MANILA — The senators who will act as judges in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona have taken their oath as members of the said court.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will serve as presiding judge in the trial. The remaining 22 senators will act as judges.
Although the senators will decide on the trial based on the merits, many perceived that the trial will be based on political alliances.
This early, observers believe that senators allied with the present administration will vote for ousting the Chief Justice. Meanwhile, lawmakers identified with Arroyo are expected to side with Corona.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed Corona to his current post a few weeks before leaving office in 2010, is under hospital arrest for poll fraud.
As presiding officer, Enrile said he would cite in contempt anyone disrupting the proceedings. Senators have begun restraining themselves from speaking about the case.
Chamber rules says that the presiding officer and the members of the Senate shall refrain from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial. The same rule applies to the “prosecutors, to the person impeached, and to their respective counsel and witnesses.”
Meanwhile, the judiciary and the executive have exchanged words over the impeachment, accusing each other of railroading the process.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona last Wednesday (December 14) lambasted President Benigno Aquino III and his allies at the House of Representatives, rejecting calls for him to step down and assailed Mr. Aquino for his supposed “greediness” to designate “his own” chief justice.
Corona spoke in front of the Supreme Court building amid more than 3,000 supporters from the High Court and the bench.
“I oppose this relentless persecution, intimidation and bullying. I oppose this dictatorship that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is slowly establishing,” Corona said.
Corona vowed to lead the fight to protect the independence of the judiciary. “We will not allow them to disrespect and trample on our democracy and the Supreme Court.”
Among the supporters of Corona were court staff and judges, including those from trial courts in Quezon City, Manila, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Pinas and Makati.
Many trial courts all over Metro Manila and other parts of the country have declared a court holiday last Wednesday (December 14).
Those who failed to join the gathering at the High Court’s compound also wore black while at work.
Meanwhile, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Corona’s impeachment is part of the government’s effort to remove the layers protecting the scandal-ridden former administration.
“What we are doing right now under the Aquino administration is trying to dismantle the Arroyo apparatus of trying to protect her from accountability,” Lacierda said.
“We have removed the (former) Ombudsman, we’ve appointed many women of unquestionable integrity before the other constitutional commissions, and we believe that Mr. Corona is a stumbling block to our reform,” Lacierda added.