The wrong IBP statement

IBP President Roan Libarios

Was both sad and disappointed when the Integrated Bar of the Philippines took the stand that the impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona was an affront to the independence on the Judiciary. Sad because I hold the IBP very dearly, having served as its Presidential Assistant for Human Rights for two years during the incumbency of President Feliciano Bautista. Disappointed because knowing almost all of its national officers personally, including its incumbent President Roan Libarios whom I had the pleasure of serving with when he was National Vice-President of the IBP, I do not understand how they can misread the importance of impeachment as a constitutional tool for public accountability of public officers. It was indeed a wrong statement.

The IBP anchored its stand on the false belief that any and all means to promote accountability on the part of our magistrates is an affront to the Judiciary. Nothing can be farther from the truth. When the Constitution made the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government, it did so mindful that there was a need to promote both independence and accountability of our magistrates. To achieve independence, the Constitution gave the Court both fiscal autonomy and security of tenure for all magistrates to serve until age 70. But to balance this independence, the Constitution included the remedy of impeachment to remove magistrates with otherwise fixed terms should they commit culpable violations of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and graft and corruption. To provide the Court only with means to make it independent but bereft of an instrument of accountability would be to make a monster out of our courts. Hence, contrary to the position taken by the officers of the IBP, impeachment is a constitutional tool to promote accountability and not the sword of Damocles that it portrayed it to be.

Furthermore, as I argued in my paper which I delivered only this month in Hong Kong University on the occasion of the 4th International Conference of the Asian Society of Constitutional Law, the impeachment is a tool by which our policy makers, both from the House of Representatives and the Senate, can uphold the supremacy of the Constitution particularly on the issue of Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice. Normally, legal formalism demands that we accept as final and executory decisions made by the Supreme Court particularly where it interprets the Constitution. In Angara v. Electoral Tribunal, the Court declared that when it declares an act of any branch or instrumentality as unconstitutional and hence, null and void, this is not an exercise of “judicial supremacy”, but one that “upholds the supremacy of the Constitution”.

But what happens when the Court abdicates this duty to uphold the Constitution as it did in De Castro v. JBC when it resorted to constitutional draftsmanship in upholding Corona’s appointment as a midnight Chief Justice in a manner contrary to the language and intent of the Constitution? Are all the other branches of government precluded from defending the Constitution? Certainly not.

All public officers from all branches of government took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Here, the remedy is clearly impeachment, as the issue to be resolved by our policy makers will include that of the correctness and the wisdom of the Court’s ruling in De Castro. Surely, the people that gave life to the Constitution did not intend to grant unto the Court a monopoly of upholding the supremacy of the highest law of the land.

As correctly observed by Senator Joker Arroyo, Article 1 of the articles of impeachment will involve purely legal issues which includes the constitutionality of Corona’s acceptance of the post of Chief Justice.

I would also have appreciated it if the IBP’s leadership attempted to consult its members prior to issuing its statement against the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. Certainly, as the compulsory national organization of lawyers, there is virtue in hearing what its members, all of whom are trained in constitutional law, have to say before issuing a statement that appears to bind all of its members. As it turned out, I am a bona fide member of the IBP and I have been whole-heartedly supporting the impeachment of Corona as a means of strengthening the constitution and the Court as an institution. My leaders in the IBP did not consult me before they issued their official position despite the fact that the articles of the IBP do contain a provision on consultation with its members. I am now constrained to put on record the fact that I do not approve of the IBP stand and that I have not authorized them to speak on my behalf on this particular issue. This is sad, but necessary.

In any case, I am pleased that the House of Representatives chose lawyer Mario “Ayo” Bautista to lead its panel of private prosecutors in the impeachment trial. Ayo was my boss during my first year of litigation practice and I know him to be a brilliant and dedicated litigator. With him on board, I am sure that the people’s interest would be promoted and safeguarded in the impeachment trial.

I’m sorry to write a serious article for my last column for the year. Rest assured, I will try to be less serious in the upcoming New Year.

Happy New Year to one and all!


17 comments on “The wrong IBP statement

  1. Eileen Arboleda-Orbeta says:

    Majority of the Filipino people believe that the installation of Corona is unconstitutional and therefore the Supreme Court, which is the protector of the people, did an injustice to us all.

    The Constitution was written by numerous representatives but his installation was decided on by only a handful of people… or maybe just one?.

  2. simongc says:

    THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL Fraternity does appear to be willing to take a moral stand on any big issues . could someone tell them it is now the 21st century and it is rapidly moving on .

    some one somewhere needs the back bone to drag them into the world of legal rights for victims , women , the oppressed,;the legal system is not supposed to be a branch of the Catholic Church. it is supposed to be free thinking, forward thinking living and breathing force for the good of humanity. not just a money making scheme.

  3. […] impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona was an affront to the independence on the Judiciary.Via Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  4. Rosario San Jose says:

    Fireworks is symbolic of saying goodbye, driving demons away, and welcoming the new year with optimism. You did all that in your column. Happy New Year atty Roque.

  5. arielmaderia says:

    tulad ng unang ipinadalang tapat na ministro sa katauhan ni spokeman , wala namang nakitang damit na tinahi ang mga swindlers ng emperor ng supreme court, subalit nagpahayag pa din ito ng kagandahan at pag sang ayon sa di umanoy napakagandang magigigng kasuotan ng emperor, at upang makasiguro.

    Sa pamamagitan ng panibagong courtier sa katauhan ng ilang taga IBP (injustice bar of the phils ?), ipinagmalaki din nila ang nakita nilang napakagandang kasuotang tinatahi ng mga manloloko gayong pawang imahinasyon lamang ito upang mapasaya ang emperor kung kayat gayon n lang ang kanilang pagsangayon dito.

    Salamat sa paslit at walang muwang na bata, sa pagpapahayag at pagsigaw “na walang saplot at hubo ang emperor”, doon lamang natauhan ang mga mamamayan, pero sadyang pagmamataas pa din at ayaw tanggapin ang katotohanan, ipinagpatuloy pa rin ng emperor ang prosesyon, prusisyong magbibigay sa kanya at kanyang kasamahan ng kahihiyan tungo sa tunay na katarungan.

    Ginoong Roque, wala po kayong dapat ipag sorry, mas kailangan namin ang tulad nyo, kayong alang takot na maglahad sa lahat na “ALANG SAPLOT ANG EMPEROR”, salamat at may makabagong Hans Christian Andersen sa katauhan nyo. Sila ang dapat magsipag sorry, silang alang pakundangan sa paglilo sa batas.

    Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon ng hustisya at katotohanan para sa taumbayan.

  6. jose buenaventura flores says:


  7. ricky a. pollo says:

    Certainly, you are correct in this issue and a lot share your disquisition in this regard. The problem with IBP it is now taking a stand as if it can save morality in the judiciary at the same time and unwittingly it exposes its ignorance of the law and the procedure. The impeachment as a process is both ordained in the constitution and is a supreme mandate from the sovereign to avail of when the demands of an honorable Supreme Court begin to show edges of corruption as to its morality in governing and running the judicial system of the Country. Not unlike a dethrone president who lost his mandate in corruption. In fact, considering the penalty of dismissal the impeachment process is not only political but also administrative in nature. The senate upon the filing of impeachment complaint which is akin to a formal charge or criminal information must place the Chief Justice on preventive suspension, to present influencing the case again him. I suggest a Motion to Place on Preventive suspension be filed by the prosecuting congressman. While there is nothing in the rules of the Senate that allows it there is nothing also which prohibits the same. As it is, Corona is using the Supreme Court and the IBP as a shield to cover up for his misdeeds. In fact, I suggest sir Harry that a civilian review Committee on Supreme Court cases be established to monitor seriously erroneous decision of the Supreme Court. Then immediately file impeachment as regular process to cleanse the judiciary of people like del castillo, villarama, Corona. Our lives and future are in the hands of these people, who would issue deliberately evil decisions out of their gangsta like demeanor of being untouchables. They should be send to the gallows and be hanged. Carry on.

  8. Annie says:

    I see hope in d horizon knowing there’s such harry roque, lawyer, who can interpret law in its full spirit! Somehow u restore our trust in legal people who are long seen as pahirap ng bayan coz what they are after is to look for loopholes & patrons in robes to circumvent the laws supposedly passed to enable just society! Kudos to u!

  9. Bhong says:

    A very compelling article. I concurred with your declarations. The IBP did not consult me too. They did not reflect my views and sentiments, which is contrary to theirs, on the upcoming impeachment. They should clarify that their stand is their own personal stand and do not reflect the sentiments of their brethren in the profession.

  10. les says:

    i was also not consulted by the IBP! Thank God for you, there is a flicker of hope for our profession. I am beginning to lose interest in being a lawyer especially given the things I am discovering in practice. I cannot stand the hypocrisy of some of our fellow lawyers.

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