MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 December) – The Philippine Judges Association is rallying behind embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona, Regional Trial Court Judge Josefina Gentilles Bacal said.
Bacal, PJA director for Northern Mindanao, told MindaNews Wednesday the close to 3,000-member PJA, which called the impeachment case against Corona an assault at the judiciary, was unanimous in their decision to support the chief magistrate.
Corona, in a speech Wednesday afternoon at the Supreme Court, assailed President Benigno Aquino III for allegedly orchestrating the impeachment case against him.
The Senate had convened as an impeachment court Wednesday afternoon after it received the formal complaint of impeachment from the House of Representatives.
Impeachment hearings will start next month.
In a two-page declaration dated December 13, the PJA stressed the coequal status of the three branches of government and the power of the judiciary to interpret the law.
The group called the Supreme Court the “inviolable institution that is the embodiment of justice, fairness, and integrity.”
“The trial judges of the Philippines thus raise their unified voice and ask the two other branches of government, the executive and legislative, to allow the Judiciary to perform its constitutional mandate with independence, without fear of influence, pressure, or interference, as their oaths require,” the PJA said in the nine-paragraph statement.
“This calls for alarm,” Bacal, the only resident RTC judge in Bukidnon, said, adding the impeachment challenges not only the Chief Justice but also the trial judges around the country.
“If they can do it to the Chief Justice, they can do it to the judges,” she said.
The statement warned that when people can no longer rely on the judiciary for redress of grievances they will take the law into their own hands, and anarchy and chaos will then reign.
When asked on the allegations of irregularity, Bacal said they believe Corona did not do any impeachable act.
Bacal also clarified that the PJA did not order a “court holiday” as court employees reported to work.
She said that as a show of support and sympathy for Corona, they would wear black from Wednesday to Friday.
“But we will not have any transaction, meaning we will not hold hearings, except for urgent matters like bail bonds and releases among others,” she added.
She said their action is voluntary and they will face the consequence if someone will sue them for not attending to the transactions.
Not all court employees in the three RTC branches here wore black on Wednesday, and most of them refused to give comments.
When Corona expressed his side in a televised speech earlier in the afternoon, about 20 employees took a break and watched.
But lawyer Isidro Caracol, president of the Bukidnon chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said the recent development only shows democracy is at work even if it’s not yet mature like in other countries.
He said the IBP was yet to make an official stand on the issue. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)