The impeachment court on Tuesday disallowed the prosecution from presenting an official of the Philippine Airlines as witness.
The prosecution was supposed to present PAL Vice President for Sales Enrique Javier as witness for Article III of the impeachment complaint which pertains to Chief Justice Renato Corona’s alleged failure to act with competence, integrity and independence as a member of judiciary.
The witness' testimonies was supposed to prove that the Corona and his wife received special privileges and free travel benefits while the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) vs. PAL case is still pending, the prosecution added.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, however, pointed out that they have filed a motion to quash the request for subpoena addressed to Javier, noting that his testimonies will be irrelevant to Article III.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment court, agreed and ordered to discharge the PAL official.
Private prosecutor Atty. Marlon Manuel continued to justify Javier’s appearance saying that his testimonies “will help establish the partiality of Corona in favor of PAL.”
“But you did not allege that in your article of impeachment! There must discipline in this court,”
an obviously irritated Enrile said.
The presiding officer then enumerated allegations included in Article III such as “allowing the SC to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and discussing with litigants regarding cases pending before SC.
Enrile however pointed out that nowhere in the article did the prosecution accuse Corona of receiving facors and gifts.
“Now you’re expanding the allegations in this article. The court would not allow any expansion of allegations unless you amend your articles,” Enrile told Manuel.
“I've warned you several times that there's something wrong with your articles of impeachment. There's a limit to the patience of this court,” he said.
But lead prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. still took the stand and appealed to the court to reverse its decision.
“The very heart of Article III is integrity. To us, it’s important to prove the motive of the chief justice in the flip-flopping of the FASAP case,” Tupas explained.
Enrile then stressed that the prosecution should amend the impeachment complaint and accuse Corona of bribery.
“I'm basing my ruling based on your allegations. Mr. Counsel, I don't know where you learned your art of pleading. If you are going to insist with your position, I will say that I will not change the ruling,” Enrile told Tupas.
Tupas replied that they won’t amend the complaint saying that technicalities should not be permitted to delay such significant case.
Enrile, already losing patience, said that the rules for the grounds for impeachment are clearly stated in the Constitution.
“For heaven's sake! This is not just a technicality! We've already been very liberal but you're going too far. Do you want me to lecture you more?” he told Tupas.
“This presiding officer has been very lenient but there’s a limit to what this chair can do. If your articles of impeachment are defective, that’s your responsibility,” Enrile added.
Despite the ruling of the court, Manuel enumerated the PAL platinum card benefits Corona allegedly received which the witness was supposed to present.
Cuevas moved to strike Manuel’s statements out of record when Enrile told the lead defense, “You and I both understand that this evidence is nothing. Let it remain as a manifestation of counsel and we'll discuss this in due time.”
The presiding officer then called for the next witness but the prosecution asked that the hearing be continued tomorrow.