Santiago says colleagues face 3 critical legal issuesBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Is Chief Justice Renato Corona still fit to remain as the country’s top magistrate despite admittedly excluding dollar and peso deposits in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN)?
The defense and the prosecution will argue the matter for the last time in the closing oral arguments this afternoon, before senator-judges hand down the verdict after four months of trial.
Each side will be given an hour to argue its case, after which the senators could immediately issue a ruling or set the judgment day on Tuesday.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Sunday said the senators have their work cut out for them, given three critical legal issues.
Santiago said the court should determine whether Corona’s failure to declare cash assets is impeachable and the standard of proof for or against the Chief Justice, and consider the “genuinely gray area” in the law on SALN and related statutes such as the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (Republic Act No. 6426).
The task would not be easy, given that nearly half of the 23 senators are not lawyers, she said.
“This is a very strange process. It is both quasi-judicial and quasi-political,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
Santiago said the verdict would be affected by “meta-legal factors” such as the reelection bid of some senators next year, political ambitions in the 2016 presidential election and “concessions from Malacañang” in the form of “multimillion-peso” public works projects.
Santiago, a constitutionalist who will serve as a judge on the International Criminal Court after the impeachment trial, floated what she considered a “middle ground” should the Senate convict Corona.
“We don’t necessarily have to impose a penalty of removal. If we find the defendant guilty, we can go as far as removal but that implies therefore that we can go to a lower penalty, which is reprimand. That’s the language of the Constitution,” she explained. “We can simply reprimand him and allow him to remain in office.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding officer, previously rejected Santiago’s position, maintaining that the penalty for conviction is removal from office.
Originally posted: 9:52 pm | Sunday, May 27th, 2012
Tags: chief justice , Corona Impeachment , Corona SALN , Government , Impeachment , Judiciary , Miriam Defensor-Santiago , News , Politics , Renato Corona , Senate , Senate impeachment court , Supreme Court