The Impeachment trial is tomorrow, Monday January 16, 2012.
To keep myself in the loop, I’ve decided to search all over the Internet and compile all the information I deemed pertinent to keep me abreast of all the facts and issues so that when I seat down and listen to the trial proceedings, I won’t be caught uninformed.
Here are some of the many information available online, with some editing and added opinions of my own, and arranged in a way I find more streamlined and conducive to easier understanding – minus some of the hype.
I’ll get back to all of these and insert clearer facts and “subtract” redundant or erroneous entries.
Of course, add my illustrations which I am very fond of. For the meantime, I am sorry to bore you with all the lengthy text.
Weak and defective
In his 80-page answer to the Articles of Impeachment, Corona stressed that he “has no control over any Justice of the Supreme Court.”
“The decision of the Supreme Court, either by division or en banc, is a result of the deliberative process and voting among the Justices. Each Justice has the prerogative to write and voice his separate or dissenting opinion. A concurrence of the majority, however, is needed to decide any case,” Corona, in his Answer, said.
However, Corona said that the impeachment case against him should be dismissed outright “for failing to meet the requirements of the Constitution, or that the Impeachment Court enter a judgment of acquittal for all the Articles of impeachment.”
While he acknowledges the fact that the impeachment is a political proceedings, Corona, through his lawyers, said that it is being used so that the Aquino administration will have a “friendly court” that will rule on his favor.
“Ensuring political advantage would amply justify the allegation that President Aquino seeks to subjugate the Supreme Court,” Corona’s reply said.
“What we have before us, then, is a complaint born out of the bias against CJ Corona and the predisposition to destroy him by associating him with the unpopular former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo…What we also have are hidden forces who will be benefited by CJ Corona’s ouster and who are conspiring and causing intrigue behind the scene to ensure his removal and their re-emergence into power to the detriment of the Bench, Bar and the populace,” Corona’s reply said.
Here is a copy of Corona’s Answer:
While here is the Replyof the Prosecutors:
“Weak and defective” was how prosecutors of the House of Representatives described yesterday the answer of Chief Justice Renato Corona to the impeachment complaint filed against him with the Senate.
Speaking for the prosecution panel, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo said Corona’s answer does not even have his signature.
“It also lacks what lawyers call ‘verification,’ in which a respondent swears that he is telling the truth and that his statements in his answer are of his personal knowledge.
Verification is a cardinal requirement in all court proceedings, including an impeachment trial.
“Because this important part of his answer to the complaint is missing, we will not be able to hold the Chief Justice liable for perjury if he is found lying in any of his allegations in his answer,” Quimbo said.
At the same time, Quimbo said the prosecution panel is urging Corona to go on leave “so he would not be suspected of using or misusing court personnel and resources for his defense.”
Quimbo said SC administrator Midas Marquez sounded as if he was Corona’s defense lawyer instead of a spokesman for the high court.
“The Chief Justice should go on leave to spare the court and so that he can concentrate on his defense,” Quimbo said.
He said the panel would raise the issue on the missing Corona signature and verification during the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial.
“But we will not dwell on this at length because we want to proceed with the eight specific charges. And based on our assessment of his answer, we are confident of getting a conviction,” Quimbo said.
“One proof that we have a strong case is the fact that CJ Corona has hired the most expensive defense lawyers in town,” he added.
He said he was wondering why defense lawyers, who presented Corona’s answer to the Senate, failed to have the respondent sign the document and submit a verification, also known in legal language as jurat.
“It cannot be that the document they presented to the Senate is the answer of the respondent’s lawyers and that the respondent could disown it. That cannot be the case,” he said.
He conceded that the Senate impeachment rules are silent on whether a signature and verification are needed, but stressed that these are required under the Rules of Court, which the impeachment court will use in addition to its own rules.
He pointed out that Corona considers verification so important that he devoted 16 pages of his 79-page answer to questioning whether congressmen read and understood the impeachment complaint they filed against him.
“But he failed to name even one witness to support his contention that the complaint was not properly verified. Even if one, two or 50 signatories will admit that they did not read the complaint, that won’t matter because I am sure that we have at least 95, or one-third of House members, who have read the complaint and understood it,” he said.
He said the prosecution panel would dispute in detail the respondent’s allegations in a comment it would submit to the Senate within five days.
For his part, House prosecution team member Neri Colmenares said Corona’s answer “is weak and failed to argue against the jurisdiction of the Senate.”
“So we will argue that the trial should proceed because the Senate has jurisdiction, and that the claim that the Chief Justice cannot be convicted merely because the decisions listed in the complaint were collegial is absurd because the Constitution requires that each Supreme Court justice be independent and impartial,” he said.
“Therefore, any justice proven to be biased or partial in favor of a party to a case may be impeached even if the decision is collegial. The issue is whether the Chief Justice was biased in favor of Arroyo when he immediately scheduled the Arroyos’ TRO (temporary restraining order) petition and voted to grant it despite non-fulfillment of its three conditions,” he said.
Colmenares pointed out that the other justices’ possible partiality to the Arroyos cannot make Corona’s own partiality justifiable, hence he can still be convicted for such infraction.
To help the prosecution team, lead public prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. announced that they have engaged the services of Mario Bautista as lead private prosecutor/counsel.
“Bautista is a well respected and principled veteran lawyer. He has an impeachment trial experience in the Estrada Senate trial as lawyer for witness Clarissa Ocampo. He shall have overall supervision over volunteer lawyers who will handle the eight Articles of Impeachment,” he said.
Quimbo said Bautista would coordinate the prosecution panel’s overall strategy. He added that the lead private prosecutor would be rendering his services for free.
Swift trial sought
As the Senate – convened as an impeachment court – prepares to hear Corona’s case, opposition Sen. Joker Arroyo said he sees the trial lasting no more than a month, that is if the prosecutors and the judges can keep themselves from grandstanding.
“Unless the parties meander into extraneous matters and grandstand and the Senate tolerates it, the trial should be straightforward and brief,” Arroyo said.
“The people and the government have other more important things to attend to rather than get fixated on the trial’s entertainment value,” Arroyo pointed out.
He said Corona’s impeachment trial may be easier to finish since the eight Articles of Impeachment prepared against him “are not complicated at all.” He said even the impeachment trial of former US president Bill Clinton was concluded in 33 days with his acquittal.
Arroyo, then as congressman, was a member of the prosecution team during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2000.
Arroyo explained that the Articles of Impeachment against the Chief Justice were based on public documents, including published decisions of the Supreme Court; the proceedings of the Judicial and Bar Council; and the two temporary restraining orders issued by the SC.
“The authenticity of the text of the Supreme Court decisions and rulings cannot be contested, although the prosecutors and the defense may argue over its implications,” Arroyo said. “The allegations in the Articles of Impeachment revolve mainly around questions of law and hardly over facts. Questions of law are resolved on the basis of the legal arguments of each side. Questions of fact are resolved through evidence, testimonial or documentary,” he added.
Other documents that may have to be presented during the trial are Corona’s Statements of Assets and Liabilities, the Judiciary Development Fund and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary.
“Chief Justice Corona has filed his answer to the House’s Articles of Impeachment. With that, the issues are joined as it is called in procedural law, meaning each party’s position has been defined and the issues controverted,” Arroyo said.
“With that, the Senate should be able to make a ruling, whether it is conviction or acquittal and finish the trial in one month,” he added.
Arroyo said he is worried about how politicians and lawyers in the impeachment trial would behave in the presence of media, or specifically in front of television cameras.
As agreed upon by the senators before they went on Christmas break, the impeachment trial would be from Monday to Thursday at 2 p.m. Regular sessions would only be on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday mornings would be reserved for the confirmation hearings of the Commission on Appointments.
“The Clinton trial, where the US senators did not wear togas, was not covered entirely by national TV. The US Senate decided on what could be televised and what would not be televised,” Arroyo said.
Php 5 million budget
Aside from its expected pressures on the Senate’s schedule, the impeachment trial of Corona is also expected to cost the chamber P5 million to be drawn from the Senate president’s budget, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III revealed.
Sotto said the amount had been set aside initially for the impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, but due to her resignation the money remained untouched.
The P5 million will initially be used for the procurement of equipment like computers, and for overtime pay of employees, additional food, and other miscellaneous expenses.
“I am talking off my hat… that’s what I know as of now,” said Sotto. “I am reviewing the rules for now. Why will I let the impeachment ruin my Christmas break? I’ll not let it bother me until (Congress resumes) Jan. 16.”
Sotto said he is optimistic the trial will be as “short as two months…” and “as long as six months.”
“(It may take) as long as six months, we would rather have it shortened. My own target, in my opinion, we should finish before the Easter break. That’s the ideal situation and we go back to legislation immediately afterwards,” Sotto added.
No to publicity warfare
Chief Justice Renato Corona yesterday vowed to answer allegations of corruption in his impeachment trial at the Senate, refusing to take part in “publicity warfare.”
Corona said he will let his lawyers address the insinuation of Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas that he had amassed ill-gotten wealth.
“I will refer it to my lawyers,” he told The STAR in a text message.
Corona said his lawyers led by retired Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas would disprove before the impeachment court allegations in all eight articles in the complaint, including graft charges arising from his refusal to make public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
“I have left those to my lawyers to do what has to be done,” he said.
Cuevas said the new allegations against Corona made by the House prosecution panel last Tuesday would not stand in the impeachment trial.
The rules of procedures provide that the prosecution cannot present evidence or new allegations that are not in the complaint, he added.
Cuevas cited the allegation that the Bellagio property was a gift for a favorable decision.
Cuevas said the graft charges remain as “conjectural and speculative allegations” since they do not have supporting evidence.
“They are really trying to demonize the CJ,” Cuevas told reporters.
“My honest opinion is it (public disclosure of the property) should not have been done because we are prohibited from discussing in public the merits and demerits of our respective articulation or postulation. That is in accordance to the rules of the Senate. By doing so, it’s like they are arguing this case before the public,” he said.
“Complainants speculate that Corona has not reported this in his SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) and that its price is beyond his income as a public official.
The questioned apartment is a conjugal property of Corona and his wife, Ma. Cristina, he added.
In its complaint filed last Dec. 12, the House prosecutors had alleged that the property could have come from ill-gotten wealth. However, they have yet to present proof.
Cuevas said the complainants speculate that Corona has not reported this in his SALN, and that its price is beyond his income as a public official.
“CJ Corona admits that he and his wife purchased on installment a 300-sq. m. apartment in Taguig, declared in his SALN when they acquired it,” he said.
However, Cuevas refused to discuss details of Corona’s answer in deference to a rule prohibiting parties in the impeachment trial from discussing merits of the case in public.
Cuevas vowed to question before the Senate impeachment the public presentation of evidence by the House prosecution panel.
“We will definitely invite the attention of the impeachment court that there should be some remedy of some sort to stop this kind of trial (by publicity),” he said. “It’s a violation of the very rules of the impeachment court.”
Why hire private lawyers?
Meanwhile, Corona’s lawyers are also questioning the House prosecution team’s plan to hire the services of private lawyers.
Cuevas said that based on impeachment rules of procedures, the House panel should be the “sole prosecutor” in the case.
“The House of Representatives shall act as the sole prosecutor at the trial in the Senate through a committee of 11 members thereof to be elected by a majority vote,” he said, quoting Rule VI, Section 15 of the House rules of procedure in impeachment proceedings.
“They’re saying they are prepared, that they are competent. Then why do they need private prosecutors?” Cuevas said in Filipino.
Cuevas said the House prosecution panel should not use as an excuse the participation of private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada.
“They are citing that (Estrada impeachment) as jurisprudence of precedent. How can that be when that was not terminated? That was not finished,” Cuevas argued.
“Aren’t (prosecutors) expected to comply with (House) rules first before rules of Senate?” another Corona lawyer, Dennis Manalo, asked in a separate interview.
The Chief Justice’s lawyers were reacting to the reported move of the House prosecution team to tap lawyer Mario Bautista as chief private prosecutor. It was Bautista, a private prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Estrada, who presented key witness Clarissa Ocampo before the Senate impeachment court. Ten private law firms have reportedly offered to help the prosecution panel.
Corona’s lawyers also rebuffed the prosecution panel’s allegation that they were delaying the impeachment proceedings with their plea for preliminary hearing in the Senate.
“They say we are delaying the proceedings… but that’s part of our answer and the law allows that,” he said.
“I would like to believe the first day will not proceed immediately on the trial of the merits. There are so many preliminaries that may take place and may eat up the agenda of the impeachment court of that day,” Cuevas said. “Second, we have alleged in our answer an affirmative defense.”
Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano said yesterday the Senate impeachment court has preempted a “creeping reign of terror” as a prelude to a revolutionary government when it openly declared that the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution will be strictly observed during the trial.
He said the Senate, which is the last bulwark of democracy, will put an end to any attempt of the administration to replicate the Cory Aquino revolutionary government, which abolished the Supreme Court and removed all duly elected officials.
Lozano is among the petitioners for certiorari and prohibition to declare void the impeachment complaint against Corona and prohibit the Senate from trying the complaint because of grave abuse of discretion.
He said once the SC issues an order “legal eagles” in the Senate will comply and uphold the rule of law instead of mob rule.
Lozano said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Vicente Sotto III warned that they will not allow any attempt to discredit the impeachment process.
He said the way Aquino and some of his advisers are defying the SC’s orders indicates that a “de facto revolutionary government” was already in place.
“The Senate can now flex its muscle as a court and discipline any party who want to derail the impeachment process,” he said.
Plea for dismissal very unlikely
The Senate is not likely to grant the plea of Chief Justice Renato Corona for an outright dismissal of the impeachment complaint filed against him. A trial will have to be held first, the impeachment court spokesperson said.
Valentina Cruz, Senate legal counsel, told reporters that senator-judges will decide on the impeachment case against Corona only after the defense and prosecution have presented their respective pieces of evidence in a trial.
She was reacting to questions about the reply submitted by Corona on Monday asking the Senate for an “outright dismissal” of the impeachment complaint filed by the House of Representatives against him.
“In this instance, since the Chief Justice is defending himself, it is…natural that he will pray for the dismissal of the complaint. But it doesn’t mean the Senate will act upon it just like that because the Senate has to conduct the trial,” Cruz said.
Corona said in his reply that the impeachment complaint against him should be dismissed because the charges are bereft of merit, adding that his impeachment was driven largely by the Liberal Party, the political party of President Benigno Aquino III.
But Cruz said the Senate could not decide Corona’s fate based on his answer alone. “They cannot definitely…because the statements and the answer are mere allegations so they have to be proven in the course of the trial, ” she said. ”When you file an answer you’re supposed to state what your arguments are but that is not yet the evidence, Cruz explained. “The evidence has to be presented during the trial.”
Cruz also described how the trial is expected to proceed. According to the rules of the impeachment trial, senator-judges have 2 minutes each to ask witnesses, and 10 minutes to argue over motions presented by either side, although these could be extended.
The Senate President, as the presiding officer, could rule on motions made by either party or refer them to the body instead. If there is an objection to the ruling of the Senate President, the senators would have to make a vote on the motion.
It’s all about Hacienda Luisita
This was Chief Justice Renato Corona’s answer when asked if his impeachment had something to do with the cases that President Benigno Aquino III had a personal interest in and which were decided unfavorably by the Supreme Court.
“It’s very clear that it’s the Hacienda Luisita [decision] that they want reversed. It’s very clear, nothing else,” Corona told reporters in an ambush interview after the eighth novena Mass held at the Supreme Court on Friday, sponsored by the Solidarity for Sovereignty group.
The high court unanimously voted to award Hacienda Luisita—a 6,400-hectare sugar estate owned by the family of President Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino—to its tenant farmers who had been demanding for decades that the property come under the agrarian reform program.
Corona, however, said he did not feel any reason to bear a grudge or to want revenge against Mr. Aquino and his congressional allies who voted to impeach him.
I forgive them
“I still adhere [to the principles] I grew up with as a Christian. I’m not angry at him. I hope that his mind will be cleared. I can’t think of getting angry at him or wanting to take revenge because that’s not what my parents taught me and that’s not what I learned in school. What I’ve learned and what was taught to me is to forgive all those who hurt me.
“If ever God wills that I’ll be acquitted, I’m telling them right now that I forgive them for what they did to me. I won’t even wait for the day I’m acquitted. Right now, I’m saying that I forgive them,” he added.
He also reiterated his resolve not to resign. “This battle has gone beyond me. What’s dominant here is the country’s fight for democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s why no Filipino who loves his country would resign with this kind of challenge,” he said.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. yesterday asked the public to discern the issue and not to immediately pass judgment on Corona.
Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Bacani said nothing was wrong when the prosecution team presented their evidence, like the P14.5-million penthouse unit at the Bellagio condominium in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, against Corona.
“That is legitimate,” he said. “If they have a case against him (Corona), they just have to prove it. In order to prove that, they need to have this investigated.”
However, Bacani said the public should not immediately believe these stories.
“For the people, (it does not mean) that just because the person is being investigated, he is already at fault,” he said.
“It is the responsibility of the people to be critical (thinkers) on the issue and not pass judgment unless it has already been proven (in court),” he added.
Meanwhile, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes believes that these revelations about Corona would be part of the impeachment case.
Bastes said with the developments, it appears that what Corona is facing is a political trial, not a court trial.
“That is why it is difficult if it is a political trial because all your enemies would be after you. That is how impeachment goes,” he said.
No distraction to economy
Meanwhile,Aquino’s focus on improving the economy will not be distracted by the impeachment process against Corona, the Palace said on Monday.
“It will not (distract the President) because primarily the impeachment has now been diverted to the Senate and the Senate will be the main focus of the impeachment trial,” Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
“The President is focused on the economy—that’s something that we can assure the Filipino people. As he has stated in his 2011 yearend message, we will improve the economy and we will continue to provide service to the poor,” he added.
Lacierda said the administration remains committed to its two-pronged approach of eradicating graft and corruption and improving the economy.
“The impeachment will not be a deterrent or will not be a distraction for the President—not at all,” Lacierda said.
The articles of impeachment against Corona are legion and richly deserved. The crux of them being, as one of the eight articles puts it, a monumental failure to live up to “the stringent constitutional standards that demand that a member of the judiciary be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.”
Corona has proven himself only, as specified by the other items on the laundry list, to be incompetent, dishonest, fraudulent and a lackey to his sponsor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
When Congress voted overwhelmingly to act on the presidential complaint and impeached Renato Corona, not surprisingly, allies of the previous Arroyo government are howling their heads off in opposition.
Joker Arroyo says “The derogation of our democratic institutions is almost complete with the emasculation of the House of Representatives, the violation of civil liberties, the impairment of the rule of law and now the destruction of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.”
But that actually better describes the Arroyo regime. Well, maybe not exactly since it understates the pits to which his own sponsor plunged this country. “Derogation of our democratic institutions” does not quite come close to capturing the enormity of “Hello, Garci.” Just as well, the “complete emasculation of the House” does not quite encompass what Arroyo’s representatives did to the impeachment complaint against her. That one, for all the lofty rhetoric that accompanied it, was just a pathetic version of MC Hammer’s classic rap, “Can’t Touch This.”
There are several instances of “the violation of civil liberties, the impairment of the rule of law, and the destruction of the judiciary” during Arroyo’s time but I would leave it to the people to supply their own examples. The guilty will suffer from an embarrassment of riches.
Corona may imagine he is John Paul Jones announcing to the world that he has just begun to fight, but to the people of this country he merely cuts the figure of an Arroyo clone. Arroyo was a fake president, Corona is a fake chief justice.
Arroyo became president by calling up Garci in the midnight hour, Corona became chief justice by being appointed by Arroyo in the midnight hour.
Arroyo was proclaimed president to the chirp of cicadas with no audience in attendance to protest or boo, Corona was proclaimed chief justice to the baying of dogs with no audience in attendance to rant or decry.
Arroyo refused to step down after being found out to have screwed the vote, brazening it out, fighting and clawing to keep her post. Corona has refused to step down after being found out to have screwed law, brazening it out, bristling and clawing like a cornered rat.
Arroyo was sent packing by an EDSA masquerading as an election. Corona will be sent packing by justice masquerading as an impeachment.
Both the individuality and totality of the acts of Corona showed that his ultimate goal was to protect his former boss and appointing power, former President Arroyo and her husband, from investigation and prosecution.
The impeachment trial would show that Corona’s acts were consciously intended to protect the erstwhile First Couple.
The Constitution is not just a piece of paper, like the one you find in toilets, to be used the way Arroyo’s justices have used it, and flushed afterward along with what they put on it. The Constitution is what constitutes the people. The Constitution is the flesh and blood of the people, the heart and soul of the people, the will and voice of the people. It does not exist to be bent by crooked judges, it exists to flail at crooked judges.
Just as well the separation of powers is not there to assure a division of spoils, each branch having its own preserve to rule like a fiefdom. The separation of powers is there to assure that each branch serves the people, each branch checking the other to make sure it is acting in the interest of the people and not merely its own. That is what Corona’s impeachment is all about. It makes sure the Supreme Court acts on behalf of Juan de la Cruz and not of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Corona and Gloria: They are the crowning glory of tyranny. Impeaching one and jailing the other:
That will be the crowning glory of P-Noy.