Lawmaker to testify vs House colleagues

Rappler.com
A former administration ally, Navotas Rep Tobias Tiangco admits he volunteered to testify for the defense

DEFENSE WITNESS. Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco is the first witness of the defense. Photo from www.congress.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker admitted he will testify before the impeachment court on Monday, March 12, against his colleagues in the House of Representatives. 

Navotas Rep Tobias “Toby” Tiangco confirmed reports that he will be a witness for the defense panel. In an interview on radio dzBB on Monday, Tiangco said he will be the first witness for the defense.

“Yes, yes your honor. Kusang-loob po.” (Yes, I am volunteering to testify.)

Tiangco is expected to testify on the allegedly defective and unverified impeachment complaint, which the House approved on Dec. 12, 2011.

He did not sign the impeachment complaint and left the majority coalition, criticizing the supposed railroading of the complaint.

Tiangco explained that he is a volunteer witness as compared to two other lawmakers who said they will need a subpoena before testifying. These are Batangas Rep Hermilando Mandanas and Cavite Rep Jesus Crispin Remulla. The two also did not sign the impeachment complaint.

“The difference with me is that I delivered a privilege speech [on the complaint]. When you do that, you have parliamentary immunity,” Tiangco said in Filipino. “So I just don’t want my detractors in Congress to say that my speech was not true because I cannot stand by it under oath.”

He added, “I want to prove that what I said was true and I was not lying. I will testify under oath. That’s all.” 

‘Majority leader bullying me’

In the interview, Tiangco also took exception to media statements of Majority Leader Rep. Neptali Gonzales II.

Gonzales warned Tiangco and other lawmakers against dishonoring the House in their testimony. Gonzales said this may “constitute disorderly behavior and warrant disciplinary action such as expulsion.”

In response, Tiango said, “Is volunteering to testify in a legal process considered a hostile act?”

Hindi naman ako manggugulo doon, unruly behavior. Sino ho ba ang unruly behavior dito, ‘yung nananakot o ako na pupunta doon?” (I will not cause disorder there. Who is committing unruly behavior here, the one threatening or I who will testify?)

Tiangco said that while Gonzales and other prosecutors claim they are not threatening him, their statements show otherwise. 

“They say they are not threatening me but what are they doing? That’s threatening a witness. [Rep. Gonzales] is a lawyer, he knows he cannot threaten a witness. Maybe he shouldn’t just be expelled from the house, maybe he should also be disbarred because he is threatening a witness.”

Moot and academic?

Gonzales and prosecutors earlier dismissed the testimony of Tiangco and possibly other lawmakers.

They said the issue on the impeachment complaint is already moot and academic after the Senate denied a defense motion for preliminary hearing early on in the trial.

Corona’s counsels, however, said they will present their “affirmative defense” to show that the lawmakers who impeached Corona did not comply with the Constitutional requirement of verification.

Defense counsels said the impeachment process allows an affirmative defense, where additional facts not part of the complaint may be presented to help the case.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the impeachment court will be liberal and allow the presentation of some House members as witnesses.

The impeachment trial resumes at 2pm after a week-long break. – Rappler.com