Congressmen to mount info drive on articles of impeachment

January 24, 2012 11:13 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Jan. 24 — The 188 congressmen-signatories to the Articles of Impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona said on Tuesday they are bringing the Senate impeachment trial directly to the countryside by explaining to the people the eight articles of impeachment against the chief magistrate.

The newly-formed "Movement 188," in a statement issued before the start of the trial’s second week, said they will be conducting information drives in their respective districts to enlighten their constituents on Corona’s alleged culpable violations of the Constitution, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust that justify his ouster from the High Court.

"As signatories to the resolution that paved the way to the ongoing Senate trial, it behooves us to fully explain to our people the 'big picture' of the Corona trial," the congressmen-signatories said, "lest they fall for the smoke and mirrors legal tricks that magicians masquerading as defense lawyers have shrewdly unleashed in the impeachment court to derail the proceedings and divert public attention from the evidence of wrongdoings presented by the House prosecutors this early — all pointing to the Chief Justice’s untenable stay at the helm of the Supreme Court."

"The big picture is that the impeachment trial is not an attack on the Justices or the Judiciary itself, but a constitutional process meant to make top officials — in this case, the Chief Justice — accountable to our people and to restore the High Court to its erstwhile glory as an ardently independent, highly credible and greatly respected co-equal branch of government," they said.

"Our people must know that this constitutional process is not a pissing contest or athletic game to be judged by which between the prosecution and defense panels has the smarter lawyers and better legal ploys every trial day, but is a charter-mandated trial that has to ascertain at its end which side can prove that the Chief Justice is guilty or not of the charges," they said.

The group observed that Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson, for one, has already expressed exasperation over the delaying tactics being resorted to by the defense lawyers.

Lacson was earlier quoted as planning to tell the Senate court this week that the proceedings were being "consistently bogged down by so many objections on the floor that accomplish nothing except a delay in the trial."

They also dismissed what they said as the defense lawyers’ wild claim that certain senators were biased for the prosecution, stressing that no less than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, whose adept and impartial handling of the trial’s first week has been recognized by both the prosecution and defense camps, has denied the charge that certain senator-jurors were lawyering for either group.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II earlier said that the ghost of impeachment will continue to haunt the chief justice if the pieces of evidence related to his alleged ill-gotten wealth will be suppressed in the ongoing trial.

Gonzales, in a press conference, said that defense lawyers should stop objecting to the disclosure of documents and other evidence on their client’s properties and source of income.

"We already have the evidence, why are they stopping us from discussing about it, when will we talk about this?” he said.

"The worst that can happen if the Senate will not allow admission of evidence is next year, we will file another impeachment (complaint) using the same evidence, because the question now here is the moral fitness of the chief justice to continue assuming the post," he added.

A trial lawyer himself, Gonzales said that when one is defending a particular case, the first line of defense should be the "substantial defense."

"If you don’t have one, you resort to technicalities, this is what the defense is using," he said.

Corona’s defense lawyers on Tuesday filed a memorandum opposing the disclosure of evidence that they said have nothing to do with the charge being discussed in the trial, Article 2 or Corona’s failure to disclose his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

House prosecution spokesmen — Reps. Romero Federico Quimbo (Marikina), Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora) and Lorenzo Tanada III (Quezon) — said graft and corruption was among the charges against the chief magistrate.

"The question is simple — 'does he (Corona) own these properties?' This requires simple answer, just yes or no," said Tanada.

For his part, Angara said that defense lawyers are acting contrary to what Corona said in his speech on the first day of the trial, that he would answer point-by-point all allegations against him and his family.

"His (Corona) lawyers have yet to offer any substantial defense, all they do is block the prosecution’s move to bare the evidence," he said.

On the other hand, Quimbo warned that suppressing the release of the evidence such as Corona’s Income Tax Returns (ITRs) and other tax documents would be like stopping the opening of the second envelope during the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada.

"These documents are like the second envelope, they (defense) would really fight to death so that they would not be disclosed," Quimbo said.

He added, "One very clear reason why they (defense) don’t want these documents like the SALN to come out was because it would expose the web of falsities that they need to cover up." (PNA)



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