Bloomberg News

Philippine House Impeaches Chief Justice Amid Arroyo Fraud Probe

December 12, 2011

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippine House of Representatives signed a resolution to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona on grounds the top magistrate has shown bias toward the country’s former leader amid a corruption probe.

A majority of the chamber’s more than 280 lawmakers signed the document to remove Corona, paving the way for an impeachment tribunal in the Senate, the Associated Press reported. President Benigno Aquino is seeking to prosecute former President Gloria Arroyo, who appointed 12 of the court’s 15 magistrates, for election fraud.

Aquino’s bid to convict Arroyo is a “political battle royal,” Benito Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University, said by telephone yesterday before the decision in parliament. Without the impeachment the court would probably continue to try and block Aquino’s probe, he said.

Aquino, who won election with the campaign slogan “If There’s No Corruption, There’s No Poverty,” has criticized the court for not being impartial. Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest, appointed Corona, her former chief of staff, to the chief justice position shortly before her term ended in June last year.

Arroyo named Corona justice in 2002, and he has ruled more than 20 times in her favor since then, court records show. Two senators and civil society groups have asked Corona to recuse himself from cases involving Arroyo due to his perceived bias.

‘Constitutional Crisis’

“We do not want to see a constitutional crisis befall our democracy,” Corona told court employees in a speech yesterday before the decision, in which he vowed to fight to stay in office. “But if we are challenged to defend our independence, we shall not meekly walk away.”

The complaint gives grounds for removing Corona including the betrayal of public trust, according to a report on the ABS- CBN News Channel website that cited a draft copy.

Aquino criticized the high court on Dec. 5 for blocking the creation of a “truth commission” that would have investigated Arroyo, saying the decision raised doubts about its impartiality. He also faulted the court for allowing the former leader on Nov. 15 to seek medical care overseas, a decision superseded by her arrest.

--With assistance from Joel Guinto in Manila. Editors: Patrick Harrington, Peter Hirschberg

To contact the reporter on this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at naquino1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Clarissa Batino at cbatino@bloomberg.net; Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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