For 2nd time, SC asserts judicial privilege

Rappler.com
The new resolution is a stern reminder to Court officials and employees

Clerk of court Enriqueta Vidal is barred from releasing records to the impeachment court

MANILA, Philippines – Amid speculations on whether or not Chief Justice Renato Corona would appear in his own trial, the Supreme Court has reiterated that justices and court employees could neither testify on internal matters nor release confidential records.

In a resolution issued on February 28 in relation to the ongoing trial of the chief justice, the SC stressed that judicial privilege must be observed.

The High Court first raised this in a resolution dated February 14, where the majority ruled that justices and court personnel are “duty-bound to observe the privileged communication and confidentiality rules if the integrity of the administration of justice were to be preserved.” 

This tied the hands of the impeachment court and the prosecution. The latter had wanted justices to testify at the trial.

In its new resolution dated February 28, the SC said that judicial privilege belongs to the Court “as an institution, not to any individual justice, official or employee.”

The SC also said that documents related to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should not have been submitted to the impeachment court.

Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal earlier provided the impeachment court with the said records, which include a logbook showing the time stamp of the TRO issuance, the special power of attorney filed by Arroyo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, and a logbook showing the time of receipt of the dissenting opinion of Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno on the Nov. 22, 2011 SC resolution.

The prosecution has accused Corona of “distorting” an SC resolution that initially ruled that the TRO could not take effect because Mrs Arroyo had not fully complied with its requirements. This was explained in detail in Sereno’s dissent. (The TRO allowed Mrs Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad; this was defied by the government.)

The prosecution also wanted to prove that Corona had a hand in the extension of office hours on Nov. 15, 2011, in order to allow Arroyo to leave that day, thus its request for the logbook.

The prosecution argued that these instances would show that Corona is partial toward Arroyo, his former superior. Corona had served as Arroyo’s chief of staff, presidential legal counsel and spokesman.

Break

The ongoing trial is on a break. It will resume on March 12, when the defense is expected to present its own evidence to convince the court to acquit the impeached chief justice.

The prosecution earlier asked Sereno to testify. She declined the invitation, saying it was already rendered moot and academic by its decision to rest its case.

The defense has not ruled out the possiblity that Corona would testify in his own trial. – Rappler.com

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