Corona Impeachment Judgment Day – Acquittal on Article III, VII seen
Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona will most likely get acquitted in Article III and VII. The first one charges that Corona flip-flopped on the case involving Flight Attendants and Steward Association of the Philippines (FASAP) and Philippine Airlines.
Although it is highly irregular for the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse its own ruling repeatedly, this cannot be blamed on Corona alone. This writer subscribes to the argument leveled by Atty. Dennis Manalo and retired Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas that the SC makes its decisions as a collegial body.
In effect, Corona is merely the court’s primus inter pares (“first among equals”). And besides, the High Court has already reversed itself on a number of high-profile cases in the past. In 2004, it flip-flopped on the issue of allowing 100% foreign-owned mining firms to operate in the country (they voted against it before voting for it ten months later).
Meanwhile, Article VII centers on the alleged questionable circumstances surrounding SC’s issuance of a temporary restraining order which effectively set aside the Aquino government-issued hold departure order against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Corona may have ruled overwhelmingly in favor of now-Pampanga Rep. Arroyo (78% of the time, according to Newsbreak), but the prosecution has not established that the chief magistrate exerted undue influence over a majority of his colleagues for them to vote in the same way as him. It is important to point out that part of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s testimony for this part was stricken off the record for being “hearsay.”
As noted above, the focal point of attention is on Article II. Corona’s fate will depend on how the 23 senator-judges regard his defense that:
1. He did not mention his dollar accounts in his annual SALN (in good faith, his lawyer Eduardo Delos Angeles stressed) because he is not required to do so because of Republic Act 1426 (or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act), and
2. He did not declare list the money and properties being attributed to him in the said document because those are co-mingled (ergo, not solely his, according to Cuevas).
Keep in mind that 16 votes are needed to secure Corona’s impeachment in any one of the three remaining articles. It is reasonable to expect these tnen senators to convict Corona: Angara, Drilon, Estrada, Guingona, Lacson, Osmena, Pangilinan, Pimentel, Recto, and Trillanes. All the rest can swing either way.
While it is almost sure that majority of senators will vote for Corona’s conviction in Article II, he may be acquitted if the prosecution fails to get the 16 votes necessary to impeach him.