MANILA, Philippines - Memo to Supreme Court: Don't let the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona be another "Hello, Garci."
This is the appeal of Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares to the Supreme Court after it received petitions to stop Corona's trial in the Senate.
In an interview, Colmenares warned against stopping or delaying the impeachment process now that it has reached the Upper House. He noted that any move to stop the trial would prevent the truth from coming out.
"Our appeal is since the complaint is already before the Senate, let the Senate decide. If the SC issues a TRO, I doubt if the decision will have credibility. I think majority of the people will say: 'Ah, lutong macao kasi chief justice.' Useless lang yung TRO," he said.
Colmenares said the impeachment trial recalls the investigation on the "Hello, Garci" wiretapping scandal, which allegedly linked former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to a conspiracy to rig the May 2004 presidential election.
Mrs. Arroyo apologized on nationwide TV for calling a poll commissioner during the election but denied rigging the polls. She later issued Executive Order 464, which prevented top government officials, including military officers, from testifying in all congressional investigations.
Colmenares said the invocation of "executive privilege" prevented many government officials during Arroyo's term, including then SSS chairman Romulo Neri, from testifying in Congress.
"The people want to see a finish to this issue. We don't want this to be another Hello Garci...na parang walang nangyari. If you issue a TRO, pahabain mo on technical grounds and people don't know what happened, I don't think people will like it. Kasi parang ina-avoid pa rin yung katotohanan and accountability through the use of technical or other supposed powers ng SC," he said.
He added many people want to see if it is true that Corona favored Mrs. Arroyo after he was appointed to the Supreme Court.
"Did the Chief Justice in his long line of decisions favoring Gloria Arroyo, was it an innocent reading of the evidence, the law or the Constitution or was it a conscious effort to protect former president Arroyo or to let her escape from accountability?"
The party-list congressman also rejected the move by Corona's lawyers to call for a preliminary investigation of the complaint before the trial could continue.
He said there was no need for a preliminary probe since the impeachment process is not a judicial proceeding.
"Malinaw sa Constitution at mga rules that the impeachment does not involve criminal sanction. The only sanction is removal from office. Questionable pa nga kung pati retirement benefits or pension pwede ma-forfeit eh...Of course it's the Senate's discretion but pampa-delay eh. In fact, para sa amin mas maganda matapos ito as soon as possible," he said.
Corona's lawyers earlier filed a motion for a preliminary hearing at the Senate. A preliminary hearing will allow the senator-judges to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to hold the trial.
House prosecutors have called the move a delaying tactic. They said if the Senate approves Corona's request, the impeachment trial will not be able to start immediately.