MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – A spokesman of the House prosecution panel believes at least 14-15 senator-judges might vote for conviction in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara said the prosecution guessed at the number based on their own reading on the senator-judges.
“Hindi pa kami sigurado dahil marami pa kaming hindi mabasa kung ano yung boto. Mga 5 siguro yung undecided. Kung nakuha natin yun we could get 17-18 votes,” he told ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda.
“Ang sigurado-14-15 votes pero kulang pa rin. Pero hindi pa rin sigurado. Maaaring tama, maaaring mali,” he added.
The prosecution needs 16 votes from the 23 senator-judges to remove Corona. On the other hand, the defense only needs 8 votes for Corona to remain in office.
Former senator Rene Saguisag agreed that a conviction is highly likely but warned: "Those who live by the crystal ball could end up eating broken glass."
Angara said an acquittal would be a major blow to the campaign for greater accountability and transparency among public officials. He said a second impeachment complaint against Corona might not be feasible because of the 2013 elections.
He also noted that an abstention would favor Corona since it would be counted as a vote for acquittal.
He said a conviction would bring a “cleansing effect” in the judiciary.
Meanwhile, defense lawyer Karen Jimeno said the defense team is satisfied that they have laid the legal basis for Corona’s acquittal in the impeachment trial.
She noted that while the prosecution laid an effective argument in calling Corona’s defense as “palusot” (excuse), the prosecutors also failed to back up their claim by cross-examining the chief justice.
“If they said he was really making excuses, why didn’t they use the unconditional waiver to open the bank deposits?” she asked.
Jimeno said that a conviction would not set a good precedent for future impeachment proceedings in the country.
Under the rules, a guilty verdict would mean Corona will be removed from office, stripped of his retirement benefits and will be disqualified from holding any office in government. However, Jimeno said at least one senator-judge, Miriam Defensor Santiago, had said a conviction may not necessarily mean removal but a reprimand.
Jimeno said she is still unsure if Corona will be present in the Senate this afternoon.
“We don’t know if he will arrive because he is still in the hospital till now and we don’t know if the doctors will allow him to come,” she said.
“He is not required under the rules but it would be good if he comes as a sign of respect,” she added.