MANILA, Philippines - A member of the House of Representatives prosecution panel on Wednesday said he wants to cut some of the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona to weed out the weak charges and speed up the trial.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said he wants House prosecutors to pin Corona on 4-5 Articles of Impeachment instead of the original 8.
"Kung ako lamang po, kung pipiliin lang yung 5 na painakalamalakas, hindi naman kailangang i-convict siya sa 8. Isa lang tama na," he said.
Fariñas said removing some of the impeachment articles would speed up the trial, which is already affecting the legislative work of Congress.
He said many are growing impatient with the pace of the trial.
The lawmaker said Article 2 or failure to publicly disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, Article 3 or the issuance of “flip-flopping” decisions, and Article 8 or failure and refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections, are strong charges against Corona.
He said Article 7 or the issuance of a temporary restraining order to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is also a strong case.
He said prosecutors could also choose to pursue Article 1 or Corona's alleged partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration from the time he was appointed as associate justice to the time of his 'midnight appointment' as chief justice.
On the other hand, he said he is willing to do away with Article 6 of the impeachment complaint accusing Corona of betrayal of public trust for forming a committee to investigate a plagiarism charge against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo for the purpose of exculpating him.
"Para sa akin, yun nga payag na ako alisin yun hindi na ako magsasalita," he said.
The remaining Articles of Impeachment are Article 4 (Blatant disregard of the principle of separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez) and Article 5 (Wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the principle of res judicata in the cases involving the 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island (sic) into a province).
Fariñas did not sign the impeachment complaint against Corona, saying that he was unable to read the complaint in full and because his signature was no longer needed.
He earlier told the Senate impeachment court that the complaint was poorly crafted but said he believes in the content of the charges.
"Maski awkward yung complaint pero naiintindihan ng kabila, sapat na yun. Tinanggalan na nga kami ng isang paragraph, yung 2.4 dahil wala sa titulo. Nakikita naman po yung pagkagawa hindi ganun kaganda. Ang eksaktong sabi ko - masama nang kaunti ang pagkagawa. Ang gumawa kasi nito 188 mambabatas. Hindi naman sila tinulungan ng abogado. Sila sila po ang gumawa nito," he said.
"Ganyan din naman po ang ating Konstitusyon. Kahit pribadong tao pwedeng magfile ng impeachment at pag in-endorse ng congressman, lalakad na po yun. Hindi naman po kailangan napakaganda ng alegasyon ng complaint mo basta maintindihan. Maski sa Tagalog niya ginawa o Ilokano, pwede na po yun dahil wala naman regulasyon na dapat napakaganda ng complaint," he added.
Technicalities could save Corona
Fariñas noted that the trial has become bogged down with technicalities because it is being conducted like a regular trial. He said the many objections from the defense and the marking of evidence is taking too much time.
He said that instead of presenting the witnesses, the prosecution could just get affidavits and allow the defense to cross-examine.
"Kesa naman bawat tanong mo may mag-o-object. Leading, misleading...Ako nga abogado, paano ka magde-desisyon kung nag-aaway dun. 'Misleading yan. No basis. Lay the predicate.' Maiintindihan po ba natin yun? Kung hindi tayo masyado gumagamit ng ligal na termino, para lang itong katarungang pam-barangay para bibilis kasi pag pumasok na ang abogado ang daming objections," he said.
He said that instead of a regular trial, the impeachment process would be faster if it was conducted like a regular committee hearing in aid of legislation. He noted that the impeachment trial is just "in search of truth" and is meant to protect the office from the one holding it.
"Makakalusot si Chief Justice sa teknikalidad. Pwede yun kung ang usapan dito ay kriminal, kung siya po ay makukulong pero dito ang opisina lamang niya ang pinag-uusapan. Kapag napatunayan, dun pa lang papasok ang criminal case sa kanya. Kakasuhan pa lang. Dun na papasok yung technical na rules of procedure," he said. With Philippine Star