How senator-judges will voteBy Maila Ager, TJ Burgonio
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – After holding trials for 43 days, the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, is now ready to render its verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona when it resumes at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Deciding the impeachment case of Corona will take only an hour — and the decision will be final.
Senator Gringo Honasan said Senator Edgardo Angara will be the first to cast the vote based on alphabetical order while the last vote will come from Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile being the presiding officer.
If they wish, senator-judges may explain their votes for not more than two minutes, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
“It will be over in an hour,’’ Sotto said. He added that he might skip his explanation if it would take longer than the required time.
Each senator has to say the words “guilty” or “not guilty” when casting their votes though Honasan said an abstention may be accepted since the rules did not prohibit it.
“Technically, pwedeng mag-abstain pero bakit ka pa a-attend sa botohan?” said the senator.
(…a senator may abstain, but what’s the use of attending the voting?)
Honasan said the senators agreed to vote first on Article 2 of the impeachment complaint pertaining to Corona’s alleged failure to disclose to the public his statements of assets and liabilities and net worth as required under Section 17, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.
The two other articles are:
Article III – Corona’s alleged failure to meet and observe the stringent standards under the Constitution that provided that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which causes the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in discussing with litigants cases ending in the Supreme Court
Article VII- His alleged partiality in grating a temporary restraining order in favor of (Former President and no Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)and her husband in order to give them an opportunity ti escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TR0 in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.
If Corona is found guilty in Article 2, Honasan said the Senate will no longer vote on the two other Articles.
Because the rules also provide that the respondent, in this case the Chief Justice, may be convicted in at least one offense even if he is acquitted in other charges.
As spelled out in the Constitution, two-thirds of all members of the Senate, or 16 votes are required to convict the defendant. The penalty for conviction consists of removal from office and disqualification to hold any office.
Corona has to get only eight votes in his favor to secure an acquittal.
Most of the senators are aware that the vote will be one of their most crucial decisions in the 15th Congress, with far-reaching repercussions on the Aquino administration’s campaign for reforms and its relations with the Supreme Court.
“Things like an impeachment have a life of its own apart from the legislative function of the Senate,” Sotto said. “That’s why, the vote will be crucial.’’
The vote itself will be historic in the sense that the first impeachment case tried by the Senate from late 2000 to early 2001 — involving President Joseph Estrada — did not reach this stage.
A majority vote against the introduction of evidence believed to be damaging to Estrada led to mammoth street protests, later backed by the military and the police, that forced him to quit the presidency.
The verdict on Corona, once handed down, will be final. Enrile made this clear to lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas after opening Monday’s trial. Cuevas told radio Sunday that the Constitution did not state that the judgment would be final and unappealable.
“We respect your position but I just want to remind you our reading of Article 11 of the Constitution, which says that the Senate shall have sole power to try and decide all impeachment cases. I just want to put that on the record,’’ Enrile told Cuevas, who curtly admitted he did make the statement on a radio interview.
Sotto agreed: “It is explicit in the power of the Senate; it is explicit in the Constitution.’’ He said this was Cuevas’ opinion and that the senator-judges would be guided by the Senate rules of procedure on impeachment.
Section 21 of the rules states: “A motion to reconsider the vote by which any article of impeachment is sustained or rejected shall not be in order.’’
Under the rules, in the case of conviction, the Senate would deposit a copy of the judgment with the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.
“After the voting…, whatever the result will be, mostly probably the Senate will come out with a resolution, citing the result of the trial,’’ Sotto said.
In case of a judgment of conviction, how soon would the Chief Justice leave his office? Sotto said: “We have not reached that part.’’