10-4-9 for removal of Corona

Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer 12/15/11

So it happened. A few days after my column last week where I exhorted the impeachment of both Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, the President, weary of yet another TRO from the Arroyo court -asked his allies in Congress to impeach the Chief Justice. And while I have maintained that this should have been done since day 1 of his administration, its certainly better late than never, as the saying goes.

Critics though have claimed that the impeachment will undermine the independence of our courts. Far from it. In the first place, it was Corona who did it to himself. He agreed to become an unconstitutional Chief Justice when he assumed the office knowing fully well that both the language and the spirit of the Constitution barred his appointment. You cannot undermine the judiciary when you remove an unconstitutional appointee. On the contrary, you uphold the supremacy of the Constitution by doing so.

True, the Constitution defines judicial power as including the power to declare any act of any branch or instrumentality of government as null and void where there is grave abuse of discretion resulting in lack of or excess of jurisdiction. Included in this function is the duty to declare as illegal any act that is contrary to the constitution. But this is not a monopoly of the Courts. All public officers are required to uphold the constitution and the laws of the land. Surely, when it is the Supreme Court that makes a mockery of the Constitution, as it did in the case of De Castro v. JBC where the midnight appointment of Corona was upheld, the executive is duty bound to resort to the constitutional tool of impeachment to uphold the constitution and accountability of public officers.

It must be underscored that while the Constitution refers to the Senate as an “impeachment court”, the language of the organic act should not deceive the Senate. They are a court only for the purpose of determining whether the impeached official should be removed from office. This does not make them a court of law. They are still policy makers who must formulate policy on whether one should continue in public office. They should not make the mistake, as argued by Estelito Mendoza during the Erap impeachment, of acting like a court hearing a criminal case. Public office is still a privilege and not a right. When the Constitution vested in elective representatives of the people the power to remove impeachable officers, it was their will to include the issue of fitness for a public office as a policy issue and not a criminal inquiry. The standard is hence not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, nor any of the standards recognized by our rule of evidence. The sole criterion is fitness to remain in office from a policy point of view. While the grounds for impeachment should still be proven, the Senate though is free to decide on the basis of other considerations considered relevant in formulating policy. Otherwise, the power to impeach and sit as an impeachment court should have been vested in the judiciary.

So how will the Senators possibly vote on the Corona impeachment case? Well, while it is still too early to tell, my crystal ball shows the following:  all four LP Senators: Drilon, Recto, Pangilinan, and Guingona will vote for impeachment. They have to. When we say impeachment is a political process, it also means that political parties, at least in the United States from whom we copied our constitution, vote along party lines. Expect the four to be joined by Senators Trillianes, Estrada
, and Lacson, all of whom have proven to be staunch political nemesis of Corona’s boss, CGMA. 
 Add to the list Senate President Enrile who should know that voting in favor of Malacanang’s wish would be the surest way of safeguarding his post as head of the Senate. Voting with JPE would be his majority floor leader Sotto and his prodigee, Honasan. That’s a sure 10 votes for impeachment.

Those who will most likely cast negative votes would be Senators allied with or sympathetic to CGMA. This would include Senators  Revilla
, Lapid
, Arroyo, and Marcos. That’s a sure 4 votes against impeachment.

The rest, 9 in all , I think, are undecided: Santiago

 , in my mind, is undecided because while she appreciates Malacanang’s support for her ICC candidacy, still, she has been very  clear that she does not think Corona should be impeached. Angara, as a veteran politician, should be  open to offers. The same goes for Legarda. Villar and his block, including the two Cayetanos, have been rabid anti-Malacanang Senators. Palace operators may have to strike a deal first with the Villar block, if they want to have the numbers to remove Corona. Osmena is undecided because he has been maverick lately, opposing even the nomination of P Noy’s Tito, Domingo Lee, as Ambassador to China. This means that Osmena does not believe in voting along party lines. And finally, Escudero is an undecided because he normally defers to his elders in his own fraternity. One of his esteemed senior brod, former Chief Justice Renaldo Puno, is seen as being sympathetic to Corona as in fact- he even resigned earlier than his 70th birthday to facilitate Corona;s appointment. Pimentel is an undecided because he has been quoted as saying he will decide on the basis of evidence.

We need 16 Senators to remove Corona. But anything can happen. As we have known all along: never underestimate the vast powers of the President


10 comments on “10-4-9 for removal of Corona

  1. simongc says:

    good on you harry you are a lone voice in the manila legal circles . some high flyers from social pages need to give u more back up, instead of posing with peninsulars etc and sniffing derrieres.. more power to noy noy hope he can last the distance and get rid of some big rotten apples like midnight judge GMA all of Ampatuans – that would give Philipinnes judicial life a breath of clean fresh air – and restore some confidence from international community

  2. simongc says:

    to all your readers do not forget the victims of Maguindanao , do not let the passage of time erode the importance of resolving this issue correctly and openly in the public arena.

    I repeat where are all the graduates from U sto Thomas and al the other place of learning and the american college universities that the rich abscond to , did they not study anything except graft corruption and estafa – ie. not as academic subjects but as masters of implementation of such disciplines.

  3. Juanita Dobla says:

    Idol ko si roque!

  4. Phil Cruz says:

    Atty. Roque, I am a bit surprised and bothered by your assessment that Escudero defers to his frat elders when making decisions such as this.

    If that is so, then he is not mature enough or independent minded… and doesn’t deserve to even aspire for a future higher office. He would be no better than the man he would judging in this impeachment trial.. if that were so.

  5. […] does not have the two-thirds majority required to impeach the Chief Justice. Lawyer Harry Roque has come up with a projection of how the senators would vote, and he identifies ten who would surely vote for […]

  6. Jesrey says:

    I want to believe the Senate will vote based on the evidence and the preservation of democracy.

  7. Left Ball says:

    It’s Reynato Puno not Renaldo. tsk tsk tsk.

  8. Sylvia esma says:

    Harry ikaw naman pala gumawa ng impeachment complaint. Ang galing mo. Keep it up!

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