MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Members of the Senate are divided over the looming impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, with at least one senator saying that the process could lead to an autocracy if Corona is removed from office.
In an interview, Sen. Joker Arroyo expressed dismay over the seeming haste of Corona's impeachment. "The net effect of this would be that President Aquino would achieve being an autocrat this time by stroke of genius. The president will be able to control the entire government without having to declare martial law," he said.
On the other hand, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III believes Corona's impeachment trial won't even push through. "Do I expect the trial to happen? No. I expect that Chief Justice Corona will resign to save himself from embarrassment," he said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said she sees nothing wrong with Corona's impeachment after lawmakers from the House of Representatives followed due process. She urged her fellow senators to start hitting the books and study before they sit as judges in the impeachment trial.
Sen. Vicente Sotto said prosecutors need a two-thirds vote of the Senate on any of the impeachment articles to remove Corona.
Out of the 23 senators, President Aquino has eight political allies, mostly Liberal Party members at the Upper Chamber. They are Senators Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, Teofisto Guingona, and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, while non-Liberals but perceived to be Aquino’s political allies are Senators Panfilo Lacson, Antonio Trillanes IV, Sergio Osmeña, and Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
The other senators who will sit as judges in the impeachment trial are Senators Manny Villar, one of Aquino’s presidential opponents in the May 2010 elections, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Joker Arroyo, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Edgardo Angara, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Jinggoy Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who will preside the impeachment trial.
In an interview, Sotto said the impeachment trial would likely commence on January 16 after the holiday break.
"We might approve the constitution of the impeachment court tomorrow or maybe tonight but it will commence most probably on January 16 unless otherwise decided by the Senate. Kasi it is useless to go into impeachment court during the Christmas season kasi magpapadala ka rin ng mga summons, meron ten days to answer, then five days to reply, so, by the time you will know it, it's already New Year's Day," he said.
He also said that under the Senate rules of impeachment, the senators must hear all the articles of impeachment before taking a vote. Impeachment prosecutors need only one convict Corona in one of the impeachment articles to effect his ouster.
For his part, Drilon said he does not see any basis nor justification to the suggestion that he inhibit in Corona's impeachment trial. He said he only issued an appeal that Corona inhibit himself from participating in Supreme Court cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo due to public perceptions of partiality as he once served as Arroyo's chief of staff and spokesperson.
"My appeal was anchored on my desire to maintain the integrity of the Supreme Court. I have not prejudged Chief Justice Corona on any of the eight charges now being brought against him in this impeachment case," he said.