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Former SC justice Serafin Cuevas passes away

February 10, 2014 8:38am
(Updated 3:32 p.m.) Former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, known in recent years as the chief defense counsel in the impeachment trial of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, has passed away on Sunday night. He was 85.
 
In a statement on Monday morning, the Supreme Court Public Information Office said the former magistrate passed away Sunday night, but has yet to give further details.
 
"Former SC Justice Serafin Cuevas passed away last night, February 9, 2014. Details to follow. Flag at SC quadrangle at half mast," said the SC PIO.

Memorable Cuevas quotes during Corona impeachment trial

“I am sorry if I appeared that way [condescending]. I would not have done so if they (prosecutors) did not act like law students.”
--Cuevas was heard telling other defense lawyers regarding the lapses of the prosecutors.

“I’m sorry, your honor. I thought we were allowed to go that far… because apparently the question tends to elicit an answer for the prosecution.”
--Cuevas apologized to the impeachment court when he objected to the question raised by Senator-judge Franklin Drilon for being hypothetical.

“Maybe you were absent when I discussed that.”
--Cuevas’ reply to his former student, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, who questioned his way of grilling witness Randy Rutaquio. 

“They're not anymore sympathetic to us. It's an uphill climb for us. We'll seek divine guidance."
-- Cuevas' subdued comment at the resumption of the trial after a month-long break. The defense panel would soon announce that Corona himself would “bare all" in his own testimony.

“Irrelevant, immaterial, and impertinent!" -- Cuevas on Philippine Airlines (PAL) vice president for sales Enrique Javier's testimony that will prove that Corona and his wife allegedly received benefits from the airline while it had cases pending before the court.

- Amita Legaspi/KBK, GMA News
"Details of the wake will follow as soon as the Court is informed by the family," added the SC PIO.

Palace condoles

In a short statement early Monday, Malacañang extended its condolences to the Cuevas family. 

"We extend our condolences to the family of the late Justice Serafin Cuevas who dedicated a good portion of his life and career to public service," Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a text message.

During a press conference at midday on Monday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also said that while Cuevas "has represented the interest adverse to the government," they have always shown their respect with each other.
 
"On behalf of the administration, we condole with the passing of the late Justice Serafin Cuevas. He has been an eminent jurist and a well-respected member of the legal community, as well as the academic community," he said.
 
Lacierda, however, said they have yet to discuss whether President Benigno Aquino III will be attending his wake.
 
"We have not been notified of any activities yet. Once there is a notification, we will inform the President," he said.

Defending Corona
 
Cuevas led a team of lawyers who defended Corona in 2012 during a more than four-month impeachment trial, which saw the Senate—sitting as an impeachment court—convicting the top judge for failing to declare around P200 million kept in several peso and dollar accounts.
 
Throughout the course of almost five months, Serafin would earn grudging respect from many trial observers for his passionate performance in the proceedings.
 
Toward the lattter part of the trial—with more and more evidence presented against his client —Cuevas admitted that at one point, he almost resigned as counsel for Corona.
 
Cuevas said he had earlier informed Corona that he wanted to give up his role in the trial. "Nag-resign na ako matagal na. Ayaw tanggapin," Cuevas had told reporters.
 
The lead defense counsel cited "conflict of opinion" as among the reasons for his decision. "'Kung ganoon chief eh kung wala na akong katuturan eh pinakamagaling na hayaan niyo na akong magresign,'" he recalled telling Corona.
 
However, the chief justice convinced Cuevas to reconsider and stay with the team.
 
106th SC justice
 
Cuevas became the 106th associate justice of the Supreme Court, serving from June 1, 1984 to April 16, 1986 during the Marcos regime.

Three presidents later, he would serve as Justice Secretary during the Estrada administration.
 
He later became a defense lawyer in Estrada's plunder trial from 2001 to 2007.

In 2011, Cuevas was supposed to be the lead defense counsel for then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, until the latter's resignation in April last year.
 
He served as a lawyer for Iglesia ni Cristo and was former chairman of INC's New Era University.

He taught law at the University of the Philippines—where he obtained his law degree in 1952—and the Far Eastern University. — with Kimberly Jane Tan/KG/RSJ/KBK, GMA News




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