MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez was supposed to testify on Tuesday, March 13 in the impeachment trial against Chief Justice Renato Corona, according to lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas.
This despite a resolution from the High Court prohibiting SC justices and employees from testifying.
Marquez’ possible testimony follows the appearance on Tuesday of an SC employee, chief judicial staff officer Araceli Bayuga, before the impeachment court.
Taking the witness stand, Bayuga enumerated the income and allowances that Corona has received since he was appointed associate justice in 2002 (Corona became chief justice in 2010).
Bayuga said Corona got P21-M in salaries and allowances from 2002-2011. Only P5.87-M constituted his salary though; the rest were allowances and bonuses. (Read our story on Corona’s allowances here.)
Bayuga’s testimony prompted Sen Francis Pangilinan to ask if the SC was being “selective” in allowing those who can testify or not, following the Tribunal’s Feb.14 resolution barring Court employees and officials from testifying before the impeachment court. If justices or employees would like to appear before the impeachment court, the resolution requires them to seek clearance from the SC first.
“We now have an issue where the Supreme Court, whose Chief Justice is on trial in the impeachment court, can decide who can or cannot appear in the proceedings. Araceli Bayuga, an employee of the SC, was allowed to testify in defense of the Chief Justice, yet the driver, process server and security guard subpoenaed have not been allowed to appear,” Pangilinan said.
The impeachment court previously asked the SC to subpoena a driver, process server and security guard to testify on Article 7. Prosecutors wanted to prove that the SC extended its office hours on Nov 15, 2011 to allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to meet all the conditions attached to the TRO granted her.
The SC denied the impeachment court’s request.
After Tuesday’s trial, the prosecution said there seems to be a “double standard” on the matter of SC employees testifying before the impeachment court.
“Mukhang si Midas Marquez ay magiging witness din. Talagang klarong-klaro po. Bakit sa defense okay pero sa amin sa prosecution hindi?” prosecution spokesperson Rep Sonny Angara said. (It looks like Marquez will also be a witness. This is very clear. Why is the defense allowed [to present witnesses from the SC] but the prosecution was not?)
Marquez previously said that only the Court can decide if it will waive its right to judicial privilege. “If we’re going to follow the Feb. 14 resolution, the judicial privilege belongs to the Court and therefore it is only the Court that can waive the privilege. It does not belong to any justice or any official alone. Only the court can waive such privilege,” he said.
The defense listed Marquez as one of its witnesses on Articles 6 and 7 of the impeachment complaint. But the prosecution had already dropped Article 6 from its charges. Article 7 touches on Corona’s purported partiality toward Mrs Arroyo.
Bayuga told Rappler that she was informed only on Tuesday morning that she will be testifying.
When asked if she had to seek clearance from the SC, she did not comment, referring us instead to the defense counsels.
Defense spokeswoman Karen Jimeno said Bayuga’s testimony did not delve anyway on the internal deliberations of the Court. Marquez agreed, saying Bayuga did not discuss privileged communication. – Rappler.com