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MANILA, Philippines – The motions from the defense keep coming.
The defense panel of Chief Justice Renato Corona has become infamous for their objections on the stand, and now, also on paper.
Last week, on Day 7, they filed a motion to inhibit or disqualify Senator-judge Franklin Drilon. They said he is biased towards the prosecution, and has aided them several times in drawing out information and documents from witnesses.
A few days later, they filed two more motions to oppose the subpoena of the prosecution for Bank of the Philippines (BPI) and PS Bank officials, as well as Corona’s bank accounts and documents. The defense said such evidence relates to Article 2.4, Corona’s alleged ill-gotten wealth, an issue the impeachment court has ruled to exclude in the trial.
By Day 11, few were surprised when the defense submitted another motion, this time opposing the subpoena for Philippine Airlines (PAL) officials, as well as the PAL platinum cards for the Chief Justice and his wife Cristina. They said there was no mention of the platinum cards in the original complaint, and that the evidence is irrelevant and immaterial.
The prosecution wants the PAL documents, saying the flip-flopping of the Supreme Court decision in the FASAP case was due to letters received from PAL lawyer Estelito Mendoza. They said Corona received benefits such as the platinum cards in exchange.
The numerous motions raise questions: Is the defense right in filing all these motions to oppose a “desperate” prosecution? Or is this a strategy on the part of the defense to stall the trial? Is the defense being too technical in what is, at most, a quasi-judicial court?
Delay tactic by defense?
Throughout the trial, the defense has bemoaned the prosecution’s subpoenas, saying their summon for evidence is a “fishing expedition.”
“As we are undergoing trial, the prosecution is still looking for evidence to fit their pre-designed script,” said defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno.
But the prosecution dismissed their claims, instead challenging the defense that if Corona has nothing to hide, then they have nothing to worry about. They also said that the defense’s continuous opposition to the subpoenas and the evidence they present in court is a delaying tactic by the defense to lose national interest.
“Ang sabi ko nga parang kapareho iyan ng Maguindanao massacre,” said prosecutor Rep Neri Colmenares. “Patatagalin mo yan para mawalan ng interest ang tao at mukhang ang tactics ng defense is to make the proceedings as boring as possible para wala nang magka-interest.”
The defense dismissed the accusations and instead said the delays have been caused by the prosecution because of their consistent lack of preparation.
“As the public can see, the defense is not, and has never been, the source of delay,” said defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III. “We have been respectful of every decision, the Senate as the impeachment court, and senator-judges per instructions given to us by the Chief Justice.”
They also brushed off claims that they are hiding anything.
“What are we hiding? You’ve seen the week!” said defense counsel Judd Roy III in an interview with Rappler. “We call the witnesses and the evidence turns our favor. We’re just trying to keep them in their proper place. Would you like it if we asked for your bank accounts for nothing?”
“Discretion to overrule”
Whether the motions will change anything is another question.
The motion to inhibit Drilon, the defense said, was an idea offered to them by the media and the public. Interestingly, whether it is possible to even inhibit or disqualify a senator-judge is questionable. In a regular court, a judge is replaceable if accused of bias, while the same cannot be said for an impeachment court as there are no replacements for a senator-judge. Drilon has said he will not inhibit.
With regard to the defense’s opposition to the subpoena of bank and PAL officials and documents — while the motions have legal basis, in the end, the impeachment court has the authority and the power to call to court whoever and whatever they consider helpful to the decision that lies before them.
The defense acknowledges that their motions are possibly futile. Defense spokesperson and counsel Ramon Esguerra admits that each one they have filed can be denied, given “the wide latitude of discretion to overrule” that the impeachment court enjoys.
But they do not plan to stop filing oppositions anytime soon. And neither will they be affected by overruled motions, saying they are confident that their client is “100% innocent.”
They said they will file whatever motion is necessary to protect the rights of the Chief Justice.
“For as long as we are doing what we believe is in accordance with the rules, we will do it; what is in accordance with the law, we will do it; what is in accordance with the Constitution, we will do it,” Esguerra said. “[If denied], we will abide with the rules, we will be compliant.” – Rappler.com