Chiz: Senate to finish Corona trial before SONA

MANILA, Philippines – By the time President Benigno Aquino III delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), he would know if he succeeded in his campaign to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona from office. 

Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the Senate will aim to finish Corona’s impeachment trial by June.

In an interview with radio DZRH, Escudero said the impeachment court will hasten the proceeding which has dragged on for 4 months. The trial began on January 16.

Pipilitin na ng Senado tapusin ito bago kami mag-adjourn sa Hunyo. Hindi naman tama na nagso-SONA na ang Pangulo at nag-iimpeachment trial pa kami.” (The Senate will try to finish the trial before we adjourn in June. It’s not right that the President is already delivering his SONA and we’re still conducting the impeachment trial.)

The impeachment trial is on break and will resume on May 7. The break coincides with the adjournment of the Senate session.

After the May 7th resumption, Congress will again adjourn session on June 8 and resume on July 23, in time for Aquino’s SONA.

Escudero said the timetable will not sacrifice due process.

“I think one month is enough, especially because the lawyers from both sides are already used to the impeachment procedure,” he said in Filipino.

‘Impeachment won’t affect polls’

Escudero also dismissed speculation that the impeachment trial is a major consideration for re-electionist senators like himself. 

He said surveys show that the public sees no relation between the trial and the 2013 and 2016 polls, and that people will accept whatever verdict the Senate will issue.

“Maybe because it’s clear to our fellow Filipinos that whether Chief Justice Corona is convicted or acquitted, the jobless will still be jobless, the prices of goods will still be high, and wages still low. The prices of oil and electricity remain high, and in Mindanao, there are still blackouts.”

The statement contradicts the opinion of former Sen Ernesto Maceda that a vote to acquit Corona will benefit Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for president in 2016.

Escudero is a key ally of Binay, and his endorsement was seen as a factor in helping Binay clinch the vice presidency in 2010.

The senator, however, is also a friend and ally of President Aquino, who has been pushing to convict Corona. Escudero also helped in Aquino’s 2010 campaign.

Escudero said that he has not yet decided whether to acquit or convict Corona. He said he will wait for the defense to finish presenting witnesses and evidence.

“Let’s give them the chance to present their entire case. After all, we gave the prosecution the chance to present its case in full. After the defense finishes presenting evidence, it’s only then that I would finalize my decision.” –