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Corona says judiciary is under attack

- Edu Punay -

MANILA, Philippines - Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona said yesterday the judiciary is under threat of destruction due to attacks on the Supreme Court (SC).

In his speech during a forum organized by the Batangas Regional Trial Court Judges Association, Batangas First-Level Court Judges Association Inc. and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Corona said there now seems to be an apparent lack of respect for the court with the defiance of various court orders.

Corona cited the defiance of St. Theresa's College in Cebu of a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the school's decision not to allow five students to attend their graduation rites for posing in bikinis and posting the photos on Facebook.

"Disrespect and defiance to Supreme Court order strengthened Cebu school not to follow TRO," he lamented.

Corona raised fears that the weakening of the courts, if not properly addressed, would lead to the destruction of the judiciary.

"If respect for the courts and for their judicial process is gone or steadily weakened, no law can save us as a society," Corona, quoting former American Bar Association president William Gosset, said.

The rule of law, separation of powers and judicial independence are paramount to a free judiciary and strong democracy, he stressed.

In the same event, Corona bared that his house had been under surveillance and his telephones were tapped, as among the "harassment" he and his family suffered during the impeachment trial.

Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas echoed the same sentiment, saying the House impeachment move was "political harassment."

"The Constitution, a sacred document, has been exploited for partisan politics and the first victim of the administration in this impeachment process is the House of Representatives," Mandanas said.

Mandanas was stripped of the chairmanship of the House ways and means committee for not signing the impeachment complaint against Corona. A member of the ruling party, Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, replaced him.

No public apology

Meanwhile, in Cebu City, the high school department of St. Theresa's College refused to issue a public apology to the students.

The school's lawyer, Joan Largo, added that they would welcome whatever cases will be filed against them.

"If there is anybody who will do the apology it's not the STC. In fact the school was compassionate enough," Largo told The Freeman.

Enrique Lacerna, counsel of one of the five students, earlier said they want the school to issue a public apology for defying the TRO issued by RTC Branch 19 Judge Wilfredo Navarro.

 Lacerna said the students were not given due process when they were asked to sign a probation sheet that contained their alleged violations.

"Even us, we need a lawyer to assist us. How much more the minors?" he said.

Largo also pointed out that Navarro has no jurisdiction over the case as it should be assigned to a family court, since minors were involved.

Cornelio Mercado, lawyer for the students, filed an amended complaint for damages before Judge Manuel Patalinghug of RTC Branch 22 yesterday.

 In a 10-page complaint, Mercado said they are asking for P1.5 million in actual, moral and exemplary damages for the school's refusal to allow the minors to participate in the commencement exercises.

"Once found that their actuations were unjust, defendants must hold and bear all expenses for the plaintiff minors' deserved (graduation) march. If impractical and in lieu of the expenses, defendants be required to return all tuition, matriculation, and other fees paid from first year to fourth year," read the amended complaint.

Citing the "pain, disgrace and deep emotional and psychological trauma," they continue to suffer, the petitioners also called on the school to issue a public apology.

"Defendants ought to know and respect the rights of students and parents under the Education Act of 1982 and as stated in the TRO, for adherence to the mandate of RA 7610," the amended complaint reads.

He said "everyone must follow the rule of law" but the STC "acted as if they were above the law." - With Mylen Manto, Freeman News Service

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION

BATANGAS FIRST-LEVEL COURT JUDGES ASSOCIATION INC

BATANGAS REGIONAL TRIAL COURT

BATANGAS REP

CEBU

CEBU CITY

CORNELIO MERCADO

SCHOOL

ST. THERESA

SUPREME COURT

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