Drilon attack exposes defense desperation
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-01-24
The defense panel in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona must be getting desperate already. On the surface, the less seasoned prosecution panel appears to be overwhelmed by their more senior counterparts, led by no less than former SC Justice Serafin Cuevas. However, the examination of what each side has accomplished, and failed to accomplish thus far, would tell another tale.

The move of defense panel lawyer Jose Roy III to charge Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon of “lawyering” for the prosecution, which was later escalated to a call by the defense panel for Drilon to inhibit, is a tell tale sign of desperation in the ranks of the defense lawyers. Presiding officer, Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE), has debunked Roy’s assertion and reiterated the right of Senator-Judges to seek information and clarification at any time during the trial. The defense conveniently forgets that the objective of the trial is to simply know the truth.

Roy’s interest conditions him to perceive any act by Senator-Judge Drilon as partial if it helps the prosecutors. Former senator Kit Tatad is similarly disposed. Tatad had earlier ventilated views against the impeachment move. In the case of Roy, he would have been better appreciated if he clarified the issue with Drilon one-on-one instead of going public with it through media. Perhaps the defense is trying to reduce the number of Senator-Judges whom they think might vote in favor of the prosecution.

Why should Roy charge Senator-Judge Drilon as “lawyering” for the prosecution if indeed the defense panel is overwhelming the prosecutors? Roy stood to antagonize other Senator-Judges by questioning their prerogatives. Fiercely anti-Corona folks could similarly charge Senator-Judge Chiz Escudero as “lawyering” for the defense because of those questions that he posed last Thursday on Article II, which to them might appear to favor the defense.

Escudero asked the prosecutors as to how the Senator-Judges should treat Article II — if they’ll judge each charge individually or apply the 2 out of 3 sports competition standard. Escudero shouldn’t have raised that question to the prosecutors because that’s something that they, the Senator-Judges, should determine and set as the rule.

Going by the core issue of betrayal of public trust, it would seem to Juan dela Cruz that if only one charge in Article II had been proved — then that would suffice to remove the CJ from the SC. Several lawyers support that and even opined that if only one charge in Article II went only as far as raise serious doubts on the CJ’s character and trustworthiness — then that would suffice to remove him from public office permanently. There are marked differences between the rules of an impeachment trial (which determines fitness for public office) versus that of a criminal or a civil court that imposes jail sentence or rewards damage claims. Impeachment trials allow more leeway for accepting testimonies and evidence. To Juan dela Cruz, it would appear that the defense panel is relying on technicalities in order to prevent the presentation of evidence. Juan dela Cruz — the people of the Philippines — wonders what’s the big fuss about Article II’s heading? Plain common sense tells us that you cannot fit the poetry and romance of a Romeo and Juliet in its title. You have to read the content to get its full value. It’s the content of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that made it a classic piece of literature — not its title (heading). Serafin Cuevas can cite all the laws to support his assertions on this issue but he cannot stop Juan dela Cruz from perceiving that this type of defense strategy is meant to protect the guilty.

The timeline of events shows that after the SALNs (Statement of assets and liabilities and net worth) of CJ Corona were submitted as evidence last Wednesday, the defense started acting as if its case for acquitting the CJ was dealt a serious blow. It was after this development when the defense started to become boorish and picked on Senator-Judge Drilon.

Even the witnesses who are the custodians of the titles of the cited properties of CJ Corona were not spared from the harassment of the defense panel. All that’s needed to be established is that these witnesses be identified and confirmed as the duly tasked custodians of these public documents that are now being presented as pieces of evidence. Cuevas made it appear as if these custodians are being made to look like authorities on what are stated in the documents. To Juan dela Cruz that strategy of Cuevas translates to diverting the issue.

JPE clearly stated on the opening day that the impeachment trial’s objective is to determine if CJ Renato Corona is fit to still remain in the Supreme Court or hold any other public office. The only outcome to be expected from the impeachment process is removal from public office and not a jail sentence or the payment of moral damages. In the impeachment trial, the rules of court, criminal and civil, are only suppletory, and cannot be fully applied as what the defense panel is trying to impose on the impeachment court and impress in the public mind.

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