MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona will ask the Senate impeachment court to resolve whether the prosecution’s move to drop five of the eight Articles of Impeachment constituted an acquittal of the charges or amendment of the complaint.
The prosecutors said their action was not tantamount to an amendment of the complaint when they formally notified the impeachment court last Friday that the five Articles of Impeachment against Corona would be dropped.
“For the sake of clarity and to avoid any misunderstanding, it is reiterated that the intention of the prosecutors in relation to this matter was to inform this Court that they are waiving the presentation of further evidence on the remaining articles, which is their sole right and prerogative,” read the prosecution’s motion.
They are merely waiving their right to present further evidence on Articles 1,4,5,6, and 8, the prosecutors said.
Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra said they are considering asking the impeachment court to render a judgment of acquittal on the five articles in question.
“The decision whether or not to vote on these articles is best left under the circumstances to the impeachment court,” he said.
Defense spokesman Tranquil Salvador III said the issue needs to be resolved since the defense will also have to anchor its strategy following the impeachment court’s clear ruling on the matter.
“What is the consequence of simple withdrawal?” he asked.
“I think the court has to resolve whether that is an acquittal or an amendment. If it’s not an acquittal… would that mean they can file the same articles after a year in case the CJ is acquitted?”
Salvador said the choice is either conviction or acquittal as there is nothing in Senate rules or in the Constitution that provides for dismissal.
“Then this should be an acquittal,” he said.
“If so, is there anything that would prevent them from filing a case on similar grounds next year? For us, that is a hanging question, especially when there is an acquittal.
“Are they barred from filing the case on similar grounds after a year or will they rehash their complaint if they file another impeachment in case the CJ is acquitted. That’s what we wanted to ask.”
Salvador said the prosecution was trying to cover up the weaknesses of the Articles of Impeachment.
“It was intended to be like that, malabo (vague), because they don’t want it to fall under amendment,” he said.
Salvador said the prosecution’s waiver of presentation of evidence and dropping of the five Articles of Impeachment have serious repercussions on the case.
“The notice may result to the amendment of the impeachment complaint without conformity of the 188 congressmen who signed the same,” he said.
Salvador said the defense will seek clarification on the matter before the defense controverts the presentation of witnesses and testimonies during trial.
“There should be a ruling whether it’s an acquittal,” he said.
“Why? Because if there is none, maybe later on they will decide… if these are dropped, they will not present evidence, but it does not mean if whether there is an acquittal. That should be very clear because if it is not an acquittal they should be presenting evidence.”
Salvador said the matter is critical for the defense because they don’t want the prosecution to rehash the same grounds of Corona’s impeachment next year in case he gets acquitted.
“There should be a very clear ruling there because if these are dropped, and there is no evidence, and there could be an acquittal on all the five articles,” he said.
“Otherwise, after the lapse of one year, they may, the prosecutors will be filing again, in case of an acquittal.
“It’s very serious consequence (their filing of termination on the five articles). Pinalabo nila (they muddled it), it was intentionally dropped so it will not be seen as an amendment. They even indicated that it should not be treated as an amendment.”
Prosecutors: No amendment
However, the prosecutors said they never intended to amend the Articles of Impeachment.
“When the undersigned lead prosecutor said that the prosecutors are dropping or withdrawing Articles 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8, he used the said terms to mean that they are no longer presenting evidence on said Articles, and accordingly, the Honorable Impeachment Court need not consider or vote upon the said Articles,” the prosecutors said.
An amendment would entail that the entire verified complaint be brought back to the House of Representatives, subjecting it to the one-year limitation on the filing of impeachment cases.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, the lead prosecutor, said these terms were never intended to mean an amendment of the Articles of Impeachment.
In the notice, the prosecutors confirmed their oral manifestation made in open court on Feb. 28 and 29 that they have terminated the presentation of evidence on Articles 2, 3, and 7 of the Articles of Impeachment, and that they will no longer present evidence on the remaining articles.
The prosecutors also confirmed their oral manifestation that they are reserving (not waiving) their right to present evidence pertaining to any dollar accounts of Corona in connection with Article 2 should there be developments allowing the presentation of such evidence.
However, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the prosecution can no longer make reservations on Corona’s bank accounts once it has terminated presentation of evidence.
“Ah no, there can be no resting of a case with reservation,” she said.
“That is unheard of under the rules of court. You either rest or you move for continuance or a suspension until after you have done something in your favor.
“Because that is an oxymoron, contradiction in terms. Rest your case means I’m absolutely finished. Now you can give an opportunity for the defense to be heard, that is the meaning of that.
“So if you’re already saying you’re resting, then after that you want to present more evidence whether testimonial or documentary, it becomes a contradiction in terms.
“That’s what I was trying to say. That’s an oxymoron. You cannot rest with reservation, you either rest or you say can you please give us continuance or a suspension of sessions of two days so we can prepare and so forth.” - By Christina Mendez