MANILA, Philippines - Lawmaker-prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona have called on the high court to dismiss petitions assailing the validity of the process.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said: “Sana wag na pangunahan ng SC ang Senado. It will be incestuous for the SC to decide on the validity of the impeachment against the Chief Justice. Hayaan na nila ang Senado na mag-decide, wag na sana makialam.”
Citing the Constitution, Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said the high court risks a constitutional crisis if it insists on tackling the petition. “In as much as the constitution has given this authority to the house and Senate, we call this a political question to which the house and senate were given the exclusive power to decide. It is not a judicial or justiciable controversy…”
He added any decision of the high court on the trial will always be prone to questions and doubts. “The public will always say the SC was partial, considering it’s their chief which is the subject of the petitions.”
Lead prosecutor and Justice committee chairman Niel Tupas added: “We just want to make it clear, as far as the (lower House) is concerned, the process is completed.”
He said a petition questioning the process should now be under the jurisdiction of the Senate.
Distribution of tasks
The prosecutors held an organizational meeting on Tuesday to work on the delegation of tasks. They are also expected to draft a comment on the petitions before the high court.
They will also ask for authority to hire private lawyers. Tupas, however, expressed concerns if private lawyers will be willing to take on the task especially since they may have clients with cases in the SC.
On the contrary, he said: “There are a lot of lawyers, law firms volunteering. We will have enough legal support come January.”
He said it was Belmonte who wanted to hire private prosecutors.
Tupas revealed they expect to finalize the list of assignments of prosecutors handling the individual arguments. There are eight articles of impeachment.
Tupas said the panel is also expected to discuss who else will complete the 11-man panel. Currently there are 10, including Jun Abaya who will be the prosecution manager.
The panel hopes to face the media in January with more details on their work.
Abaya revealed that other lawmakers have volunteered to help with the secretariat, like representatives Jorge Banal, Dina Abad and Irwin Alcala.
“As impeachment manager, my primary task is to keep the coffee hot, tummies filled, morale of prosecutors high. We’ll make sure everybody will have a working, but meaningful Christmas,” he said.
Nonetheless, he expressed hopes Corona will still resign during the break. “If he resigns during break, it saves a lot of money.”