MANILA, Philippines - A senior opposition lawmaker warned yesterday President Aquino against declaring emergency rule to avert a possible constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court (SC) decides in favor of Chief Justice Renato Corona on petitions seeking to nullify his impeachment trial in the Senate.
“I hope P-Noy does not place the country under emergency rule that would effectively dissolve the SC under the guise of averting a constitutional crisis,” Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay told The STAR.
She said Corona has every right to file an appeal if he is convicted by senator-judges and the Aquino administration should not interfere in the judicial process.
“Our nation would plunge into chaos if the administration becomes so desperate out of pride or to save face just to remove the Chief Justice and get what he wants,” she said.
She said the government and the people have been diverted from more pressing concerns since Aquino had repeatedly made public announcements last year wanting to remove Corona.
The SC is expected to hear oral arguments this week on pending petitions, including one filed by Corona last February, seeking to nullify the trial due to lack of jurisdiction of the Senate and the alleged railroaded impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.
Corona’s chief legal counsel, Serafin Cuevas, reportedly said that his client will make an appeal before the SC in case he is convicted by the Senate impeachment court.
The prosecution and defense lawyers are expected to make their final arguments this afternoon and the senator-judges could vote on the case this week.
The prosecution panel last week raised fears that the SC might side with Corona in the pending petitions.
Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, spokesman for the prosecutors, said if Corona files an appeal or the high tribunal hands down a ruling favoring the Chief Justice, the situation would lead to a stalemate and the country would be plunged into a constitutional crisis.
Tañada said it was sad that Cuevas would resort to filing an appeal before the SC if his client is convicted.
“Although it is the defense panel’s right to do so, it must be remembered that the Senate impeachment court’s decision as stated by the senator-judges is final and not appealable,” the lawmaker said, warning that Cuevas’ move may be considered as “indirectly tampering with the jury.”
“By going to the SC after conviction, the defense panel would want to take the country into a constitutional crisis,” Tañada said, adding that if the high tribunal issues a temporary restraining order, “people might think the SC is helping the Chief Justice.”
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, also a spokesman for the prosecution, dismissed Magsaysay’s warning and pleaded “not to preempt the case.”
“It’s true, there’s no guarantee that the SC will keep its hands off or not side with the Chief Justice. That would really trigger a constitutional crisis,” Angara said in a telephone interview.
“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and leave the cases to proceed,” he said.
He stressed that it was very unlikely for Aquino to resort to emergency rule.
Angara said it was very clear under the Constitution that the Senate is the impeachment court.
Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo, another spokesman for the prosecution, said the pending petitions are “a wonderful opportunity for the Supreme Court to be able to show everybody that they respect the Constitution and that in fact they are not biased.”
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño reminded senator-judges that Corona’s non- disclosure of his properties and bank accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) “is not the only thing he should be held accountable for.”
He said the senator-judges should remember that aside from Article 2, which alleges his failure to be truthful in his SALN, there are also Articles 7 and 3 that showed his bias for former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Yes, the evidence on Article 2 is strong but the other articles should not be disregarded because these provide the context on how Corona was able to amass wealth and that he betrayed the public trust by using his position to aid Mrs. Arroyo escape accountability,” he said.