Defense: What judge requests for subpoena?

Lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona say the bias of some senator-judges shows that the Senate overstepped its reach.

MANILA, Philippines – Not inhibiting? Just explain to the Supreme Court.

Lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona said that their client raised the alleged bias of some senator-judges before the Supreme Court to show that the Senate has abused its discretion.

The defense team explained on Tuesday, February 14, the supplemental petition Corona filed before the High Court accusing 6 senators of bias and aiding the prosecution.

“We expect the senator-judges to ask clarificatory questions or stand to ask about points of law,” said defense spokesperson Rico Quicho in a press conference. “But if a senator-judge stands and looks at the prosecution first then the witness and elicits what the prosecution failed to get, that’s different. It’s only here I saw a judge requesting for a subpoena.”

Defense counsels said that the bias of some senator-judges shows that the Senate overstepped its bounds as an impeachment court, and the Supreme Court has the power to review its actions. (For more on the debate on the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, read this.) 

Instead of asking the senators to inhibit, the defense team said it filed the petition because the Senate did not act on its previous motion to inhibit Sen. Franklin Drilon from the trial.

On Day 17 of the impeachment trial, lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas expressed his frustration when Drilon asked questions of witness Leonora Dizon, manager of the Ayala Avenue branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Cuevas said in court, “Some senators are not acting as judges but as private prosecutors!”

Cuevas said there is no remedy for the defense because he cannot object to the questions of a senator-judge. Enrile, however, said the rules do not give him the power to control senator-judges.

“Baseless, funny, propaganda”

Asked about Cuevas’ statement, Drilon told Rappler, “I expect that from him, it’s part of the propaganda but there is no truth to that. We are capable of looking at the case with impartiality.”

The senator also said he found it “funny” that Cuevas was objecting to the request for the monthly statements of accounts of Corona when it was the defense counsel who first requested for the documents but later withdrew the request.

“All that we are doing is following his request and asking the witness to bring the documents asked for by Atty. Cuevas. I found it a bit awkward for him to start arguing that these should not be presented. He was the one who asked for it.”

The Senate, acting upon Drilon’s request, ordered Dizon to bring the monthly statements of accounts from 2005 to 2010 for Corona’s checking account with BPI when the trial resumes on Wednesday, February 15.

LAUGHING STILL. Sen. Franklin Drilon shares a laugh with defense counsel Ramon Esguerra despite the defense panel's motion and petition accusing him of bias. Photo by Bernard Testa/ Pool

Drilon also dismissed the supplementary petition that Corona filed citing him as biased.

“To me, there is no basis. They used these grounds in their motion to inhibit. Now, they are using the same ground to stop the impeachment trial. The Supreme Court has no power to stop the impeachment trial,” he added.

“Subpoena like general warrant”

The defense tried but failed to have the subpoena for Corona’s bank accounts quashed.

During the trial, Cuevas likened the subpoena to a general search warrant and said it violates Corona’s right to due process. A general warrant does not indicate details of what must be covered by the search.

Cuevas responded to the question of Sen. Gregorio Honasan on whether or not the subpoena violated Corona’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The former Supreme Court justice argued that the subpoena did not specify the documents that must be presented to the court.

“It refers to various documents, current accounts, time deposits, certificates of deposits, settlement account, trust accounts, unit investment trust funds, mutual funds, any and all financial instruments offered by BPI Ayala branch in the name of the Chief Justice. If this is in the form of a warrant, there can be no question that this is a general warrant.”

The prosecution disagreed. The Senate ordered the defense and the prosecution to submit a legal memorandum in 5 days to settle the issue.

Yet Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago chided the two panels.

“In the first place, I don’t understand why we are discussing a search warrant. The court has not issued a search warrant. What search warrant are we talking about?! What we issued was a subpoena.” 

Enrile later on ruled that only bank documents related to the BPI bank account in the original subpoena must be produced. Dizon is expected to bring these records on Wednesday. –


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