Law frats also in spotlight at CJ trial
- Delon Porcalla () - January 30, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As lawyers slug it out in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, their fraternity affiliations in law school have also come under scrutiny.

In the spotlight in particular are Ateneo de Manila University’s Aquila Legis and Utopia fraternities and the University of the Philippines’ Sigma Rho and Alpha Phi Beta.

There is speculation that the impeachment of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, an Aquilan, was initially shelved by the House of Representatives with the help of his fraternity brothers who belong to the Liberal Party and currently hold key posts in the chamber. The House is reviving this week its probe of Del Castillo for alleged plagiarism.

 Although Del Castillo was absolved by his SC colleagues, congressmen initially found merit in the complaint that he plagiarized portions of a court ruling that he wrote about Filipino comfort women.

On the other hand, Aquilans are seen to be behind the impeachment of Corona, a member of Aquila’s rival Utopia. SC spokesman and court administrator Midas Marquez is also a Utopian, like several of Corona’s support staff and defenders.

 Among the prominent Aquilans pushing for Corona’s conviction are House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales, Reps. Giorgiddi Aggabao (Isabela), Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite) and Sherwin Tugna of party-list group Citizens BattleAgainst Corruption.

Another Aquilan, party-list House member Florencio Noel of An Waray, holds the budget for the 11-member House prosecution team. He chairs the House committee on accounts.

In the defense team, the Utopians include Eduardo de los Angeles (former Ateneo law dean), Tranquil Salvador III and John Roy (former law dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila). But Corona’s team also includes an Aquilan, German Lichauco.

Rival UP fraternities Sigma Rho and Alpha Phi Beta, meanwhile, are being watched in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Rogelio Vinluan of Sigma Rho lost the battle for the IBP presidency to Roan Libarios of Alpha Phi Beta. Among Libarios’ fraternity brothers are Sen. Francis Escudero and retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

The IBP under Libarios, one of the House prosecutors in the aborted impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada in 2001, has come out with statements saying that the trial of Corona is an attack on the independence of the judiciary by the executive branch.

Another lawyers’ group - the Philippine Bar Association - is supporting the trial of Corona. The PBA was once headed by former ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, a Sigma Rho member like senior SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who is seen as a rival of Corona. Former special prosecutor Dennis Villa Ignacio, a known protégé of Marcelo, has been seen helping the House prosecution team.

Other Sigma Rho members have taken different sides in the impeachment trial. They include Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Franklin Drilon, retired SC justice Serafin Cuevas, Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, and private prosecute Arthur Lim.

Cuevas and Sen. Joker Arroyo were classmates in UP Law’s Batch 1952, together with former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, the late Senate president Marcelo Fernan, and retired SC Justices Florentino Feliciano and Flerida Ruth Romero.

Joker Arroyo belongs to UP’s Upsilon Sigma Phi - the fraternity of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his nemesis, slain Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Sen. Francis Pangilinan belongs to the same fraternity, which once expelled him but later reinstated him.

“Barbarians” in the impeachment trial include Rep. Niel Tupas, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, House prosecution spokesman Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III and House prosecutor Rodolfo Farinas.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga belongs to Tau Kappa Phi of the FEU College of Law.

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