MANILA, Philippines – It’s too late.
The impeachment court on Monday, March 12, dismissed the defense team’s plan to question the validity of the impeachment complaint filed by the House of Representatives.
The defense team was planning to present witnesses who could help strengthen their point that the House of Representatives railroaded the filing of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona.
At the resumption of the trial Monday, March 12, Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that the court has already assumed jurisdiction over the case, pointing out that the prosecution has even rested its case.
It’s the defense panel’s turn to present its own evidence, Enrile said.
“It is the opinion of this court [that] it is too late to question [the] verification [of the complaint] at this point,” according to Enrile.
The ruling triggered a prolonged and heated debate.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas insisted that the court has not established probable cause to charge Corona. Thus, the defense has the right to question the basis of the complaint, he added.
He said that if the impeachment court is unable to establish probable cause against Corona, then the court has “no jurisdiction” over the case.
At this point, Enrile warned Cuevas that pursuing the matter would cause a clash betwen the High Tribunal and the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
But senator-judges Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, and Joker Arroyo took turns in telling Cuevas that he was way out of line. They said he was in effect asking the impeachment court to dismiss the complaint filed by the House, 8 weeks into the trial.
Cayetano stressed that the Consitution grants the House not only the sole power to impeach officials but also to, on a vote of one-thirds of its total members, pass, verify and file an impeachment complaint with the Senate.
But Cuevas insisted that continuing the trial on the basis of a flawed complaint violates his client’s constitutional right. “Where do we go? Where do we appeal?” asked Cuevas.
Sen Arroyo said: “In this case the Senate has already acquired jurisdiction…you could have brought that to the Supreme Court before the Senate acted on it.”
Cuevas said they had no time in December, after the impeachment complaint was filed. “It was a blitzkrieg action…it’s like being by thunder.”
Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also raised the fact that the defense already has a pending motion with the Supreme Court, asking it precisely to nullify the complaint.
In the end, Enrile ruled that since the Senate has the sole jurisdiction over the case and has adhered to due process, the defense should drop its motion and just proceed with presenting its evidence.
Despite the verdict, the defense managed to still present Navotas Rep Tobias “Toby” Tiangco, who earlier said he will be testifying on how the House of Representatives railroaded the filing of the complaint.
Tiangco was still testifying as of posting.
Prosecution spokesperson Rep Romero “Miro” Quimbo accused the defense of “forum shopping,” and expressed surprise that Corona’s counsels have so far decided not to address the merits of the case. – Rappler.com