of some of his lawyers. Corona has said he was accepting the Senate’s guilty verdict.

Tupas said he would have wished that Corona resigned early in the trial “so we would not have gone through this painful process.”

He said he could not understand why Corona had to expose himself and his family to pain, suffering, anxiety, embarrassment, and ridicule, knowing that he had hidden assets that could potentially be found, which could lead to his conviction.

“He also risked his health. I pitied him when he returned to the impeachment court from the hospital last Friday, obviously still sick,” he said.

At the Senate, Liberal Party stalwart Sen. Franklin Drilon said he is keen on finishing his term until 2016 as he reiterated he had no interest in succeeding Corona as chief justice.

“To set the facts straight, I am not interested in the position of chief justice of the Supreme Court,” Drilon said in a statement, reacting to a STAR report that he was among those being considered for the post.

“I believe I can serve our country better as senator,” Drilon, one of 20 senators who voted for Corona’s conviction, said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Corona’s replacement should just be chosen from among the incumbent justices while the Senate’s representative to the JBC believes the body should set into motion its selection process, including accepting applications from outsiders.

Enrile said there is no need for a candidate for the post of chief justice to undergo JBC’s selection process since the post of JBC chairman, held by the chief justice, is also vacant following Corona’s removal from his post last Tuesday.

He said only an outsider needs to undergo JBC’s screening procedures.

For his part, JBC’s Senate representative Sen. Francis Escudero said the JBC must convene soon to avoid a vacuum in the Supreme Court.

Escudero said he would ask the council to immediately convene and send notice of applications and nominations for the chief justice position.

Escudero said the Constitution provides that “any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.”

“The law always abhors a vacuum. Not because the SC lost its chief justice, we stop functioning as a council. We need to continue with our work as usual and part of it is to immediately look for someone to fill the vacancy in the highest court,” he said.

Escudero said he wants to see an outsider to replace the former chief justice and expressed hope the President would appoint someone not in any way identified with him or with any vested interest.

“I am hoping that the vetting will be from the outside circle of the President’s official family, friends and the current Supreme Court composition so that we strictly adhere to the new leaf we all are looking forward to,” Escudero said.

“It’s time for all of us to work for healing, reconciliation so we can already move on and move forward,” he said.

Escudero said he wants the JBC to require all applicants and nominees to execute a waiver that would allow the council to examine a candidate’s assets and finances if necessary.

“As I have said in my explanation of vote yesterday, from now on, we should measure everyone aspiring to join the government with the measure we used with former CJ Corona,” Escudero said. – Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez


Not Drilon nor Carpio as CJ, Noynoy urged By Angie M. Rosales 05/31/2012


A day after the ouster of Renato Corona as head of the Supreme Court as a result of a Senate impeachment court vote to convict him, the next logical question is who takes his place but what was mostly offered yesterday are those who should not assume the post of Chief Justice.

A close Palace ally in the Senate yesterday hinted the inclination of President Aquino to pick an “outsider” of the Supreme Court as replacement of Corona.

Unless the Chief Executive has already had a change of mind recently, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he would be proven wrong.

In his various television appearances and radio interviews, Escudero was consistent in underscoring this fact that from what he personally knows on the matter is that the President’s inclination is to choose from those outside of the SC.

“I don’t know if he already made any public pronouncements on this, but from what I’ve heard from him, he will appoint an outsider and not an insider of SC. That’s what he prefers although it will depend on the list to be submitted by the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council),” Escudero said.

“I don’t know for a fact if everything has changed but I could only wish for the person

who would replace the Chief Justice as someone who will not still create a new conflict or a new round of clash whether within or outside of the SC,” he said.

Aquino, in a televised address, said he was not rushing to appoint a new Chief Justice. By law the President has three months to do so.

“We will endeavor to find an independent, intelligent person with integrity who will faithfully lead our judiciary,” the President said.

The names of main Aquino ally Sen. Franklin Drilon and Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares were floated as possible outsiders to take Corona’s vacant post.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile expressed the view that Drilon could not become Chief Justice and said Aquino should pick the replacement of Corona from among the associate justices.

“He cannot be an outsider,” he said of the next Chief Justice.

Enrile also expressed the view that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio cannot be an officer-in-charge at the SC since a temporary Chief Justice is not allowed under the Constitution.

Escudero cautioned Aquino against exercising his privilege of appointing a new SC chief by choosing someone whom the public might only view as a political patron.

Appearing in a television interview with Escudero, former senator Rene Saguisag echoed the position of the lawmaker as he likewise practically warned Malacanang against making Carpio permanent in the vacated post, as this might only prove to be “problematic” later on to the administration.

Drilon, meanwhile, said in a statement he is not interested in becoming Chief Justice.

“To set the facts straight, I am not interested in the position of the Chief Justice of the SC,” Drilon said.

Regarding Carpio, Saguisag said appointing him as Corona’s replacement “will present its own set of problems.”

“In fact nothing could be nicer than for Tony (Carpio) to say, ‘I’m not interested,’” Saguisag said.

Saguisag explained that traditionally, the President can choose among the so-called insiders.

A likely cowed SC, meanwhile, has volunteered to make a public disclosure of its magistrates’ statement and assets, liabilities and net worth (SALn) lifting a 24 year virtual ban.

The decision to make the SALn disclosure was among the matters first taken up in the special en banc session yesterday called by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

“The (SC) en banc approved in principal the release of the 2011 SALn in full of all judges and justices of the judiciary,”acting SC spokesman Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra announced yesterday.

The order is expected to apply to an estimated 1,700 magistrates.

“The guidelines for the public release will be taken up in the June 13 , 2012 en banc session.” Guerra said.

The spokesman who has temporarily taken over the functions of Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez as court spokesman declined to clarify whether the guidelines would require magistrates to disclose details of their dollar deposits.

Sources in the high court however said a majority of the magistrates do not want a full disclosure of the bank accounts except for Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno.The detail is yet to be decided.

All magistrates attended except Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta who were in Baguio.

While tension between the judiciary and the executive may have simmered down or even stabilized by now, Saguisag emphasized that “we don’t need another divisive issue or controversy.”

Escudero, a member of JBC as Senate representative, agreed with Saguisag’s assertions, adding that although this will be a first in the country’s history as far as the nature of vacancy in the SC is concerned, there’s no barring the President from appointing an “outsider.”

The senator hastened to point out the fact that the wranglings within SC were highlighted during the impeachment proceedings, Corona himself insinuating the supposed involvement of Carpio in seeing him ousted from his post.

Escudero further agreed with the veteran lawmaker that it would probably be better if Carpio himself would steer clear of the issue of replacing Corona in order to prevent a new round of political chaos, debates, divisivenes and reasons to be distracted from more pressing matters such as the country’s economy.

Whoever will be named Corona’s replacement, Escudero reiterated, should be “more pious than the Pope” especially since the government has applied the highest standard in judging the fitness of the removed Chief Justice from continuing with his duties.

Several names have cropped up as the possible replacement, mostly known strong political allies and long-time close associates of Aquino but Escudero said one of the qualifications that should be observed is that the person not be known to be a supporter, friend, or party mate of the President.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, in a separate interview, agreed with Escudero as to the manner in which the President could designate the new SC chief, adding that as a matter of law, an “office-in-charge” would immediately assume the vacancy and that person “is the next in rank without any declaration, without any further action.

“Then within 90 days then the President can choose a permanent one,” Angara said.

Even if Carpio were the acting SC chief, Angara likewise said the President need necessarily limit his choices to those in the high tribunal, saying that it was his privilege to choose anyone, even those outside of the SC.

But Enrile insisted the President cannot appoint an outsider because there was no JBC at the moment.

“The President cannot fill the vacancy that is now open because of the conviction of the Chief Justice. That means that there is a vacant position out of the 15 members of the Court. One position is vacant and it so happens that that position is of the Chief Justice. So, since there is no JBC, so to speak, because the Chief Justice is the chairman of the JBC, the President, by force of necessity, must appoint a Chief Justice among those incumbent justices of the Supreme Court, the 14 remaining justices. There is no one that can act as a Chief Justice, not even the whole court can appoint an acting chief justice. Only the President can appoint a Chief Justice. An ‘acting Chief Justice’ is not authorized under the 1987 Constitution unlike under the 1935 Constitution,” Enrile said.

“No, he could not (appoint an outsider). He will be committing a violation of the Constitution,” he added.

Angara, a former Senate president and a lawyer, contradicted Enrile as he pointed out that the OIC will be the one to sit as chair of JBC.

“By law, that is provided (in situations like this). Whether you like or hate him, he happens to be under the law the OIC in SC and since the law says that the head of JBC is the head of SC, ergo (it’s) the OIC who will sit as chair,” he said.

Aquino hailed the sacking of Corona, calling it a necessary step in his anti-corruption crusade and pledging to appoint an untainted replacement.

“What we did was to strengthen the system; to demonstrate that justice wears a blindfold (of impartiality),” he said of the impeachment trial.

“This was a necessary process,” Aquino said in a television address.

“We all know that Mr Corona embodied all that is dirty in our judiciary.”

Corona had also been accused of blocking government efforts to prosecute Aquino’s corruption-tainted predecessor Gloria Arroyo, who is being detained on vote rigging charges, as well as lacking integrity.

But the Senate, which sat as a special tribunal for four months, did not render judgments on these two charges once the senators found Corona guilty on the charge of failing to declare his assets. Corona maintains he is innocent and the money lawfully earned.

He has alleged Aquino masterminded his downfall as an act of vengeance after the SC ruled last year that a sugar estate owned by Aquino relatives must be sold to its workers.

Aquino denied Wednesday that he had any personal motives in seeking Corona’s ouster.

Meanwhile, police said they had found and safely disarmed a grenade outside the home of Ombudsman Conchita Morales, a special prosecutor whose testimony at the impeachment trial had helped win Corona’s removal.

Manila police spokesman Superintendent Danilo Pecano told reporters the grenade was placed in a tin can with a note that appeared to show sympathy for the ousted Chief Justice, but added there were no immediate suspects.

In an interview Tuesday night with palace reporters, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte hinted that the next SC head would come from a list of names that the JBC which screens and shortlists nominees down to the best and most qualified to take the seat that was taken away from former CJ, now Atty. Renato Corona.

Valte, who was made to read the President’s official statement relative to the Senate’s overwhelming decision to strip Corona of his title as the country’s top magistrate, expressed optimism that the next SC Chief Justice would be able to restore public confidence on the judicial system and restore public respect to judges, often referred to as “hoodlums in robes”.

She added that the Senate ruling “is a step forward in terms of restoring public confidence in our courts, and trust in the members of the judiciary.”

The Senate, acting as an impeachment court in a 20-3 vote, found Corona guilty of Article 2 of the impeachment complaint for failing to accurately declare his peso and dollar assets in his annual statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALn), as required by the Constitution and the law.

Prior to the issuance of the verdict, Aquino himself hinted that the next Chief Justice would have to be the best that the high tribunal would ever have. Without mentioning names, Aquino is seen to have long decided on his choice for Corona’s replacement.

Legally, Corona remains the chief justice as verdicts warranting removal from office stipulates a 15-day period before an officer in charge or a replacement could take over. However, news reports said that Aquino’s perceived ‘anointed one’ SC Justice Antonio Carpio has already taken over as the acting chief justice.

Aquino, who kept his schedule for the whole Tuesday afternoon “open”, made sure he and his best boy and political adviser Sec. Ronald Llamas, would be able to watch the entire senate proceedings on television before handing down what appears to be a verdict that the President seemed so certain of coming

Moments after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, acting as presiding officer of the impeachment court, stepped down from the podium where he delivered a lengthy justification to his vote for Corona’s conviction, the Malacanang chief executive (through the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson) called for a press briefing where he was supposed to personally deliver the government’s official statement on the Corona conviction.

He however changed his mind at the last minute and instead asked Valte to read his statement congratulating the senators for the judgment rendered by the legislative institution composed of senators from the Liberal Party he heads, those seeking re-election in time for next year’s mid-term polls and those whom reports claimed were compelled to go Malacanang’s way for fear of ending up as the next on the “hit list.”

After the delivery of the President’s press statement, Malacanang was swarmed with a fleet of cars with special plates bearing number “8,” an indicator exclusively limited to congressmen.

With Corona, who remains confined in the hospital, out of the picture, senior SC Justice Antonio Carpio finally got what former CJ Corona referred to as a position that Malacanang had long been wanted for Justice Carpio.

Justice Carpio is known to be “friendly” with the Aquino administration.

Prior to Corona’s ouster, the President hinted that the next SC Chief Justice would be the best chief magistrate that the high tribunal would have — an indication that he knew and perhaps expected the guilty verdict even before the promulgation took place.

House Minority Leader, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez yesterday rose up to the transparency and accountability challenge aired by SC Chief Justice Renato Corona by signing waivers in behalf of all the members of the House minority bloc, making available the full version of their SALns.

At their weekly press briefing, Suarez announced they are giving the Office of the House Speaker a blanket authority to furnish any and all parties copies of their latest and previous SALns upon their written request.

Suarez however was quick to add he maintained no foreign currency account, although he co-owns a helicopter worth around $4 million with several other friends.

Admitting he had a net worth of P179 million including vehicles worth P91 million, the Quezon solon added he was also allowing the media to scrutinize his bank accounts.

Suarez stressed they had arrived to open up their SALns and other financial document following the challenge aired by Corona in his impeachment trial.

“Perhaps the only positive outcome of an impeachment process that was flawed from the very beginning, is the final challenge issued by the Chief Justice for all government officials to waive any legal protections they might enjoy against the fullest disclosure of their assets and liabilities,” said Suarez. Charlie V. Manalo, Fernan J. Angeles

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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