SOUTHERN COMFORT: Corona and Carpio: The ties that unbind

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 March) – Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is defending himself against the charges filed against him before the Senate impeachment court as much as against what he perceived is an attempt of a colleague to grab his position.

The only worrisome about his defense posture is that he is making rounds with the press instead of taking the witness stand where his statements and allegations are to be taken under oath and could be rebutted.

That the Chief Justice is taking it against President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is understandable. That he is insinuating conspiracy against him should not be taken against the man who faces removal from a high government position, the highest in fact being a primus inter pares in the Supreme Court.

But to take it publicly against a colleague whom he is accusing of eying his post smacks of a character unbecoming of a man that is supposed to hold his position in high esteem.

His object of tirade is Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has so far maintained the moral high ground by not dignifying the accusations hurled by his former news editor. Carpio was editor in chief of the The Guidon during their college days.

Yes, their acquaintances dated back more than 40 years when they entered college at the Ateneo de Manila University about in the same year and at the height of student activism, when the country was swept by student protests that eventually culminated in the First Quarter Storm of 1971. By then, both had already separated ways with Carpio taking up law at the University of the Philippines and Corona sticking with his alma mater.

They may not be the best of friends when they were in college, but the fact that it was Carpio who always excelled both academically and professionally already pointed to their “rivalry”, friendly or otherwise, early on.

Both Carpio and Corona were honed by the same Ateneo school system whose motto is “Men for Others.” Carpio took his pre-school, elementary and high school at the Ateneo de Davao University graduating in 1966 while Corona was a product of Loyola campus from grade school until he finished his law degree.

They took the bar in the same year (1975) but it was again Carpio who performed better at 6th place while Corona’s profile, as reported by www.interaksyon.com, placed him in the “Top 25” of the 1,965 examinees.

Both also entered government service almost at the same time with Carpio appointed as chief legal counsel of former President Fidel Ramos. According to sources, it was Carpio who “recruited and took in” Corona who joined the Malacañang legal office as its head.

In 2001, Carpio was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Corona followed him the following year.

In 2010, the position of Chief Justice was left vacant following the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

But naming a replacement became a legal issue as the matter of appointing a Chief Justice fell within the constitutional ban on appointments of government officials and hiring of government employees within the election period and just barely 45 days before the presidential term of Arroyo ended.

Both Carpio and Corona were nominated but the former declined the nomination citing the election ban. Corona however accepted the post despite legal questions although the Supreme Court upheld his appointment with Carpio dissenting on the majority decision.

The rest is history, ongoing at least. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)

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