Corona: All of our phones are bugged
Apr 13, 2012 (The Manila Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
SUPREME Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on Thursday disclosed that their cellular phones are bugged and that his family is under surveillance "24/7" by agents believed to be under the command of his foremost critic, President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Corona made the disclosure a day after Aquino resumed attacking him, in violation of Malacanang's self-imposed "gag order" that was imposed in mid-March in relation to the magistrate's impeachment trial at the Senate.
Speaking before an audience of some 800 judges, lawyers and law students in his home province, Batangas, Corona maintained that his house in Quezon City was under surveillance and that he was a victim of wiretapping by government agents.
"Nandiyan po ang panggigipit ng mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan. Kami po ng pamilya ko ay iniimbestigahan. Ang aking bahay po ay under 24/7 surveillance [There was harassment by government agencies. My family is being probed. My house is under 24/7 surveillance]," Corona told members of the Batangas Regional Trial Court Judges Association, Batangas First-Level Court Judges Association Inc. and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
"Lahat ng telepono namin nakabug. Nakatap. Kapag ako ay kumukuha ng bagong cellphone agad agad po ay nakukuha nila [All our telephones are bugged. Tapped. Everytime I get a new cellular phone, they would immediately get access to it]," he added.
Corona's pronouncements confirmed a story previously published by The Manila Times about the supposed wiretapping done on him and other members of the household.
He refused to describe in detail the extent of the alleged surveillance and wiretapping operation. Instead, he went on to describe the acts of Aquino as "ambitious, no mercy, no-conscience presidency aimed at establishing dictatorship with powers concentrated in the same hands." He borrowed the quote from renowned historian Gregorio Zaide.
The Chief Justice also lambasted Aquino as a dictator and a despot who wanted to control the executive, legislative and now the judiciary.
Aquino on Wednesday revived his attacks against Corona when he was invited as guest of honor in an event at Manila Hotel.
On March 15, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacanang will no longer comment on the impeachment trial except when the President is "being unfairly dragged into the issue."
Lacierda, however, clarified that he did not know what the position of the President was on the gag order.
Corona, in an interview with The Times, admitted that he had been receiving death threats and for that he now uses a bullet-proof car.
For his part, Corona's defense counsel and spokesman Tranquil Salvador 3rd said that Aquino is entitled to his own opinion regarding his observations about the Chief Justice.
Salvador expressed belief that Aquino's criticisms against the Chief Justice should not be taken seriously as this is just his personal observation.
"Let us leave it as his personal observation. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," said Salvador in a text message to The Manila Times.
Meanwhile, Corona lashed at the Aquino administration for sowing disrespect to the rule of law.
He cited the infamous Facebook bikini case involving graduating female students of a Catholic school in Cebu who were not allowed to join the graduation march. The school ignored a temporary restraining order issued by a judge allowing the five female students to take part in their high school graduation.
"This defiance in sum highlights the weakening of the judiciary as a consequence of the challenges currently facing the Supreme Court," Corona said.
In a discussion-forum hosted by the University of Batangas with the theme, Kalayaan at Katarungan, the Chief Justice said that the rule of law, separation of powers and judicial independence are paramount to a free judiciary and strong democracy.
Quoting former American Bar Association President William Gosset, Corona stressed that "if respect for the courts and for their judicial process are gone or steadily weakened, no law can save us as a society."
Rep. Hermilando Mandanas of Batangas province echoed the same view, describing the impeachment case as mere "political harassment."
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