Culpable violation of the Charter

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The ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona brings to the fore a parallel situation where all the justices of the Supreme Court may possibly be impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution.

Sometime in 2004, a group of lawyers filed before the Supreme Court a petition assailing the constitutionality and legality of the implementation by the legislative and executive departments of the Priority Development Assistance Fund outlay (“pork barrel”) in the General Appropriations Act for 2004. The petition specifically sought a judicial annulment of the implementation on constitutional grounds. It was given due course and submitted for decision in 2006. It has been pending since then and remains unresolved to date.

The pendency of the petition from 2006 to 2012, or a period of six years, is way beyond the reglamentary period of 24 months within which the Supreme Court must decide cases from date of submission  as mandated under Sec. 15 (1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. The unexplained failure of the Court to decide the petition within the 24-month period is a clear violation of the Constitution.

The 1987 Constitution, specifically Section 15 (3) of Article VIII thereof, further enjoins that “[u]pon the expiration of the corresponding period, a certification to this effect signed by the Chief Justice or the presiding judge shall forthwith be issued and a copy thereof attached to the record of the case or matter, and served upon the parties. The certification shall state why a decision or resolution has not been rendered or issued within said period.” (emphasis mine) This mandatory provision has not been complied with at all. The required “certification” has not been issued “forthwith” or at any time thereafter by the Chief Justice.

What is more, “[d]espite the expiration of the applicable mandatory period, the court, without prejudice to such responsibility as may have been incurred in consequence thereof, shall decide or resolve the case or matter submitted thereto  for determination, without further delay.” (Section 15 [4], Article VIII, 1987 Constitution;  emphasis mine) No such decision has been rendered to date.

Sad to say, the inexplicable delay, nay, inaction of the Court in deciding the petition does violence to the constitutionally guaranteed right of the petitioners to a “speedy disposition” of their case. (Sec. 16, Art. III, 1987 Constitution)

It is lamentable that the cited mandatory provisions of the Constitution seem to be more honored in their breach, with impunity, than in their observance and are, thus, reduced to meaningless dead letter.

Now, I am constrained to ask: Are not all the justices of the Supreme Court impeachable for culpable violation of the Constitution? Should this happen, would not a vacuum in the judiciary be created that is destructive of the very framework of our government?

—BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR.,

5431 Curie St.,

Palanan, Makati City

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