Corona lawyer cited for contempt

by David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 12 2012 06:48 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2012 06:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 3) - The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, on Monday cited for contempt a defense lawyer of Chief Justice Renato Corona for implying that Malacañang offered P100 million in bribes to senator-judges.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile cited lawyer Jose “Judd” Roy III for indirect contempt for implying that senator-judges could be bribed to vote against Corona.
 
"This court is constrained to cite one of the lawyers of the defense, Atty. Roy, for contempt. The penalty to be imposed will be subject of a determination by a caucus of this court," he said.
 
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas then commented that he thought the penalty "would be life imprisonment or the death penalty", drawing laughter from some spectators.

Enrile, however, said the court will not go that far and said the joke might be misunderstood by the public. "With due respect to the defense, this court must assert its dignity and honor in this proceeding," he said.

Enrile said the defense lawyer's accusation is serious because it suggests that the impeachment court "can be paid in making a decision and that is not a proper thing to even think about."

"We may be politicians but we have our own integrity and honor that we have earned over time. So we will take up the commensurate penalty that we will impose against the erring member of the defense panel," he said.

Last February 12, Corona's defense team told reporters that they had received reports that Executive Secretary Paquito  Ochoa Jr. was offering senator-judges P100 million  in bribes in exchange for rejecting the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on Corona's dollar accounts.

Roy alleged the money will be sourced from government savings to be used for “soft projects.”

Several senator-judges denied the defense's allegation and criticized the defense team. The Senate later ruled 13-10 to uphold the SC order not to open Corona's dollar deposits.

In response to the ruling, Roy asked why he was singled out for claiming the alleged bribe when it was a "collective act" by the defense panel.

He said he has no choice but to accept the ruling and just wait for the penalty to be imposed by the impeachment court.

Private prosecutor admonished

Senators previously cited for contempt private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre Jr. for covering his ears while Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was lecturing the prosecution.

Enrile said the Senate admonished Aguirre for his acts but no longer imposed any penalty against him because he had already withdrawn his appearance as a private prosecutor in the impeachment case. "In addition, I think he made an apology," he said.