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House prosecution panel replies to impeachment raps vs SC chief justice

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The impeachment prosecution panel of the House of Representatives on Monday filed its reply to the Senate who sits as the impeachment court, to Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona’s answer to the impeachment complaint.

Chief prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas said their reply "entirely debunks all of the defenses raised by Chief Justice Corona in his answer (dated Dec. 21, 2011)."

With the submission of their reply, Tupas said they were more confident that the Senate would be convinced of the strength of the case against the chief justice.

The 38-page Reply sought for the immediate denial of Corona’s prayer for the dismissal of the complaint; that the trial proceed immediately; and to convict the Chief Justice for betrayal of public trust.

Among the salient points raised was that the impeachment "is not an attack on the Judiciary and does not seek to threaten its independence."

On the contrary, it said the impeachment "aims to restore the independence of the Judiciary by freeing it from the clutches of influence of GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), former FG (First Gentleman) Mike Arroyo and their cabal. It will not weaken the judiciary but strengthen it. What the impeachment seeks to do is to restore the people’s faith of the independence of the SC which was sorely lost with the string of decisions made by CJ Corona to protect GMA. Most significant was the issuance of an ex parte TRO (temporary restraining order) that would have allowed GMA to go scot-free."

It further said that the impeachment did not violate the Rule of Law.

In fact, it said the complaint "seeks to strengthen it by showing to the people that, contrary to Corona’s contention, any person, even a Chief Justice is not above the law. When a public officer betrays the public trust, he must be brought to justice and held accountable, even if it’s the Chief Justice that is accused. Only then will people believe that there really is the rule of law in our country."

The congressmen-prosecutors also said in their reply that there was no factual basis on Corona’s claim that President Benigno Aquino III wanted to appoint his own Chief Justice, which will be at his beck and call.

"Firstly, this argument only betrays his (Corona) deepest secret: that he is beholden to the person who appointed him -- GMA. Secondly, if that were the objective of PNoy, it should be noted that the three appointees of PNoy voted against the Hacienda Luisita issue. This completely belies Corona’s contention," it said.

They also said that non-disclosure of its statement of assets and liabilities networth (SALN) was a blatant disregard by the Chief Justice on the policy of transparency, public accountability, and the public’s constitutional right to information.

"Section 17, Article XI of 1987 Constitution requires all public officers and employees to file and make available their SALN for inspection and copying by the public. The law makes no exception. For Corona to shield himself from this constitutional measure on transparency using an internal Supreme Court guideline, smacks of a blatant violation of clear requirements stated by law," they said.

"The Chief Justice should not hide behind technicalities. The people want the truth to come out. He has been saying that he has a powerhouse team and that he has been eagerly waiting to present his evidence. The prosecution is likewise ready. Let's get it on for the sake of the people," said Tupas.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo solon said the last slot of the 11-man prosecution panel will be occupied by a lady prosecutor.

"We will not disclose the congresswoman's identity at the moment until her election is made on the plenary floor on Jan. 16," he said.

On the other hand, House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III withdrew from the prosecution panel to be part of the pool of speakers.

Tanada will join Reps. Federico Miro Quimbo (Marikina) and Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora), who were earlier tapped to be the deputy spokespersons of the panel.

His slot in the prosecution panel will be taken by alternate prosecutor Cibac party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna.

Tanada expressed confidence the prosecution team will get the 16 votes needed to impeach the Chief Justice.

By Lilybeth G. Ison




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