Prosecution: Out to oust Chief Justice, make history
Can a popular President oust a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
An 11-member prosecution team from the House of Representatives is set to make history on Monday by showing how, as it shifts the battle from the media to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
The prosecutors lineup is a mix of legal “lightweights and heavyweights,” graduates of the country’s premier law schools, and includes two bar topnotchers, two certified public accountants, two bar reviewers, an economist and practicing trial lawyers. Most of the members are scions of rich and influential political clans.
They will be backstopped by 57 private prosecutors, an average of four to 11 private lawyers for each of the eight articles of impeachment. Panel spokesperson Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara said all 59 private lawyers have volunteered their services free of charge.
In an interview, some panel members admitted that the campaign to “free” the Supreme Court of Corona has turned out to be much worse than they imagined.
‘Daunting and exciting’
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the chief prosecutor, said the trial will be both “daunting and exciting,” as he anticipates locking horns with more seasoned counterparts from the camp of the Chief Justice and with the “great legal and political minds in the Senate.”
He said he is motivated by the desire to seek justice and fairness from the highest court of the land.
“This chapter is but a part of our quest to have former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, pay for all her crimes to the people as we join in this tactical effort to unseat an undeserving Chief Justice who we believe was precisely appointed to protect her,” Tupas said.
Corona is accused of betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution. He was impeached last month by 188 congressmen who filed the impeachment complaint and delivered the eight articles of impeachment to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court in a matter of hours last Dec. 12.
Tupas, the chair of the House committee on justice that initiated the impeachment complaint against Corona, will argue the article dealing with Corona’s alleged partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration, with Deputy Speaker and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares.
The son of a former Iloilo governor, Tupas, 42, finished political science, magna cum laude, and law, at the University of the Philippines.
Daza, 76, is a seasoned CPA and trial lawyer and has practiced both here and in the United States. He finished business administration, cum laude, at the University of the East and took his law degree, cum laude, at the University of the Philippines. He placed 11th in the 1957 bar examinations. He served as senior defense counsel in the impeachment trial of deposed President Joseph Estrada in 2000.
A human rights lawyer, Colmenares has litigated a long list of cases in civil, criminal, constitutional and electoral law. He took an economics degree at San Beda College and completed his law degree at UP in 1996.
Not judicial but political
Colmenares claims not to be threatened by the crack defense team, saying the House prosecutors’ collective experience will help win the case.
But he said this was not a decisive factor as in the end, impeachment is not a judicial proceeding but a political act of a political body.
The prosecutors’ preparation will not entirely focus on convincing the senators to convict on the basis of jurisprudence or the rules of court but on what is just and in the interest of the common good and good governance, he said.
“While we will present evidence so to speak, we will not be bound by the Rules of Court,” Colmenares said.
The article dealing with Corona’s alleged failure to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) will be argued for the prosecution by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., Pangasinan Rep. Marilyn Primicias-Aggabas and Tupas.
Barzaga, 62, has a degree in commerce, cum laude, from San Beda College, and finished law, magna cum laude, from Far Eastern University.
Aggabas finished commerce at University of Santo Tomas and law at San Beda. She was a trial lawyer in Pangasinan before joining Congress.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, Akbayan party-list member Arlene Bag-ao and Cibac party-list member Sherwin Tugna will take care of the article dealing with Corona’s alleged failure to “meet and observe the stringent standards” of a member of the judiciary.
Aggabao ranked 10th in the 1980 bar examinations after graduating with a law degree from Ateneo de Manila University in 1980.
At 34, the youngest member of the panel, Tugna was admitted to the bar in 2007. He obtained his law degree from Ateneo de Manila University and a commerce degree from University of Santo Tomas.
Bag-ao and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali will handle the article dealing with Corona’s alleged disregard for the separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives in the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Bag-ao finished political science at De La Salle University, and obtained her law degree from from Ateneo de Manila in 1993.
A lawyer-economist, Umali obtained a degree in economics at Ateneo de Manila University in 1978, and in law at San Beda College and Manuel L. Quezon University in 1987.
Barzaga and Aggabao will handle the article pertaining to Corona’s alleged “wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the principle of res judicata” in the cases involving the 16 newly created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat island into a province.
Tugna and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas will handle the article accusing Corona of “arrogating unto himself and to a committee he created, the authority and jurisdiction to improperly investigate a justice of the Supreme Court for the purpose of exculpating him,” in the plagiarism case involving Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
Prosecutor who did not sign
Fariñas finished his law degree at Ateneo de Manila University in 1978 and placed eighth in the bar examinations. He has the distinction of being the only prosecutor who did not sign the impeachment complaint.
Colmenares and Daza will handle the article charging Corona with alleged partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, and in allegedly “distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the TRO.”
Umali and Aggabao will argue the article charging Corona with graft and corruption for allegedly failing and refusing to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.
Cavite City Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, the 11th member of the prosecution panel who will serve as its manager, is a former Navy officer who obtained a degree in mathematics from the US Naval Academy, and a degree in law from Ateneo de Manila. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan
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