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Corona’s measure of propriety


Recently I wrote on the importance of having a common ground on contentious issues.

In the discussion that I will present to you, extraordinary efforts and patience are necessary to arrive to agree on that common ground --  to protect public interests.

On the question: Should Chief Justice Renato Corona inhibit himself in the resolution of cases involving Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo --who was arrested recently on charges of election sabotage?

This question has also been tossed to the public whose interests would either be protected or be placed at risk, depending on Corona’s measure of propriety.

At press time, Corona has not yet issued an official statement on calls for him to distance himself from cases involving Mrs. Arroyo.

This is now a burning issue, especially after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes – who filed charges of election sabotage against Mrs. Arroyo – had also voiced his opinion on the issue.

In his argument, Brillantes put it simply, that since all Supreme Court justices are presidential appointees, hence, all magistrates of the High Court should inhibit themselves from the case.

Relatedly, court procedures require that a member of High Court should inhibit himself from a case if he is related with the accused.

In the opinion of the Comelec chair, Corona may not inhibit himself since he is not related by sanguinity to Mrs. Arroyo.

Recently, on this issue I have voiced my appeal, that Corona inhibit himself from any participation in the resolution of cases involving former president Arroyo .

My position goes beyond the fact that the incumbent chief justice is an appointee of Mrs. Arroyo.

On the sole premise that Corona may not inhibit himself because he is an appointee of Mrs. Arroyo, I agree with our Comelec chair.

However, unlike other members of the High Court, Corona had been the virtual alter ego of the former president, having served as her chief-of-staff and spokesman when she was vice president, and also when she was the president. He also served as acting executive secretary during her term.

Since the chief justice had worked directly under Mrs. Arroyo for several years, his close association with Mrs. Arroyo – that cannot be denied -- being her subordinate alter ego for several years,  diminishes his reliability to arrive at a fair decision in cases involving her former boss.

This is important, not only because the case involves a former president, but because it involves every citizen of the Republic whose right to suffrage, to choose and vote his leaders, could have been ridiculed and violated by the former president.

Any decision of the Supreme Court in cases involving Mrs. Arroyo should therefore be beyond question and devoid of suspicion. It is likewise essential that issues against the former president be put to closure to restore public trust to government institutions, especially the Supreme Court, the People’s Court of last resort.

This, in all likelihood, is the common ground that every Filipino would agree to.

Now the question: Should our interests in this issue depend solely on the measure of propriety that Chief Justice Corona knows?

By Lorenzo R. Tanada III

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