MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Senate President and Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile said the Supreme Court knows its limits in the impeachment of the chief magistrate.
During the 25th day of the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, Enrile dismissed a colleague’s insinuation that the Supreme Court is already intruding into the role of the impeachment court.
This, after the SC, on Tuesday, barred anew its employees from testifying in the impeachment trial.
Senator-judge Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said: “Unless we assert the primacy of the impeachment court in the impeachment process, we might find ourselves in joint venture with the SC…The sole power [to impeach] becomes fiction.”
Enrile stressed that his statements may send the wrong impression, but noted that the SC would know that the Senate has the sole power to rule in the impeachment case. “The SC is the guardian of the Constitution, they know that the sovereign people of this country reposed to this Senate the sole power to try and decide this case.”
He said what happened was that the SC only insisted on its own internal rules.
“It does not deprive us of jurisdiction to try and decide this case. In the same manner that, if you remember, when we had the problem with Malacañang in connection with some investigation, we were conducting in one of the committees, the Palace invoked its executive privilege by preventing members of the Palace staff including members of the bureaucracy and military from testifying in that particular investigation,” he said.
“That is the same situation here, isn’t it? They are not impeding us from continuing with the trial and decision on this case,” he said.
Enrile noted that the court can still decide the case even without the witnesses that the prosecution wanted.
Enrile said, however, this issue will still be further tackled in a caucus on Monday.
Earlier in the day, the high court disallowed 2 of its employees from testifying. The employees were to testify on the serving of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the watch list order barring former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving the country.
SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the high court will soon issue a resolution on this decision.
The high court also earlier said magistrates can’t be made to testify on internal matters. The same privilege is extended to its other employees.
Prosecution to SC: What are you hiding?
The prosecution described the SC’s action as “saddening and frightening.”
In a manifestation, House prosecutor Neri Colmenares claimed they have already established the connections between Corona and former Arroyo leading to the high court’s order to issue the TRO in favor of Mrs. Arroyo.
“The only question left now: who allowed this?” Colmenares said. He said the prosecution has established that Arroyo did not have a life-and-death situation that would warrant her leaving the country and that there was “distortion” on the conditions of the TRO as announced by Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez.
Colmenares said it is only Corona who could have pushed for the issuance of the TRO. The testimony of the SC employees would be relevant, he said.
“What is the SC hiding from this court?” Colmenares asked. He said it is saddening that the judiciary itself is stepping on their right to due process.
Enrile said, however, that the prosecution could have just sought other witnesses to support its case.
He said the Constitution would have to be changed if the impeachment court is to control the SC, given its internal rules.