With his wife at this side surrounded by a 15-member bench and black-clad court employees and hundreds of supporters, Corona warned that Aquino’s moves to oust him could lead to a dictatorship that will control the entire government.
Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda objected to Corona’s dictatorship comment, pointing out that the president’s opposition-leader father was assassinated during the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino said the Corona-led Supreme court has become a stumbling block to his administration’s anti-corruption campaign.
Lacierda advised Corona to take a leave and not drag down the entire judiciary in the charges against him.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile served notice that he won’t allow any shortcuts.
He cited the “walkout” during the trial of then President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
“We’ll go through the trial from beginning to end,” he told reporters before the Senate formally convened as an impeachment court.
Corona’s statement was his most scathing public attack against Aquino after he was impeached last Monday.
The Chief Justice was accused by President Aquino of alleged corruption and decisions favoring ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is detained on election fraud charges.
“If this impeachment succeeds, what do you think will happen? Very simple, my beloved countrymen—Mr. Aquino already has his Cabinet, he controls Congress and he will have the Supreme Court in his hands,” Corona said in his speech.
At the steps of the Supreme Court building, Corona vowed that he won’t quit and dismissed statements by Aquino’s supporters that the President is only targeting him, not the entire court.
“That is a big lie. The real objective is to destroy the judiciary, destroy democracy and impose the will of the ‘beloved king,” Corona said.
Lacierda said Corona “has no right to identify the president with a dictatorship.”
He said the Aquino family was a victim of dictatorship, referring to the imprisonment of Aquino’s late father, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Lacierda said the Aquino administration did not want to take control of a branch of government.
“What we are after is that we have justice, and that our cases be tried based on justice and equity,” he said.
He said Corona’s objectivity has been undermined because the Chief Justice was formerly one of Arroyo’s most trusted aides having served her as chief of staff, spokesman and acting executive secretary.
Corona said Aquino allegedly wants to appoint his own chief justice so that the court will become a “mere lackey” of the president.
“The enemies of the court probably hope that I and other members that they cannot dictate upon will resign,” Corona said.
“I have not wronged you, Mr. President. I don’t have any sins against the people,” Corona said.
“I oppose this relentless persecution, intimidation and bullying. I oppose this dictatorship that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is slowly establishing.”
Corona looked pensive throughout his 35-minute speech, which was briefly punctuated by applause 56 times.
Corona vowed to lead the fight in protecting the independence of the judiciary.
“Mr. President, I am the primus inter pares here in the Supreme Court. If you don’t understand this, it means that I should be at the forefront in the fight to defend the Supreme Court,” he said, drawing loud cheers from his black shirt-clad supporters.
The impeachment complaint against Corona was signed by 188 members of the House of Representatives dominated by allies of Aquino.
The impeachment documents were submitted to the Senate the following day.
Senators convened themselves as the impeachment court in brief ceremonies after Corona’s speech.
They gave Corona 10 days to answer the charges and will reconvene on Jan. 16.
Among other allegations, the impeachment complaint accuses the Corona-led court of ruling improperly in Arroyo’s favor when they allowed her to leave the country last month before she was arrested. /AP with Inquirer reports