SC averts crisis, issues no TRO on Corona trial
Stepping back from what could have been a full-blown constitutional crisis, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refrained from issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Senate impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Court spokesperson Midas Marquez said the justices in their regular en banc session instead ordered the consolidation of five petitions on the issue and asked the Senate and the House of Representatives to comment on it within 10 days. He said Corona inhibited himself from the deliberations.
The petitioners, including former Misamis Oriental Governor Homobono Adaza, said the House of Representatives had committed “grave abuse of discretion” in swiftly gathering signatures of 188 members to eight articles of impeachment against Corona during a caucus last month and transmitting the document to the Senate for trial the following day.
Asked to explain the en banc action, Marquez said:
“There are many options here. They could be dismissed right away. It could be comments and then oral arguments. It could be TRO right away. The court can always issue a TRO at any time or call oral arguments at any time.
“So, the court deliberated and this was a unanimous decision. Without (the court) assuming jurisdiction over the case, the respondents are being directed to comment.”
Marquez said that one of the issues the Supreme Court would have to address was whether it had jurisdiction over the petitions since the Senate impeachment trial had already begun. He maintained that the tribunal could intervene in the Senate proceedings under the court’s power of judicial review.
He pointed out that the court had earlier stopped the impeachment of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
“In the event that it believes that it has jurisdiction, then the court will move in determining whether or not there was a violation of the provisions of the Constitution in filing that (impeachment) case,” Marquez said.
Process ongoing in Senate
Asked for comment, Corona’s lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III, said, “In my personal opinion, the judiciary just wants to show courtesy. Since the process is already in the Senate, maybe the court deemed it better to let the Senate proceed … Maybe the court thinks it’s not appropriate to issue a TRO at this time.”
Said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda: “We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court not to issue a TRO … It is a recognition of the unique nature of the impeachment court as the Constitution established it.”
During a news briefing, Marquez also said Supreme Court officials subpoenaed to the trial should get the clearance from the court en banc, referring to reports that House prosecutors planned to subpoena the tribunal’s clerk of court about Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
“If there would be such a thing, I would like to think that the clerk of court will ask for directions from the court en banc,” Marquez said.
However, he said he did not know how justices would react if they were summoned to the Senate.
During the en banc session, Marquez said the justices unanimously decided to seek the comment of their colleagues on the pending requests of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for the SALNs of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals justices in a bid to come up with a “uniform policy” on the issue.
Comments were required also from the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, judges’ organizations and the Philippine Association of Court Employees.
When asked if this review would lead to the release of Corona’s SALN as demanded by prosecutors in his impeachment trial, Marquez said, “That depends because right now I don’t think the court has received any subpoena from the Senate about the SALN of the Chief Justice.”
He said the review came about due to long-pending petitions from the PCIJ, the first one which asked for the SALN of Supreme Court justices and the other for the SALN of Court of Appeals justices. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Norman Bordadora, PDI and Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted: 1:28 pm | Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
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