With even former President Fidel V. Ramos appealing to the public to spare Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno from politics, more justices and more court, bar, and employee organizations took the cudgels for the chief justice as they warned an erosion of the public’s faith in the Judiciary following alleged moves to oust him through the filing of an impeachment complaint.
The Sandiganbayan justices, in a resolution of support for Chief Justice Puno, extolled the chief magistrate’s “independence, integrity, competence, principled leadership, and moral rectitude [which] are beyond reproach.” They warned that the ouster attempts “will erode, destroy and/or undermine the respect and support of the public to the Supreme Court and to the other courts of the land, to the detriment of the administration of justice.”
“We, the Justices of the Sandiganbayan, hereby manifest our unwavering and and unconditional support to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, and his leadership in the Judiciary, and hereby denounce in the strongest terms possible, any effort of certain individual/s, group/s and/or sector/s in the society to unjustifiably unseat the said Chief Justice,” the Sandiganbayan resolution stated.
The Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines (MeTCJAP) also denounced the “unverified but loud talks about the filing of an impeachment complaint” against Chief Justice Puno was an attempt to destroy his reputation, as well as the integrity of the Judiciary. “Unless we stand up in solidarity and support the leadership of Honorable Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno and speak out in no uncertain terms our outrage against the trifling of the rule of law in this country, evil will gather steam and reign supreme,” MeTCJAP said in a manifesto signed by its officers led by its President Jose Bersales. “We…resolved to express our deepest outrage against the manipulation of the judicial system.”
The judges of the Manila MeTC, in a separate manifesto, shared the same sentiments and condemned those behind the alleged impeachment try against Chief Justice Puno. “They are destroying the credibility of the Judiciary. They are destroying the public faith in it as an institution…They are trampling upon the Rule of Law in this country…They are tarnishing the name of a good man and his exemplar leadership,” said the MeTC judges who called “upon all Filipino people to unite against those who work for the destruction of our institution in the name of greed and ambitions.”
The judges and employees of Regional Trial Courts (RTC), Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC), Municipal Trial Courts (MTC), and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Laguna (MCTC) in Laguna issued a letter of support, written in Filipino, for Chief Justice Puno. They urge everyone to respect and uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law and to fight graft and corruption in the government.
Like MeTCJAP, the Asia Pacific Bar Association condemned the alleged impeachment move. “The ouster initiative comes as a toxic waste of unprincipled political practices and should be rejected outright by Congress. Otherwise, not only is the integrity of judicial power imperiled, but the purity of the impeachment process shall forever be compromised. The House of Representatives should not allow itself to be the refuge of disgruntled party litigants,” said the bar association.
Retired Court of Appeals Justice Jose C. dela Rama, currently the dean of the Bulacan State University Marcelo H. del Pilar College of Law in Malolos City, opined that the accusations against the chief magistrate “is evidently baseless, grossly unfair, and justifies the ‘chilling effect’ which it has generated among the majority of our people that there are those who would like to see the present Chief Justice out of the judiciary before the constitutional deadline on the power of the President to make appointments provided for in Art. VII, Section 15 in relation to Art. VIII, Section 4 of the Constitution comes into play.”
The Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer-Employees, Inc (SCALE) and the Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA) have also expressed their unequivocal support for their chief magistrate. In separate manifestos the SCEA condemned the “baseless attacks to his person which also undermine the judicial system and administration of justice,” while the SCALE promised to “be vigilant” and make it known that they will “vehemently oppose any unpleasant action against the Chief Justice.”
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also issued a statement vowing support for the chief magistrate and condemning “what [NUPL] consider as attempts by Pres. Gloria Arroyo and her cohorts to gain full control of the Supreme Court by threatening to file an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Puno.”
The United Methodist Church Philippine Central Conference, which already came out with its manifesto of support for Chief Justice Puno, issued a pastoral letter urging its members “as one Christian Family [to] gather, pray, and join activities in solidarity with Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno.”
Earlier, all justices of the Court of Appeals (CA), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the judges of the Regional Trial Courts (RTC) and Metropolitan Trial Courts of Quezon City, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Bohol Chapter, and the Sheriffs Confederation of the Philippines (SCOPHIL) all issued separate manifestos in support of the chief justice.
Likewise, the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), Las Piñas City Judges Association, the Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines (MeTCJAP), the Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), and the judges, lawyers, and employees of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu and Manila.
“Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes, together with the farmers-group Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon ng Mamamayan sa Kanayunan-Southern Tagalog (UNORKA-Southern Tagalog), also personally visited the Chief Justice Puno to convey his support.
Chief Justice Puno has also received letters of support from private law firms and private individuals expressing their support and deploring the ouster allegations.
Chief Justice Puno has also received support from the activist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).