Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chief Justice Renato Corona Impeachment.

We are now facing another controversial political issue. Just like former Pres. Joseph Estrada and others, today is Chief Justice Renato Corona's day of impeachment.

MANILA, Philippines—The man at the center of the country’s latest political circus may be there when the curtain goes up in the Senate on Monday.

Chief Justice Renato Corona is expected to appear at the start of his impeachment trial in the Senate even as his lawyers prepare for a heated debate with the House prosecution panel, according to a member of Corona’s defense team.

Ramon Esguerra said Corona’s presence at the proceedings was proof that the embattled chief justice “has nothing to hide,” contrary to the public perception that he would try to evade public scrutiny on his supposed acquisition of multimillion-peso properties through illicit means.

“He (Corona) wants to face his accusers and show respect to the Senate as an impeachment body,” Esguerra told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.

“The chief justice will go there in the Senate. That’s the consensus (of the defense team),” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“Although some lawyers expressed reservations, nobody actually advised him not to go,” he added. “They were just concerned that the chief just may be humiliated if he comes. We want to avoid that situation.”

He said Serafin Cuevas, Corona’s lead counsel was the one who suggested that the chief justice appear personally in the Senate.

“His presence also shows that he has nothing to hide and that he respects the impeachment process,” the lawyer added.

But another defense lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III, said it would be up to Corona if he wanted to be present at his impeachment trial, saying the matter “is still to be determined.”

“I cannot say categorically if the chief justice will be there. We’re still deciding if there’s a need for him to be there,” Salvador said in another mobile phone interview.

Nonetheless, Salvador said lawyers tapped to defend Corona were all ready to counter the accusations of the House panel that the chief justice was guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption.

Like any other lawyer preparing for a trial, he said he and his co-counsels had been busy reading the Senate’s Rules of Procedure, the eight articles of impeachment that the House submitted to the Senate and Corona’s answer to the allegations.

“We’re all ready. Each member was given with their proper assignments,” said Salvador, an associate of the influential Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and De los Angeles law firm.

According to Esguerra, a 9 a.m. Mass at the Supreme Court grounds will highlight the send-off ceremony for Corona and his legal team.

He said they would arrive at the TaƱada Room of the Senate around noon in time for the 2 p.m. start of the impeachment trial.

Eduardo de los Angeles, one of the most senior lawyers in Corona’s team, will deliver the opening statement for the defense panel, Esguerra said.

“We will push for a hearing for our affirmative defense concerning the lack of verification of the (articles of impeachment),” he said.

Esguerra, a former justice undersecretary, said he was tasked to handle Article 2 (Culpable violation of the Constitution for non-disclosure of statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) and Article 8 (Refusal to account for Judicial Development Funds, special allowances and other court collections).

He said the defense team would block attempts of the House panel to present evidence in support of allegations not stated in the articles of impeachment.

“Our actions will depend on what the House panel will do. If they will throw something not included in their original complaint, then we will object to it,” he said.

Esguerra said each member was given a trial brief, which outlined their legal strategy in defending the chief justice.

“Everything is compartmentalized. But even if we’re assigned to a particular article of impeachment, we should understand all of the (allegations),” he said.

For some and whatever reason, whether if Chief Justice Renato Corona is guilty for the accusation or not, let's hope that everything will be fine. This is not just his shame but to our country as well.

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