MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas on Tuesday provided some unexpected comic relief in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona when he said the impeachment complaint was poorly crafted.
Fariñas made the remark after Senate President and Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile asked the prosecution the relevance of an allegation in the article questioning the “competence, integrity, probity and independence” of Chief Justice Corona.
The prosecution introduced on the 13th day of trial Article 3 of its complaint, which reads in full: “respondent committed culpable violations of the constitution and betrayed the public trust by failing to meet and observe the stringent standards under art. viii, section 7 (3) of the constitution that provides that ‘[a] member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence…’”
Enrile, however, noted that nowhere in the article that the prosecution indicated that Corona allegedly “dipped his hands into public funds to finance personal expenses.”
It was prosecutor Rodolfo Fariñas who answered, saying this particular issue is an integral part of the whole article.
He said Corona himself has already denied the issue “and we should be given our chance to debate that.”
The parties have yet to conclude article 2, which discusses the truthfulness of Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The senator-judges disallowed prosecutors from submitting evidence on paragraph 2.4 of the Second Article of Impeachment while allowing the entry of evidence for paragraphs 2.2 and 2.3.
Senator-judges decided to drop article 2.4 of the complaint, or the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Corona, which had been the rallying cry of the prosecution in their effort to seek a conviction for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
This time, however, the debate on the inclusion of the “dipping of his hands in public funds” provided a relief of sorts to the seriousness of the trial.
Enrile engaged Fariñas in a debate over the matter, which led even to the former’s roles as Senate President and senator.
They were discussing the possible “conviction” of Corona.
Enrile asked if the proceedings were criminal in nature, since Fariñas was pointing out that the prosecution wanted to convict Corona.
“It’s just like this, if the senators say you can no longer be a Senate President, tapos na ang araw niyo,” Fariñas said.
Enrile then answered “but I am still a senator…My being a senator is not hinged on my being a Senate President.”
The debate went on for a few minutes, until senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada took the floor.
He asked why Fariñas was still prosecutor even if he did not sign the complaint.
The latter answered he was not a fast reader, unlike his 188 colleagues who were able to sign the complaint.
He added he did not include anymore his signature because there were already a lot of complainants.
But what further led to guffaws in the session hall was his answer: “At masama po ang pagkakagawa ng complaint, inaamin ko naman po.”
Fariñas later clarified his statement before reporters.
The lawmaker said he did not mean that the impeachment complaint was badly written. He said the House was afraid the Supreme Court will stop the Corona impeachment had they not filed it the way they did.
He cited the injunctions issued to the impeachment cases against Chief Justice Hilario Davide and then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Fariñas said that while he didn’t sign the complaint because he had not read it at that time, he believes in the grounds for impeachment and its cause.
Earlier in the day, the prosecution presented a volunteer witness, Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines President Roberto “Bob” Anduiza. He said they want Corona out because they have already lost trust in the justice system.
He alleged Corona may have used his influence in the case concerning the retrenchment of the PAL flight attendants. With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News