Tough trial vs Corona

Ayee Macaraig

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House is finalizing panel of 11 prosecutors

MANILA, Philippines – The lawmakers who impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona are gearing for a tough battle to convict him at the Senate.

Rep. Niel Tupas, chair of the House justice committee, however, said all eight articles are strong enough to convict Corona for culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Tupas made the statement after transmitting to the Senate the eight articles of impeachment, along with Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday, 10 am. Tupas and Umali drafted the impeachment complaint against Corona. An overwhelming 188 out of 284 lawmakers voted to support it on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. 

Alan naman natin sa Senado, two-thirds [vote ang kailangan], mas mataas ang threshold and we expect a tough trial sa Senado. We don’t want to second-guess kung ano man ang mangyari sa ating mga senador but we have confidence and trust in the Philippine Senate.” (We know we need two-thirds vote for conviction, a higher threshold than the House requirement of one-third vote. We expect a tough trial in the Senate. We don’t want to second-guess what will happen but we have confidence and trust in the Philippine Senate.)

Tupas said the House is finalizing the panel of 11 prosecutors, which may be completed by Wednesday. He said he will recommend Umali, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, and Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

The Iloilo congressman said preparing for Corona’s trial will be more difficult than their experience during the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Gutierrez’s trial did not push through, though, as she resigned.

“Actually, nung nag-uusap kami, nahirapan kami dahil yung kay Ombudsman dati, six articles. Ito, eight. Sabi namin, ‘Ano ba ang uunahin natin dito?’ Nahirapan kami kasi halos lahat malakas.” (Actually, when we were discussing it, we had a hard time because during the Ombudsman’s impeachment, there were only six articles. Now, we have eight. We said, ‘What do we prioritize?’ We had a hard time because all the articles are strong.)

Tupas said the prosecutors will present documentary and testimonial evidence but refused to name the witnesses.

Senators will reportedly hold a caucus this afternoon and may discuss the impeachment trial.

Senate Secretary General Emma Lirio-Reyes is preparing the administrative and logistic needs for the trial. The senators, meanwhile, will set the date and time for the impeachment trial. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said it will start in January.

‘What railroad? What pork?’

Tupas denied the impeachment vote was railroaded, saying it dated back to September 2010 when the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order, halting the impeachment proceeding against Gutierrez.

“The Committee on Justice formed a study commitee, a small group to research for a possible impeachment complaint against the members of the Supreme Court because for us, that’s culpable violation [of the constitution]. The process just became fast in past days when the House leadership decided to push through with the complaint,” Tupas said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Tupas and Umali also dismissed the allegation of House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman that pork barrel was used to pressure lawmakers to support the impeachment complaint.

Umali said, “Disyembre na ngayon, wala nang PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), naipamigay na ‘yun so ang issue, issue lang yun, walang katotohanan.” (It’s already December now, there’s no more PDAF because that was already distributed so that’s just an issue, no truth to that.) –

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