Enrile: Only Senate can decide impeach cases
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Members of Chief Justice Renato Corona's defense team believe they can go to the Supreme Court for an appeal if the Senate decides to convict Corona.
This position, however, was quickly debunked by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who reiterated that only the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, can try and decide impeachment cases.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas earlier told radio dzBB that the defense will have no alternative but to resort to a petition for certiorari before the SC if Corona is impeached.
His statement was backed by defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra who said seeking relief from the Supreme Court is still possible if they feel that there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Senate during the trial.
At the start of Monday's closing arguments, Enrile asked Cuevas about his radio interview.
"We respect your position, but I just want to remind you that our reading of Article 11 provided that the Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all impeachment cases. I just want to put that into the record," he said.
For his part, Cuevas acknowledged that he gave an interview on Sunday.
Cart before the horse
Defense lawyer Dennis Manalo said Cuevas' statement is only a legal theory, adding that the entire defense team is focused on winning the case before the Senate.
"That would be putting the cart before the horse. We don't want to go into that analysis yet because we're still not there. We are still waiting for a verdict. Maybe it is just Justice Cuevas speaking his mind. It is his legal opinion," he told ANC.
He said he expects the defense to look at different scenarios after a verdict is delivered tomorrow.
Esguerra earlier said the Constitution is silent on whether or not the Senate verdict would be final and executory.
“Alam mo, quiet and silent na naman ang ating Saligang Batas kung final and executory and judgment diyan eh. 'Yun ang kabigatan sa usaping ito dahil hindi mo na naman alam kung saan mo huhugutin 'yung pagbabatayan ng argumento ng bawat panig,” he told radio dzMM.
He said that under the rules of the Senate impeachment court, what is disallowed is the filing of a motion for reconsideration.
"Kung wala na bang motion for reconsideration ay hindi ka na ba pwedeng pumunta sa Korte Suprema?” he asked.
He added: “Kung mayroon lamang pagbabatayan of course and that is as fundamentally as grave abuse of discretion. Pero kung walang pagbabatayan ay bakit pa kami pupunta doon?"
'Puro siya palusot'
Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr. said Corona's running to his home court would show a lack of good faith for the chief magistrate.
House Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said they can also reject the impeachment verdict. "We also have the right to reject his [Corona's] rejection," he told reporters.
"Puro siya denial e. Puro siya palusot. Nakalusot na siya bilang chief justice e. Akala niya lusot lang ng lusot," he added.
Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales said Corona would need a restraining order if he decides to fight his conviction before the SC. He noted that the penalty for a guilty verdict is removal from office.