Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 1 of Impeach Trial

The impeachment court refused to go through a preliminary hearing earlier requested by Chief Justice Renato Corona Jr.’s camp.

“There’s no more need for a preliminary hearing to receive evidence for this matter,” Senate President, also sitting as impeachment presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile said Monday.

Earlier, retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, Corona’s chief counsel, questioned the impeachment filed against Corona due to the hasty approval from the House of Representatives.

“Is the impeachment complaint valid? No. Procedures laid down? No. Rules followed? No,” argued Cuevas, who noted they were not delaying the proceedings of the trial but were rather following a process.

But Iloilo Representative and chief public prosecutor, Niel Tupas Jr. said there was a determination of probable cause before House members moved to impeach the Chief Justice.

Enrile ruled that the House completed the due process required by the Constitution in filing an impeachment case.

“The Senate shall forthwith proceed with the trial on the articles of impeachment against Corona,” the presiding officer said.

Moreover, Enrile denied the motion of Atty. Fernando Perito to cite House members in contempt since Perito is neither part of the prosecution nor the defense panel.

Enrile also merely reminded both parties to refrain from discussing the merits of the case in public through the media in accordance with the Senate rules of impeachment.

Tupas said they will obey Enrile’s order. “We will comply with the directive not to release more evidences.”

Despite the denial of their motions, the defense team said they have anticipated the decisions and is ready to proceed.

“Every lawyer prepares for a possibility of denial. I’m unhappy with the decision but we are ready to proceed,” said Atty. Jose Roy III, part of the defense team.Roy also revealed that Corona is still in “high spirits” despite today’s turnout.

A poker-faced but sometimes yawning Corona was at the Senate plenary which serves as the impeachment court.

‘Not guilty’

At the start of the hearing, Corona’s camp entered a not guilty plea for the impeachment complaint filed against him.

“May we put on record that he is entering a plea of not guilty for all the charges,” said Cuevas.

Corona was charged with eight articles of impeachment on the grounds of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Cuevas added that the defense team made him attend the trial to show the chief justice’s respect to the institution.

However, Senator Franklin Drilon, who sits as a judge of the impeachment court said Corona’s manifestation of not guilty plea was premature because the defense panel was only supposed to enter their appearance.

Corona arrived at the Senate with his wife, Cristina, and SC spokesperson Midas Marquez at 1:20 p.m.

“We are delighted by his change of heart by showing up. We only hope that he would heed subpoena,” said Rep. Miro Quimbo, spokesperson of the prosecution panel of the House of Representatives. /MP

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