Impeachment court directs spokespersons to stop discussing merits of case

January 26, 2012 11:23 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Jan. 26 – The Senate, sitting as impeachment court, directed on Thursday the spokespersons of both the prosecution and defense panels to stop premature and unwarranted disclosure of the merits of the impeachment case against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile granted the motion of Senator-judge Gregorio Honasan II who urged the spokespersons of both parties to moderate their public pronouncements and statements “of what constitutes the merits of the case.”

”Mr. President, to my mind the trial outside this court is proceeding faster than the trial inside the court,” Honasan said.

Before the start of direct examination of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares, Enrile already cautioned both the prosecution and defense panels not to expose documents which are not yet offered as evidence in the impeachment court.

Enrile reminded all the parties involved, including the senator-judges, to strictly follow Section 18 of the rules of procedures which restrains them from discussing the merits of the case outside the impeachment court.

The presiding officer made his appeal after senator-judge Joker Arroyo noticed that the income tax returns (ITR) of Corona that has not been admitted as evidence have circulated to the public, especially in the media.

”My understanding is that these documents yesterday (Wednesday) were marked but not yet admitted as evidence. ITRs for example, these are very, very confidential,” Arroyo, a member of the prosecution team in an aborted impeachment trial of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001, said.

Asked by Enrile to comment, BIR Commissioner Henares said she only released Corona’s ITRs based on the alpha list to the Senate, sitting as impeachment court.

Lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. also came in defense of the House prosecution team, saying they have stopped discussing the merits of the case since January 3 when Enrile warned them that they may be cited for contempt.

”As far as we are concerned, Mr. President, we have not released it to any party. It is still with us,” Tupas said, referring to the ITRs of Corona.

”Mr. President, we just want to put it on record that the only record we released to the public was the Bellagio. After the Senate President raised his concerns, we have not released any document to the public,” Tupas further explained.

Senator-judges Pia Cayetano and Alan Peter Cayetano supported Arroyo’s call for the presiding officer to call the attention of both parties to be careful in releasing the marked but not yet offered documents to the impeachment court.

On the other hand, Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson said there is nothing wrong with releasing the documents to the public, including the media covering the impeachment trial.

”This is a public trial. If we want to keep confidential these documents, then we should call for an executive session,” Lacson said.

Senator-judge Teofisto Guingona III supported Lacson but Enrile explained that executive session is not part of the rules of procedures. (PNA) scs/jfm

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