“But let justice run down as waters , and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24)*
“But let justice run down as waters , and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24)
The CEAP desires Judicial Reform in the Philippines. We support the call for the transformation of the justice system. We support good governance and the call for transparency and accountability of all government officials and employees.
We have committed to remain impartial and objective in observing the case against Chief Justice Corona. Since we believe in the Rule of Law and due process we have not asked him to resign. We would like to hear his side. We would like to hear the defense. We want to see this mechanism of impeachment, provided for in the Constitution see its fulfillment and thereby strengthen our government institutions and our democratic system.
As we closely monitor the case against Chief Justice Corona, we observed the following during days 3 and 4 of the Trial of the Impeached Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:
Atty. Enriqueta Esguerra Vidal, the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court appeared before the Senate by virtue of subpoena to bring the SALNs of Chief Justice Renato Corona. She testified that she is in a dilemma whether to surrender the SALN to the Senate as Trial Court, because she was not authorized by the Supreme Court to do so. She clearly expressed fear of being sanctioned. She admitted that despite the fact that there were about ten requests since the 1989 Resolution of the Supreme Court was made, for some SALN of the justices to be made public, the same were not granted by the court.
A valid question is oftentimes asked regarding the legality of such Supreme Court policy as it appears to be violative of the constitution’s mandate for transparency. The ground relied upon by such policy, “that the Justices could be at risk of being harassed”, is not sound and valid as the same risks or danger they claim is also obtaining or true in the situation of other government officials.
It is a blessing that Atty. Vidal had a change of heart after persuasive statements from some Senator judges. With great hesitation she subsequently turned over the SALN which she brought to the senate upon order of the Senate Presiding Judge.
We find it disturbing that it took a long period of time before Atty. Vidal was convinced to turn over such important piece of evidence, the SALN, which under the law must be accessible to the public.
It was stated during the proceedings that Atty. Vidal might again be called to further testify. There is also a possibility that other Supreme Court personnel might be called to testify especially because there is an issue raised in the Articles of Impeachment pertaining to misuse of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
In this regard, while indeed Chief Justice Corona has the right to defend himself, we believe that his continuing presence at the Supreme Court could hamper the effective flow of dispensation of justice. This is because the Supreme Court personnel who would be called to testify would naturally be hesitant to disclose anything that might be adverse to the interest of a sitting Chief Justice.
We find it vital for Chief Justice Corona to GO ON LEAVE while his case is pending.
It is important for the Supreme Court at this stage to try to protect itself from being perceived that it is out to cover up or protect one of its own. It is imperative that it should project an image that it is open to any and all forms of investigation so that it can save itself from a clearly eroding faith and trust by the public in such an important institution. The latest surveys already show a very low trust rating of the Supreme Court by the Filipino people.
What is being revealed at this stage in the trial is that there are plenty of significant inconsistencies in the SALN of the Chief Justice and the alleged properties under his or his spouse’s name which were not disclosed at all. Some of those disclosed are undervalued. These are reasons enough for many people to further feel agitated and disrespectful to the Supreme Court. This would especially be true among those who have cases pending before the Supreme Court where CJ Corona sits as a judge.
Chief Justice Corona must be heard and given an opportunity to defend himself. In the meantime however, he has to go on leave until he is able to clear his name. Given his earlier statement to his supporters in his speeches at the Supreme Court that he will lead in defending the court, going on leave is the most decent thing for him to do at this stage to save the court.
Further, the Supreme Court must willingly submit itself to investigation by another body such as the Ombudsman to find out the truth pertaining to the World Bank report. The Supreme Court should not investigate itself about the reported anomalies alluded to them.
We call upon the Supreme Court to do the following:
- Ask the CJ to go on leave while his case is pending before the senate as trial court;
- Set aside its highly questionable policy of not disclosing their SALNs whenever requested. They should open their records to the public. Everyone in the Judiciary especially all the Supreme Court Justices including the Court Administrator must now voluntarily show their SALNs in accordance with Law ;
- Open itself to investigation by an independent body such as the Ombudsman to investigate the reported irregularity in its use of the loan granted by the World Bank.;
The Supreme Court must heed the people’s call for transparency and accountability. It must show the people that it is open to the call for truth to come out.
We reiterate the admonition or our Lord, Jesus Christ, in John 8:32 “you should know the truth for the truth shall set us free.”
Let us also heed what prophet Amos said in Chapter 5:24 “Let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
*This blog article was submitted by a member of the CEAP national advocacy commission group.