MANILA, Philippines – He’s a prosecutor defending a complaint that he himself has not signed.
Last week, he walked out on the prosecution panel when they refused to allow him to take the floor.
And on his second appearance as a prosecutor on Tuesday, February 7, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas admitted to the impeachment court what his colleagues would never dare say: that the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Renato Corona was poorly crafted.
Caught in a legal tussle with Presiding Office Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile over the propriety of calling Supreme Court justices to testify in the ongoing trial, Fariñas was confronted with a question by senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada: did he sign the complaint in the first place?
Fariñas conceded what’s already common knowledge: no, he didn’t.
His explanation amused many.
“Mabagal po kasi akong bumasa e… Ang mga kasamahan ko sa Kongreso, maraming speed reader dyan e. Dahil sobra-sobra naman po yung pumirma na, 188, hindi na kailangan na pirma ko,” said Fariñas. (I am a slow reader. My colleagues in Congress are speed readers. Because those who signed are more than enough, 188, my signature was no longer necessary.)
And then here’s the clincher: “Saka medyo masama din po kasi pagkagawa ng complaint. Hindi na lang ho ako pumirma,” he added. (The complaint was also really badly written, and so I did not sign.) Everyone roared in laughter.
It was a remark he was forced to explain after the trial. He blamed the Supreme Court for the rush that the House of Representatives took in impeaching the Chief Justice.
Fariñas said there was a fear among congressmen that SC would TRO the impeachment proceedings the way they did during the impeachment trial of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
“It’s a clear and present danger,” said Fariñas. “Chief Justice ito e. Nangyari na yan kay Chief Justice Davide di ba?,” Fariñas said.
(Fariñas was referring to the attempt in 2003 to impeach then Chief Justice Hilario Davide. The High Court stepped in at the time after parties questioned the fact that another complaint against Davide was entertained even while the Justice Committee was already hearing a previously filed complaint before it against Davide and 7 associate justices of the Supreme Court.)
In the case of the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez, the House questioned the SC move and SC would later uphold the power of the House to hold impeachment proceedings. “But we had to wait for five months so we can proceed with the impeachment proceedings,” said Fariñas.
Prosecution spokesperson Romero Quimbo said they also rushed the complaint because of fears that they will be pre-empted by a “sham complaint.” The 1987 Constitution only allows one impeachment complaint against a constitutional officer every year.
Fariñas said there should be no doubt that he believes in the impeachment complaint.
“This is not a matter of beauty of the pleadings. It’s the content. I believe in the cause of action. I believe that there are valid grounds for impeachment. That’s why I agreed to become a prosecutor,” Farinas said.
Whether or not his fellow prosecutors resented his statements didn’t show.
After all, he’s one of the prosecutors assigned to defend and pursue Article 3, which is now being tackled by the impeachment court.
Some advisers of the prosecution panel have cautioned them against tapping Fariñas to lead the charge in the trial. They have described him as a “loose cannon” for various reasons: he does not belong to the Liberal Party (he’s a member of the Nacionalista Party and campaigned for Sen. Manny Villar in the 2010 presidential race); he is not part of the inner core that pushed for the impeachment; and he has his past, referring to old allegations of wife beating.
But they concede that the bar topnotcher is arguably one of the most articulate in the team.
At the press conference, colleagues in the prosecution team said Fariñas was only being honest.
“He is very candid. He was just being honest,” said prosecution spokesperson Juan Edgardo Angara.
It was refreshing, said Rep. Romero Quimbo. “In this day and age, there’s always a reward for brute honesty. I think it was a wake up call for everybody that we cannot be tied up with all these legal gobbledygook. We need to be able to say issues with all frankness. I think it’s refreshing,” Quimbo added. – With reports from Carmela Fonbuena / Rappler.com