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Chief Justice on Trial

Senate's guilty verdict questioned before SC

June 5, 2012 2:28pm
Chief Justice Renato Corona might have already rested his case, but a few of his supporters seemed determined to stop the implementation of the Senate impeachment court's guilty verdict on him for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
In a five-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, former Assemblyman Homobono Adaza and lawyer Alan Paguia asked the Supreme Court to hold oral arguments for and against the guilty verdict of the Senate Tuesday last week.
Corona was ousted through a 20-3 vote from the Senate impeachment court due to his non-declaration of dollar accounts containing $2.4 million and peso accounts containing P80 million. Corona on Monday went to the Supreme Court one last time to pack his things. He was temporarily replaced by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.
In their petition, Adaza and Paguia also asked the court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction "immediately enjoining the enforcement of the unconstitutionally infirm decision of the Impeachment Court."
They said the Senate court's decision will bring "grave and irreparable injury" to the Philippine Constitution, government institutions, and the Filipinos.
The petitioners said the impeachment trial was an "obvious and undeniable" violation of Section 3(2), Article XI (on verified complaints) and Section 1 of Article III of the Constitution (on due process of law).
The petitioners criticized the Senate impeachment court for pushing through with the trial "despite constitutional and legal objections." They noted that six petitions questioning the constitutionality of the impeachment trial remain pending before the high court.
Incidentally, Paguia and Adaza were the ones who filed one of those six petitions. Their earlier petition, filed last January, asked the high court to declare as unconstitutional and illegal the impeachment complaint as well as the Senate's taking over jurisdiction of the case. 
The petitioners singled out several senator-judges who "behaved like judges-prosecutors," including Senators Franklin Drilon, Pia Cayetano, Kiko Pangilinan, Edgardo Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III, Jinggoy Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Chiz Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, and Serge Osmeña—all of whom voted to convict Corona.
"They behaved... to the point of badgering witnesses, just so the points which could not be achieved by the House prosecutors could be obtained," the petitioners said.
The two petitioners said these senators should have inhibited from the impeachment case because "by their conduct, they have shown bias, prejudice, partiality and lack of independence in Corona's case."
They particularly said those who should have excused themselves from the case were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, as well as Sen. Angara and Estrada, whose sons (Jack Enrile of Cagayan and Sonny Angara of Aurora) and brother (Joseph Victor Ejercito of San Juan), respectively were among the 188 lawmakers who signed in the impeachment complaint.
The petitioners insisted that the Supreme Court has the authority to make a final determination whether the impeachment trial was conducted properly without violating the due process clause of the Constitution.
"There will be no closure to the impeachment issue against Chief Justice Renato Corona until and unless the Supreme Court makes definitive findings on whether the Senate and the House of Representatives committed grave abuse of discretion in filing and accepting, respectively the so-called 'verified complaint' for impeachment," the petitioners said.
Corona's lead defense counsel, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, has repeatedly said in the past that their camp might possibly elevate the Senate court's verdict in case the latter committed grave abuse of discretion.
The defense panel however dropped this plan and opted to no longer challenge the Senate's conviction. In a statement over the weekend, Corona said while he accepted the Senate's guilty verdict, he would not stop fighting for judicial independence. He said his ouster brought about a "new standard" of transparency in governance. –KG, GMA News
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