'Calling journalists, justices to witness stand horribly wrong'

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 29 2012 04:39 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2012 03:25 AM

Defense: Let us not destroy our institutions

MANILA, Philippines -- A lawyer has criticized plans of the prosecution to call to the witness stand more than 100 witnesses, including journalists and justices of the Supreme Court.

In his Facebook account, lawyer Ted Te said: “Putting media practitioners as well as sitting Supreme Court Justices as possible witnesses is just simply horribly wrong. Not only does it leave the trial open to a challenge that it was, after all, the institution of the SC itself that is now being tried, it also opens a door that should, at the moment, remain closed.”
He said bringing justices to the court also weakens the institutions put up by the Constitution. He said the magistrates should collectively decline such a plan.
“Similarly, calling media practitioners to testify on work product is indicative of a short cut approach to finding the truth; much of the work that media has done in reporting these matters is already part of the public consciousness and may already be considered subject of the collective, institutional and even personal knowledge of the Senate, acting as jury; there is really no need to call media practitioners to testify,” he said.
Several journalists have already asked the prosecution team not to present them as witnesses, including Marites Vitug and Criselda Yabes.
The journalists are only two of the more than 100 witnesses that the prosecution wants to testify in the eight articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona.
‘Let us not drag the media into the picture’
In a separate statement, the defense also criticized the plans of the prosecution.
The “prosecution has pierced the veil of confidentiality with the [income tax returns], let us not drag the media and place it on the witness stand. The Media is not on trial here. Prove your case by doing your work in research and litigation,” defense spokesperson and lawyer Karen Jimeno said. 
She said the media has three basic roles, which is to inform, educate and entertain, “even if some have gone further, they have a unique role.”
The defense lawyers also took exception to the plan of the prosecution to subpoena the magistrates.
“Is the Prosecution saying they need the other Justices to rat against the Chief Justice and against each other on how they voted on a particular case?” lawyer Rico Quicho asked.  
Jimeno added this would step on the time-honored confidentiality in the disposition of cases.
‘Think out of the box’
Te, who is in the United States on a scholarship, also questioned why the prosecution would need around 100 witnesses.
He said it is indicative of two things.
“It believes that its case is so weak that it needs that many witnesses to prove something that should be, on its face, already self-evident, and it hopes that, along the way, someone will do a Clarissa Ocampo and turn the tide irreversibly in its favor,” he said.
Ocampo was the whistle-blower who said that then President Joseph Estrada was the one who signed the “Jose Velarde” accounts, where jueteng money was supposedly deposited.
“Either way, it doesn't look good for the prosecution simply because disclosing its own belief that it takes that many witnesses to prove that Corona is unfit to continue as Chief Justice sends to the Senate the wrong message--that perhaps the truth isn't as clear and that perhaps the doubt should be resolved in favor of retaining him in office,” Te said.
He said it’s not too late for the prosecution to rethink its strategies.