Next impeachment target, May/July: Chief Justice, et. al.

Fariñas: After Gutierrez, Corona is next target | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines, Breaking News, Video, Analysis, Features

Fariñas: After Gutierrez, Corona is next target
By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 03/15/2011 5:06 PM | Updated as of 03/16/2011 8:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Even as the House of Representatives has yet to dispose of the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, one of its key leaders has already started to train his sights on another Arroyo appointee for impeachment---Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice-chairman of the House of Representatives Justice committee, told reporters that Corona and at least 6 other justices will be the subject of an impeachment complaint he plans to file by the opening of the 2nd regular Session of Congress in July.

“Opo, kasama po si Chief Justice. Sinabi niya naman pwede siya mag-isa mag issue ng SQA (status quo ante order). Kung pwede mag-isa siya, sana siya na lang. Kung pwede mag-isa lang, bakit pa siya naghanap ng damay?” he said.

The Supreme Court issued an SQA against the impeachment of Gutierrez last year, halting the House proceedings for 5 months. The Court later lifted the order and allowed the impeachment proceedings to continue.

Fariñas said the justices will be charged with impeachment separately, but hearings will be combined since similar issues will be discussed.

Corona figures in a good number of these allegedly impeachable cases. “Individualize pagfafile ng kaso. Iisa-isa rin ang trial...May mga common issues naman. Pwedeng dinggin ng minsanan kasi iisa lang pag uusapan," he said.

Corona like Gutierrez is seen as one of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lines of defense against prosecution.

Fariñas has opened up his office and dedicated even a mobile phone number to entertain private parties who may want to join the impeachment complaint he plans to file. He said since word got out of his plans, he’s been deluged with complaints.

The lawmaker said he originally planned to charge the 8 justices who issued the SQA but one of them, Mariano del Castillo, already faces a pending impeachment case for plagiarism.

Del Castillo is inoculated based on the 1-year bar against multiple impeachment complaints against the same official.

Ethics committee

Fariñas said he may file earlier than the opening of Congress’ 2nd regular session in July. At the earliest, he may file a week before May 9, which is when Congress returns from its summer break.

However, he may also file earlier than that if someone else tries to race him to filing. “I will entertain until before a week before May 9. Basta wala lang makikipag-unahan para di ko siya habulin. Kung hindi pwede ko ipila ito pag open ng 2nd regular session.”

The congressman said that aside from the issuance of an SQA without prior reading of the petition of Gutierrez, another issue he intends to raise against the justices is the SC's creation of an ethics committee to investigate complaints against their members.

He said the ethics committee is an encroachment into the exclusive power of impeachment of the House of Representatives. “SC created a committee on ethics that will investigate members, which isn’t allowed because they are impeachable officers," he said.

Fariñas finds the situation problematic since the Court just sits on the complaints. “What they do is simply "Noted. Dismiss" instead of telling public na wag kayo sa amin pumunta doon kayo sa House of Representatives dahil sila tinalaga na may kapangyarihan para usisain kung may ginawa.”

He cited the ethics complaint against Justice del Castillo for plagiarism. “Mockery of justice na yung kay Justice del Castillo. Nagtataka ko sa mga taga UP. Sa SC sila nagpunta dapat dito kasi ito naman may kapangyarihan mag usisa. Sabi ng SC walang plagiarism. They drew a very dangerous line by investigating their own justices.”

Fariñas said the ethics committee should be abolished.

Fariñas says he already wrote the Supreme Court’s Clerk of Court to ask for certifications as to when the Gutierrez petition for a restraining order against the impeachment were received by the justices. No response has been given so far.

Aside from following up on the certification, Fariñas also asked for an inventory of cases filed against the SC Ethics committee, as well as the authority that created the committee.

Disposition of cases

Another impeachable ground Fariñas is considering is the alleged violation of the requirement for the SC to dispose of cases within 24 months after a case is submitted for resolution.

Fariñas has asked for a certification attached to any record of a case in the last 3 years that has not been decided within 24 months. He said lower courts have 3 months while appellate courts have 12 months to resolve a case.

“Nakalagay sa Saligang Batas, any case being handled by SC must be resolved or decided by SC within 24 months from submission. Eh ang nangyayari walang tumitingin kung ginagampanan ng SC ang provisions. Who has disciplinary powers over SC? Congress," he said.

Fariñas hit back at Corona for dismissing the impeachment as an attempt by politicians to destroy the court. “Mr. Chief Justice, were it not for a politician you wouldn’t be in office," he said.

Fariñas criticized previous Congresses for failing to check the Court. “I said this and I said it in pubic we’re accusing the Ombudsman for low conviction rate. Low conviction rate is Congress. May na-convict na ba congress sa impeachment? Wala po.”

The lawmaker also disclosed his close ties and debts of gratitude to some justices in the Supreme Court.

Justice Diosdado Peralta is the 1st cousin of his brother-in-law while Justice Conchita Carpio Morales is his province-mate.

Justice Lucas Bersamin acquitted him in a case when he was still a lower court judge. Justice Martin Villarama likewise acquitted him in the appellate court.

Justice Jose Abad’s wife is Fariñas’ law school classmate while the wife of Justice del Castillo is also a classmate.
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