Senate steps up security for Corona trial
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate announced on Thursday that it will implement strict measures for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as preparations went full-blast four days before it begins.
Various Senate offices involved in preparations vowed to ensure an orderly trial, which will start on January 16.
Officials said the Senate will strictly enforce a "No ID, No Entry" policy and a dress code for those who want to watch the trial. Sleeveless shirts and blouses are prohibited, and guests are encouraged to wear shirts and blouses with collars.
The public will be allowed to watch the trial live in the Senate. Only 175 people will be accommodated, however, with 25 slots reserved for senior citizens.
The session hall has a seating capacity of 361.
"We will have a system where the public can line up for seats in the session hall," said Atty. Maria Valentina Cruz, impeachment court spokesperson. "They have to line up starting 11 o'clock (in the morning)."
People lining up near the gate outside the Senate building will be given tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the session hall, cell phones and other electronic devices should be turned off. Reporters will be allowed to bring phones inside, but will have to put them on silent mode.
Security will be tight during the trial, with personnel from the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms posted in the session hall and the rooms for the prosecution, defense, and the media, as well as areas surrounding the Senate.
K-9 sniffing dogs from the Philippine Air Force will be used to check for explosives.
Some 40 anti-riot policemen will also be deployed near the Film Center of the Philippines a few kilometers outside the Senate for possible rallies.
"Our mission here is to keep everybody safe," said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia Jr.
Meanwhile, physical preparations for the trial continued on Thursday.
Senate personnel checked on furniture and other equipment that will be used during the trial.
The layout of the session hall is the same as that during the trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2000: the witness stand is at the center of the plenary facing senators, and the tables of the prosecution and defense panels on the right and left sides of the witness stand.
This will be rearranged for the regular legislative sessions every Monday and Tuesday morning,
The Senate gave assurances that it is ready to hold Corona's trial.
"We are fully prepared," Cruz said.