Saguisag: Judicial reforms next after impeachment trial

by Caroline Howard, ANC

Posted at Jan 17 2012 08:55 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2012 01:53 AM

MANILA, Philippines - With the impeachment trial underway, Atty. Rene Saguisag believes judicial reforms should follow, beginning with the unpacking of the supposed "Arroyo Supreme Court."

"Ang problema dito unpacking the GMA court? At pag nadisciplina dito si Rene (Corona) through impeachment, censure, titino iyung iba," he said.

"There should be an 'unpacking' of the Arroyo court para they decide on the merits and not only to express their gratitude to the appointing power," Saguisag said in an interview on "[email protected]"

Saguisag joined calls for Corona to take a leave of absence during the impeachment trial so as not to get in the way of judicial processes.

"Dapat itigil ni Chief Justice yung misusing court personnel, time, resources. Ang daming pending cases sa Korte Suprema. He should go on leave and let the court decide cases and not waste the time in support of one person," he said.

"Huwag i-confuse isang tao sa entire hudikatura this is about pagkukulang ng isang tao. Let us look at the case against him and not confuse him with the judiciary," Saguisag added.

Bernas weighs in

However, Constitutional expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas, dean emeritus at the Ateneo Law School, believes this is not necessary.

"He's not obliged to attend the hearing as in a criminal case, so he can simply keep doing his job," Bernas said on ANC "Headstart."

Bernas believes it's still too early to say who between the prosecution and defense teams played their cards right.

"The style of the defense of de los Angeles was very professorial, orderly, legal. Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. who heads the House Prosecution Panel was Plaza-Miranda style."

Prosecution's upper hand

With the defense team hinging its strategy on the difficult task of establishing a high moral ground for Chief Justice Corona, Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East College of Law believes the prosecution team gained the upper hand on the first day of the impeachment trial.

"On the part of the defense, it was a little of a defeat in the first round. There was no violation of the right to due process, there was no short-circuiting of the provisions under the Constitution on impeachment and due process will come into play during this impeachment trial," he said.

Valdez credited Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for setting the pace of the impeachment trial.

"As far as the presiding officer was concerned, it was a virtuoso performance, being a legal eagle Enrile manifested yesterday."

What is betrayal of public trust?

As a matter of strategy, Valdez said, the prosecution may be better off prioritizing the matter of Corona's midnight appointment instead of proving his alleged properties.

"Pagdating sa midnight appointment, they could just stipulate: let the Senate decide whether that decision is enough to justify the lack of moral basis of the appointment."

But while this could mean a shorter impeachment trial, it could also pose a challenge for senators in the absence of any precedent in proving what constitutes betrayal of private trust, Valdez said.

"Sasabihin ng senators in caucus, 'Don't you think we have enough to convict on these counts?' Then we can abbreviate these proceedings and come up with our decision. There are 23 definitions of betrayal of public trust as there are 23 senators, ganoon ang sitwasyon diyan," he added.