Enrile rejects witness, slams prosecution

Rappler.com
It's the first time that the impeachment court denied the presentation of a prosecution witness

MANILA, Philippines – Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday, February 21, slammed the prosecution for what he described as their attempt to introduce new evidence against charges that they never made clear in the first place.

On Day 21 of the Corona impeachment trial, Prosecutor Rep. Sherwin Tugna presented their witness for Article 3 of the Articles of Impeachment, Enrique Javier, vice president for sales of the Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Article 3 questions the probity, competence and independence of Chief Justice Renato Corona and charged him with culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust on the following grounds:

1.) That Corona allowed the Supreme Court to “act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases;”

2.) That Corona caused the creation of “excessive entanglement with Mrs Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office;”

3.) That Corona “[discussed] with litigants regarding cases pending before the Supreme Court.”

The prosecution wanted to present the PAL executive to testify on the free plane tickets that PAL management allegedly granted Corona and wife. The SC decisions on the labor dispute between PAL and its pilots’ union is one of the “flip-flopping” cases cited in the impeachment complaint.

But Enrile bristled at this, saying the prosecution never mentioned the tickets and free travel in their complaint.

Indeed, the plane tickets and the use of the platinum card are not in the title or the body of the complaint filed against Corona.

Tugna, as well as private prosecutor Marlon Manuel, argued that Javier’s testimony would show that Corona received free travel benefits from PAL while a case involving the company was pending with the High Tribunal.

Bribery

But Enrile declared: “It is not relevant to Article 3.”

He said, “Are you expanding the coverage of this article? This court will not allow the expansion of this article, unless you amend it. So ordered.”

Enrile said that if the prosecution wanted to amend the articles, they can do so by returning the complaint for another round of approval by the House of Representatives.

Tugna said they did not intend to amend the complaint.

“You’re wasting the time of this court,” an angry Enrile said.

The presiding officer explained: “You’re asking us to review the decisions of the Supreme Court. You’re in effect alleging bribery, receipt of gifts,” which he noted are not part of the original complaint that was filed by the prosecution with the impeachment court. “You’re in effect alleging a crime, which we have to evaluate…whether it is a high crime.”

Private prosecutor Manuel then moved to have the documents brought by Javier to the court be marked, which Enrile approved.

Manuel thus was able to mention the trips made by Corona and wife, using a PAL platinum card, to various cities such as Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore, Guam, Honolulu, and others.

But after his recitation of the travels, Enrile said: “The evidence is nothing.”

The session was suspended for a few minutes.

When it resumed, lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr tried to again argue for the prosecution, but he was cut short by Enrile. “This is not a technicality,” said the presiding officer. Enrile claimed he’s had enough, citing previous instances when the impeachment court was lenient toward the prosecution.

Eventually, the prosecution called for an adjournment of the trial. It resumes on Wednesday, February 22. – Rappler.com

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