Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona is being tried in the senate for betrayal of public trust and other impeachable offenses.
The seed of discord between Chief Justice Renato Corona and President Benigno S. Aquino III was sown by Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she appointed the former as Justice of the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010, 2 days after the Presidential election and one month before her term expired. Such act was said to be in violation of section 15, Article VII of The Philippine Constitution. However, it was validated by the Supreme Court wherein majority of its members are Arroyo appointees. Because of the circumstances surrounding his appointment Justice Corona is dubbed by his critics as a “midnight appointee”.
The appointment of Corona by an outgoing President left a bad taste in the mouth of President Aquino for goods reasons. It will prevent him from appointing a Chief Justice during his entire term of office which will end on 2016. Corona on the other hand will retire on October 2018. To former President’s Arroyo’s critics the appointment of Corona’s is aimed to protect her from various charges that will be filed against her when she is no longer in office. The favorable rulings of the SC in cases involving the former president further strengthen the perception that the Supreme Court under the leadership of Renato Corona is biased in favor of the former President.
Indeed the rift between the Chief Justice and the President started to show on the day Aquino was inaugurated into office as President. He took his oath to one of the magistrates, Conchita Carpio-Morales, instead of the Chief Justice which is the usual procedure. At the beginning of his term Aquino created Executive Order No. 1 also known as “The Truth Commission” which would investigate the alleged corruptions that were committed by the past administration. But the SC declared it unconstitutional and the commission was never put into effect. The SC also clashed with the House of Representatives when it issued a “status quo ante” order against the house in a matter involving the impeachment of former ombudsman Mercidetas Gutierrez. Impeachment of public official is a matter that should be resolved by the house rather than the SC.
The differences between Aquino and Corona came to a head when the Supreme Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the travel ban issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former President Arroyo and her husband to go abroad for medical treatment. However, Aquino’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima quickly moved to prevent the Arroyos from leaving the country. He asserted that some of the requirements for the TRO were not yet complied with hence it was still unenforceable. De Lima’s stand temporarily prevented the Arroyos from leaving the country. Meanwhile, the DOJ-COMELEC Panel filed a non-bailable case, electoral sabotage, against the former President. Reacting to the complaint, Pasay Regional Trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas placed the former President under house arrest. The case of Arroyo at the Pasay RTC rendered the TRO pending in the SC moot and academic. Arroyo questioned in the Supreme Court the legality of the joint DOJ Panel. Malacañang, the official residence and office of the President, learned that the SC was planning to declare the DOJ-COMELEC Panel illegal. Such declaration would have nullified the case of former President Arroyo at the Pasay RTC and enabled her and her family to leave the country.