Senate begins impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona

Posted on January 16, 2012

THE HISTORIC impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona will start today with the Senate expected to decide on several motions filed by the prosecution and defense panels.

“We will try to dispose all motions by [today] before we give the floor to the prosecution and the defense panels,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III said in a radio interview yesterday.

A caucus will be held by the chamber earlier in the day prior to the trial at 2 p.m. “to expedite the process... So that when we convene as a court, it would go straight to deciding on the motions,” he explained.

Caucuses will be held regularly, Mr. Sotto said, as the Senate will “try to finish trial proceedings” before Congress goes on recess on March 24.

“It would be advantageous for the Senate, both parties and the public if we can finish the trial proper before March 23,” he said, adding that it will be up to the prosecution and defense teams “to clearly and quickly present their sides.”

Congress will have its summer recess on March 24 to May 6, with the last session days for the second regular session of the 15th Congress on May 7 to June 7.

Senators last month agreed that legislative work will be reserved for Monday and Tuesday morning, Commission on Appointments hearings on Wednesday mornings, while Thursday mornings will be reserved for committee hearings.

Impeachment trials will be held in the afternoon from Monday to Thursday, while Friday afternoons will be set for receiving motions.

Meanwhile, the 11-man House prosecution panel in a statement e-mailed to reporters yesterday said it is ready to face the impeachment court.

“It’s all systems go for us [today],” said prosecution team spokesman Rep. Romero Federico S. Quimbo (2nd district, Marikina).

Pending motions at the impeachment court are:

• to cite the prosecutors in contempt for premature disclosure of evidence;

• for a preliminary hearing to discuss the verification of the impeachment complaint signed by 188 congressmen;

• to deny Mr. Corona’s request for preliminary trial;

• to subpoena officials of the House to shed light on the verification of the impeachment complaint; and

• to summon Mr. Corona, his wife, their three children and a son-in-law to explain the 45 real properties allegedly owned by the Chief Justice.

The House of Representatives impeached Mr. Corona on Dec. 12. The articles of impeachment were transmitted to the Senate on Dec. 13. The Senate convened itself as an impeachment court the next day. Court employees, meanwhile, will be holding an indignation rally today in support of Mr. Corona.

Supreme Court Employees Association President Jose Dante A. Guerrero said they will conduct a “Walk for Democracy” wherein judges and employees from the Supreme Court (SC), Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals and the lower courts will march to the SC grounds to express their sentiments on the issue.

“They [court employees] want to express their disgust on the impeachment trial, not only to support the Chief Justice but also to pray for the institution,” he said, adding that the impeachment of Mr. Corona is a “direct attack” on the Judiciary.

He said court employees from Manila and the surrounding courts will wear black and troop to the SC to attend the reading of manifestos of different SC organizations at around 11:00 a.m., following the flag ceremony and mass.

They will also be burning an effigy of the President, he said.

Asked whether the employees will return to their work after the ceremony, Mr. Guerrero said they have not coordinated on that yet.

He said, however, that some might proceed to the Senate if the Chief Justice will attend the trial.

“What we are only preparing for is the send-off for his defense lawyers by 2:00 p.m.,” he said. -- A. S. O. Alegado and A. E. Barrameda