House panel defends disclosure on Corona condoBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives’ 11-man panel that will serve as prosecutors at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona said it was not trying to preempt the Senate when it disclosed to the public a piece of evidence against the accused.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chief prosecutor, said the trial has not formally commenced yet so there was no violation of the sub judice rule of the Senate was committed.
“How can the action of the House prosecution preempt the impeachment trial when there is even no entry of appearance yet by the House prosecutors before the Senate?” Tupas told the INQUIRER.
On Tuesday, the panel of lawmakers presented a document concerning a 303.5- square meter penthouse unit at the plush The Bellagio in The Fort, Taguig City allegedly purchased by the beleaguered Chief Justice and his wife Cristina on Dec. 16, 2009 from Megaworld properties for P14.51 million. The unit has three parking slots, each measuring 12.5 sq m.
Tupas said the formalities of the Senate calling and accepting the House panel is set on Jan. 16 and that there was even a motion from the defense to set a date for a preliminary hearing on the motion to dismiss the impeachment complaint based on a technicality.
“Also, the House has not even received a notice for a pre-trial conference so how could the House preempt the impeachment? We never touched on the merits of the case. We only stated a fact as alleged in the complaint,” he stressed.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, another prosecutor, said all parties, including the Corona camp, recognized that the trial has not started by asking for a preliminary hearing.
“Congressman Tupas merely said something about the evidence, which is a piece of property. He did not talk about the merits of the case so it was not a violation,” Colmenares said.
“And if ever he did talk about the merits, the trial has not even started,” he stressed.
Colmenares said he had confidence in the Senate that it will not be swayed by the public opinion generated by such a disclosure of evidence.
Marikina Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo, the panel’s spokesperson and a former trial lawyer, said in a news briefing that the rule on public disclosures on merits of the case does not apply at the moment.
“It does not apply because the public prosecutors have not entered their appearances yet. That will be done on the 16th (of January) as stated by the Senate so that rule does not apply at the moment,” he said.
He rejected the insinuation that the disclosure of the evidence before the trial was meant to mould public opinion in favor of the prosecution.
“The impeachment is a process that affects every single individual as the case was betrayal of public trust,” Quimbo later told the INQUIRER.
“We, therefore, believe that it is the duty of the prosecution to always inform, update the public of what’s going on otherwise we will be remiss in our duties,” he said.