The CJ's ploy and the way forward
Corona gets emotional during testimony. While delivering a lengthy opening statement during his trial, Chief Justice Renato Corona chokes back tears, leading to a temporary suspension of the trial. Bernard Testa/Pool
(The author is a law professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law. This opinion piece was originally posted on his Facebook page right after Tuesday’s trial session at the Senate, and he gave permission to GMA News Online to re-post with minor editing.)
Q. Can Corona be cited for contempt for the walk-out and if he insists on the so-called "conditional waiver"?
A. Yes, the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court can choose to do so. Rule V, Senate Resolution No. 39 (Adopting the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials). The Senate shall have power to… preserve order, and to punish in a summary way contempts of, and disobedience to, its authority, orders, mandates, writs, or judgments, ... And the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, under the direction of the President of the Senate, may employ such aid and assistance as may be necessary to enforce, execute, and carry into effect the lawful orders, mandates, and writs of the Senate.
Q. Can Corona avoid cross examination?
A. No. Rule XV, Senate Res. No. 39. Witnesses shall be examined by one person on behalf of the party producing them, and then cross-examined by one person on the other side.
Q. What happens if he refuses to be cross-examined after giving his speech?
A. Refer to Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile's statement on striking off his statement.
(Editor’s note: Before the suspending the trial on Tuesday, Senate President Enrile told lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas that if the chief justice does not return to the witness stand to be cross-examined by the prosecution, then Corona’s opening statement would be stricken off the Impeachment Court’s records.)
Q. What is the way forward?
A. I suspect the Senate President already knows but since he may need to keep his cards close to his chest first, I venture a peek into what he may be thinking.
1. Enrile may direct, on behalf of the Senate, Corona to show cause why he should not be held in contempt under Rule V.
2. Enrile may also direct Corona, through counsel, to manifest to the Senate if Corona intends to continue his testimony. If Corona says no, then his speech should be stricken off the record without prejudice to the contempt motion. If he says yes, then Corona should be cross-examined under Rule XV.
3. These are, without prejudice to any other in-between remedies – like striking out the conditional waiver, etc. as being irrelevant to the issues being tried. — MRT/HS, GMA News