MANILA, Philippines - Lawyer Ernesto "Jun" Francisco Jr. on Wednesday finally broke his silence on why he resigned as a member of the defense panel in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Francisco said he quit Corona's defense team because he was afraid that his run-in with Sen. Manny Villar during the 2010 presidential campaign would affect Corona's defense.
The lawyer said he was the first to call for an investigation into the alleged double insertion in the budget of the C-5 Road project, a public works endorsed by Villar.
"I was the one who first asked that he be investigated before he ran for president. Secondly, I was the acting prosecutor when he was under investigation before the Senate Committee of the Whole," he said in a DZMM interview.
"Nung linabas ko yung pangalan ni Senator Villar...yun ang dahilan at wala nang iba dahil masama ang loob niya sa akin," he added.
Francisco said it is incumbent upon any lawyer to withdraw from a case if he knows that a sitting judge would not be objective because of a previous case.
"Kahit sinuman ang kliyente ko kung naparating sa akin na hindi maging objective hindi lang ang isang judge but several judges dito na mga senador it is incumbent upon any lawyer na bumitiw siya alang-alang na rin para maging patas," he said.
Francisco's recruitment to Corona's defense team by former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas previously raised eyebrows. The lawyer is a known critic of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and was one of the prosecution witnesses lined up for the impeachment trial of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Francisco is the second lawyer to leave Corona's defense team. Former Court of Appeals Justice Hector Hofileña said he withdrew from Corona's legal team out of delicadeza when he learned Atty. Mario Bautista is the lead private prosecutor on the impeachment case.
"I offered to withdraw from the Corona legal team out of delicadeza, when I read that Atty. Mario Bautista has been appointed as the lead private prosecutor on the impeachment case. A son of mine is a member of his law firm. And although my son assured me that will have no participation in the case, I wanted to avoid any suspicion of disloyalty on either his or my part by reason of such circumstance," Hofileña said.
"But this does not mean that I have deserted or abandoned the cause of the Chief Justice. I continue to support him, not only because I believe in the justice of his cause, but also because I believe in the Independence of the Judiciary, and the Rule of Law are inextricably interwoven with this case," he added.