MANILA, Philippines – Will Majority Leader Rep. Neptali Gonzales II be the third person to be cited in contempt of court by the Senate?
Lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona filed a motion asking the Senate to cite in contempt of court Majority Leader Mandaluyong Rep Neptali Gonzales II. The motion is in relation to the alleged threats he made to Navotas Rep Tobias Tiangco, warning him against testifying for the defense.
The defense team filed the motion on March 13, Tuesday, a day after Tiangco testified on the alleged railroading of the impeachment complaint.
In an interview before the trial, defense counsel Jose “Judd” Roy III said Corona’s lawyers decided on the measure after a long meeting Monday night.
“Although Congressman Gonzales is saying now that he was merely advising Congressman Tiangco, I think Congressman Tiangco has made it very clear that he perceived those statements to be a threat and if that is the case, obviously, defense counsels are being hampered in their efforts to present our case.”
Prior to the testimony of Tiangco, Gonzales warned him against dishonoring the House in his testimony. Gonzales said this may “constitute disorderly behavior and warrant disciplinary action such as expulsion.”
Tiangco and defense lawyers took exception to the statement, saying Gonzales should not threaten witnesses.
“The motion is intended both to protect and vindicate Cong. Tiangco as our witness and more importantly, to protect the rights of Chief Justice Corona and defense counsel,” said Roy.
He explained though that the motion is “simply a routine matter” that the panel wants to bring before the attention of the impeachment court.
Reprimand for Roy
Gonzales is not the first to face contempt charges in the trial.
Private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre was cited in contempt by the court on February 29, for covering his ears while senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago was making a manifestation. Instead of a fine or jail time, he was let off with an admonition.
On Monday, March 12, another lawyer was cited in contempt. This time it was Roy who faced indirect contempt charges for claiming that Malacañang offered each senator-judge P100 million to defy a Supreme Court temporary restraining order on Corona’s dollar accounts.
Roy said the motion to cite Gonzales in contempt was not meant to spread the blame.
“Ang kadamay ko ang defense counsel …. We stand together. If I am to take the penalty for the defense counsel, it is my honor to do so.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile announced Tuesday that Roy will be reprimanded for the statements he made in a press conference last month.
“What he said was serious, he was accusing us of accepting bribes,” Enrile said in Filipino. “He will be reprimanded. The reprimand will be entered into the record. That’s enough.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the reprimand will be part of Roy’s records as a lawyer.
Asked why it was only Roy that the Senate cited in contempt of court, Lacson responded, “Siya nagsabi ng P100-M, iyan naka-assign sa kanya sabihin eh malas niya.” (He was the one who mentioned the P100-M, maybe that was assigned to him. That’s his misfortune.)
In response, Roy said, “Whatever penalty is something we feel very sadly about.”
Roy insisted that the defense’s allegations were not directed at the senators but at the Palace. He said it was not the team’s intention to attack the impeachment court.
Yet, Roy has no regrets for what the panel did.
“We maintain that we have behaved within the best standards of the profession, that we exercised the best judgment and we stand by what we did as something that was necessary to do at that time.” – Rappler.com