MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III believes his alter ego’s testimony is valid even if the Senate declared part of it hearsay.
In an ambush interview on Friday, February 24, Aquino said senator-judges should still accept the testimony of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Aquino said De Lima had no other choice but to cite the dissenting opinion of his first appointee to the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“You’re not a member of the Supreme Court, not a Justice, not a part of the deliberations. The only thing you can use as basis is the copy of their (justices) opinions …. So what’s the best way to know the truth?”
“I think there’s validity in her testimony that can be considered under the political dimension of the impeachment process,” Aquino said in Filipino.
On days 22 and 23 of the trial, De Lima said Corona played a special role in the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order to allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to escape prosecution last year.
The bulk of De Lima’s testimony relied on Sereno’s dissenting opinion. Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile declared as hearsay the part of the testimony concerning the truth or falsity of the allegations against Corona.
Aquino believes though that De Lima’s testimony should not be dismissed.
“When you say hearsay, the impression is that it’s not admissible but let’s go back to the nature of the impeachment process that it’s also slightly political.”
‘It’s not yet over’
Aquino is also not worried about the decision of the prosecution team to drop three charges under Article 3 of the impeachment complaint.
“The trial is not yet over. We still have Article 7. You have to remember that after all the eight articles, you only have to convict [Corona] on one [article], to have him convicted and removed from office.”
The prosecution announced the decision to drop several charges under Article 3 a day after Enrile rejected what it calls a pivotal witness, Enrique Javier, Philippine Airlines vice president for sales.
Article 3 accused Corona of violating the constitution and betraying the public trust by failing to live up to the provision that a justice must be of “proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”
The allegations the prosecution dropped under Article 3 are:
1) The respondent created an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office
Props to prosecutors
Aquino also commended the prosecutors for their work on Article 2 despite criticisms from the senator-judges.
Article 2 alleges that Corona violated the Constitution and betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
“I think the prosecutors have done really very well. They’ve managed to unearth other alleged properties and net worth. They have unearthed cash which is significantly different from that which was stated under oath in the SALN.”
Aquino also reiterated his criticism of Corona for failing to disclose his SALN. He said while Corona submitted his SALN to the Supreme court, this was kept in a filing cabinet.
“I understand that a locked filing cabinet or a vault does not constitute a member of the public.”
Corona and his lawyers, however, have explained that the SALN was not disclosed to the public because of a Supreme Court resolution restricting the release of the SALNs of justices.
The Chief Justice and his team have also criticized Aquino for discussing the merits of the case, intervening in the trial, and allegedly pressuring and bribing senator-judges to convict Corona.
Aquino and his allies have pushed for Corona’s impeachment, calling him a stumbling block to his campaign promise to hold Arroyo accountable, and to reform the judiciary. – Rappler.com