Enrile tells court: Disregard portions of de Lima testimony

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 23 2012 03:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2012 02:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday urged senators to disregard the opinions of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on the falsity or truthfulness of the irregularities in the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Supreme Court issued against the travel restraint on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo since these are just hearsay.

Enrile, presiding judge of the impeachment court, however, allowed to remain on record the facts that de Lima narrated based on the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“[But up to the extent] of the truth or falsity…whether [Chief Justice Renato Corona] influenced the [stay order] or not, it’s mere hearsay,” Enrile said.

Using Sereno’s dissent, de Lima earlier alleged there were irregularities in the issuance of the TRO. Because of the dissent, de Lima said she was made to believe that Corona had a hand in the issuance of the TRO.

De Lima was called to the witness stand to provide the historical background leading to the allegation of the prosecution in Article 7. The prosecution alleged that Corona “supposedly betrayed the public trust through his partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the supreme court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.”

After cross-examining de Lima, lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas moved to strike out her testimony. He said her opinions were mere “hearsay” since she did not know the goings-on in the Supreme Court with respect to its deliberations on Mrs. Arroyo's request for a TRO on the watch list order issued by de Lima herself.

Cuevas said: “I will move much to my regret for the striking out of the entirety of the testimony of the witness on the ground that the same is hearsay, insofar as the accuracy, the truth and the alleged authenticity of what is alleged as basic facts for the dissenting opinion, your honor.”

Prosecutor Raul Daza objected, saying Sereno’s dissenting opinion is already public and is part of judicial notice.

“We vigorously object because the dissenting opinion is a matter if judicial notice…The portions of dissent are matters stated by a public official unless proven otherwise. They are entitled to presumption of regularity,” Daza said.

Dissenting opinion

Before Enrile issued his ruling, Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago took the floor and told the parties to look anew at the allegation contained in Article 7.

“The witness insists that her opinions are well-grounded on the dissenting opinion of a singular justice of the Supreme Court…So what is the weight of a dissent?” she asked.

Santiago said it is elementary knowledge for lawyers that a majority decision is “the controlling jurisprudence.”

“The question, therefore, should [Corona] be held liable for a decision of a collegial body?”

She said that while Corona is the primus inter pares (first among equals), he can’t decide on his own. She said Corona can’t just overturn the decision of a division or of the full court.

The prosecution earlier asked the court to subpoena magistrates of the Supreme Court. This was quashed, however, by the Senate.

There were reports, even before the start of the trial, that Sereno would be appearing in the impeachment trial. She has yet to confirm or deny these reports.