MANILA, Philippines – To wait or not to wait for Chief Justice Renato Corona?
Senator-judges hold a caucus at noon Wednesday, May 23, to discuss whether or not to wait for Corona to recover, and to return to the witness stand.
The Chief Justice is in the intensive care unit of Medical City in Pasig and his doctors recommended that he should stay in the facility for 48 more hours.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called the caucus after being informed early Wednesday that Corona is in the ICU.
Senators told reporters they are set to discuss how to go about with the impeachment trial considering the May 31 deadline that they set to finish the proceedings.
“I’m sure this has put us all in a quandary because it is unclear how we will proceed,” said Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Marcos said the decision made in a caucus on Tuesday, May 22, was that Corona’s opening statement will be stricken out of the record if he refuses to testify. Marcos, though, said the Senate has not considered what would happen if Corona is unable to return.
“I think his being ill qualifies as force majeure so I don’t know how the court is going to handle it now that’s why we have a sudden caucus.”
Asked about the doctors’ 48-hour recommendation, Marcos said, “That will be a long delay because that’s two days that the impeachment court will not be doing anything. We have to decide: will we wait for him or not?”
The Senate set the May 31 deadline to enable the body to attend to its legislative work.
Senate planned to vote Tuesday
Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the impeachment court will wait for the report of Senate doctor Mariano Blancha on Corona’s medical condition.
Enrile ordered Blancha to check how Corona is doing. The Senate doctor carried visited Corona Wednesday morning.
Sotto said there are no hard and fast rules on how long the Senate should wait for Corona.
“I don’t know but we were ready to vote by Tuesday (May 29) at the latest, maybe even Monday. We were supposed to be ready to vote after the closing arguments that we want scheduled on Monday. That was the plan.”
Sotto said the senators will decide in caucus whether that timetable will now change.
Marcos said the Senate is not keen on conducting the trial during the congressional break, which starts on June 8.
“There will have to be a special session but a special session is only called in time of grave emergency and to conduct the legislative business of the Senate. This is not legislative business. I don’t know if you can call it a grave emergency. The impeachment trial is neither,” he said.
‘Not faking it’
Marcos, however, said he does not believe Corona is faking his illness.
“Napakagaling naman niya masyado kung inatake niya ang sarili niya para lang hindi siya ma-cross-examine. I don’t think that’s it. I think the stress just got to him.” (He’s so good if he was able to face a possible heart attack just so he won’t be cross-examined.)
“And do you blame him? Just think, this is 5 months. This is the culmination of 5 months of stress for him and his family. You won’t be surprised that it affected him.”
‘Walkout destroyed Corona script’
Senators also said they were offended when Corona left the Session hall without being granted permission.
His lawyers, though, refused to call the episode a walkout, saying he had to leave because his blood sugar dropped.
Sen Edgardo Angara told reporters Corona could have asked permission, and the court will readily grant this, especially if he cited health reasons.
“I think all of us were offended, maybe in varying degrees because we didn’t expect that after we bent backwards to allow him that kind of accommodation that he can tell his story without interruption.”
Angara added, “Of course, we recognize he’s the Chief Justice. But he said, ‘I’m the Chief Justice. I want to be excused’ and stood up and walked out without even asking permission.”
Sotto agreed that Corona’s action did not sit well with the senator-judges.
“Nakasira ng script so to speak,” (It destroyed the script) he said. “So far so good eh. The testimony was very explosive, very important but it would always be subject to a cross-examination …. Until the cross-examination is done, we cannot weigh the statements made or the testimony made.” – Rappler.com