Defense asks Supreme Court to stop Corona trial

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Feb 08 2012 01:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2012 05:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The defense has asked the Supreme Court to stop the impeachment proceedings at the Senate, saying the latter is being forced to rule on a faulty complaint.

Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador said they are forced to go to the Supreme Court because of the eventualities in the Senate that have violated the rights of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“It’s not that we don’t respect the impeachment court. Alam kong mahirap ang kalagayan ng Senate ngayon dahil they are forced to look into a complaint that’s incomplete,” he said.

Based on the 39-page urgent petition for certiorari, the defense said they have been “forced into litigation with standards so far below the norm in regular proceedings.”

As such, “the effect has been the unhappy experience of trying the impeachment case with the general public as the judge and jury. Not only does this violate the right of CJ Corona to the cold, neutrality of an impartial judge, but it also denies him the fundamental right to a trial in accordance [with the Constitution and the laws],” the defense said.

They cited these arguments:

  • the impeachment complaint is null and void because it was transmitted without due notice and hearing to CJ Corona;
  • the impeachment court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in retaining 2.3 of Article II
  • paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 of the complaint are based on pure speculation and conclusions, which cannot be considered as ultimate facts sufficient to support a complaint;
  • the presentation of evidence on charges of alleged corruption and unexplained wealth violates petitioner’s right to due process;
  • the impeachment court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the subpoena for all the bank accounts, as requested by the prosecution.

The defense also asked that Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Maria Lourdes Sereno inhibit from the case. Click here to read the entire petition.

Bank subpoena

In the interview, Salvador questioned the manner by which the complaint was crafted as well as the continued insistence of the prosecution to introduce information on an allegation already stricken down by the Senate.

In an earlier resolution, 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.

Salvador also cited the subpoena issued on the alleged bank documents of Corona, despite a prohibition under Republic Act 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act and other bank secrecy laws.

There, a disclosure of foreign currency bank accounts can only be made upon written permission from the depositor.

“Whatever the decision of the SC will be, we will respect it,” he said.

Protecting Corona's rights

In a press conference, lawyer Rico Quicho said the filing of petition for certiorari is not an extraordinary event because any person can go to the Supreme Court to ask for interpretation of the law.

He said the defense panel is specifically protesting the issuance of a subpoena for Corona's bank records, which he said violates the Bank Secrecy Law.

"There are times during the impeachment trial that there were decisions or resolutions that is not anchored in law," he said.

"Sa pagtakbo ng paglilitis ay may kamaliang nangyayari at may mga kakulangan. Mayroon kaming karapatan at ngayon sumasangguni kami sa Supreme Court para maisaayos ang mali na nangyayari," he added.

"We are just defending the rights of our client."  

Quicho said the decision to ask the SC to stop the Corona trial was not done overnight. He noted that the trial was now bordering on the persecution of the Chief Justice, and not justice.

He also denied that the issuance of a TRO by the Supreme Court will spark a constitutional crisis.