Defense moves to quash subpoenas on bank documents
MANILA, Philippines - Where else can the defense go if they are stopped from filing a motion for reconsideration on any judgment emanating from the impeachment court?
This was asked by defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas during the 13th day of trial after senator-judges debated on the circumstances behind the issuance of the subpoenas on the alleged bank records of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Where else are we going to question the validity of the ruling of the [impeachment court]?” he asked.
He said an accused, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t be prohibited from seeking redress.
A motion for reconsideration is a precondition before a case is brought before the Supreme Court.
Senate President and Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile later said, “as far as the right of the defense or prosecution is concerned, they can take all legal remedies…The branches of government are not stopped from exercising their duties just because there’s an impeachment trial.”
“Should there be a problem with respect to the leadership of the Senate, that doesn’t mean it will stop the senate from legislating…The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of issues since it is within its competence, [should it stop] simply because the Chief Justice is impeached?” he asked.
He, however, noted that he only takes exception on moves to stop the whole impeachment trial. “The Constitution says that once articles reach this house…it has the sole power to try and decide the case.”
He said “incidental matters” are still within the authority of the Supreme Court.
Enrile, however, did not answer yet on the prosecution’s and defense’s rights to file a motion for reconsideration on a judgment rendered by the impeachment court.
This, after Senator Francis Escudero said only him and his colleagues have the right to file a motion for reconsideration on the subpoenas issued on the alleged bank accounts of Corona.
Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago disagreed, but took it upon herself to file an appeal so that all parties can thresh out the matter.
Enrile said all these will be taken up in caucus on Wednesday at 11:00 a..m., hours before the start of the 14th day of trial.
In an interview with ANC, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador said, “as a group of lawyers, we deliberate on such matters like this. Pag-aaralan namin kung ano available options sa mga susunod na araw.”
He said that it was high-time that such question was posed by Cuevas, which would also be relevant to the prosecution and the banks sought to be subpoenaed.
Salvador said the defense has already moved to quash the summons because “they have no reasonable purpose.”
They also cited there the penal sanctions on the acquisition of evidence from an “anonymous” source.
The summons include a bank account that the prosecution supposedly learned from an anonymous source. The prosecution claimed the account had an initial deposit of “$700K”, which it interpreted to be $700,000 (about P38 million in October 2008).
In its supplemental motion, the prosecution said: “While it cannot vouch for the authenticity of the said documents, the prosecution believes that it is its duty to submit the documents to this Honorable Impeachment Court, as they may have a bearing on the Court’s resolution of the pending request for subpoena.”
Summoning the justices
The caucus will also take up on Wednesday the request for subpoena on the justices of the Supreme Court.
Prosecutor Neri Colmenares said the impeachment court can subpoena the magistrates “not on basis of powers of the Senate, but as sui generis.” This means that something is unique and that the impeachment court is a class on its own.
Enrile insisted, however, that they could not just subpoena a magistrate without stepping on the constitutionally-enshrined separation of powers.
“Can you imagine the SC issuing a subpoena to the President? Or the Senate issuing a subpoena to the President?” he asked.
He said, “We are still operating under one Constitution, which is more powerful.”
The SC will have a special full court meeting on Thursday to discuss whether or not a magistrate could testify in case a subpoena is issued.