‘Defense delaying trial’ | Inquirer News

‘Defense delaying trial’

Prosecutors’ attempt to present evidence blocked at every step

Sen. Panfilo Lacson is unhappy with the numerous objections lodged by the defense at Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial and considers these a deterrent to swift justice.

He said he would officially manifest to his fellow senator-judges his observation that the proceedings were being “consistently bogged down by so many objections on the floor that accomplish nothing except a delay in the trial.”


Lacson said that after seeing the defense block the prosecution’s attempt to present evidence every step of the way, the proceedings so far had made him “understand why it is impossible for justice to be rendered swiftly and fairly.”

He said his experience as a law enforcement official had made him familiar with court processes, especially criminal litigation.


“A poor litigant will quit after exhausting whatever little savings he has when confronted in court by so many legal technicalities that delay his quest for justice,” Lacson said Friday in a text message.

He added: “Now I understand why poor litigants seek justice outside the courtroom, either by [taking] the law in their own hands to settle the score against a rich and powerful respondent, or turn to the [New People’s Army’s] kangaroo court.

“I intend to manifest next week before my co-jurors this observation, with the sole purpose of expediting the trial while preserving due process. There must be a balance between the two concerns, and we must find that balance.”

Repeated blocking

On Thursday, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, the lead defense lawyer, repeatedly blocked Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga’s attempt to present evidence to prove that Corona had failed to include expensive properties in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs), in a separate charge of graft and ill-gotten wealth against the Chief Justice under Article 2.

On Wednesday, Cuevas et al. would have succeeded in blocking Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal from submitting Corona’s SALNs for the period 2002-2011 had Sen. Franklin Drilon not elicited an admission from her that she had actually brought copies of the documents.

On Tuesday, the second day of the trial, Barzaga was forced to move for an adjournment after Cuevas questioned the authenticity of “computer-generated” documents that the prosecutor had planned to present to the impeachment court to prove that Corona owned several properties that he did not declare in his SALNs.


‘Premature judgment’

On the phone with the Inquirer, Sen. Gregorio Honasan issued the reminder that members of the impeachment court were not barred from questioning witnesses after their testimony.

Honasan, who also served as a senator-judge during the aborted impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada from late 2000 to early 2001, pointed out that he could even pose questions to Cuevas if he wanted to.

Honasan said Cuevas made “a premature judgment” when he accused Drilon of “substituting” for House prosecutors. Drilon had questioned Vidal after private prosecutor Mario Bautista failed to convince the clerk of court to surrender Corona’s SALNs.

“Let’s be clear that senator-judges, if they have clarificatory questions, can intervene. They can ask actually anything from anybody—prosecutors, the defense panel, and the witnesses,” he said. “Nobody can stop us from doing that.”

Honasan expressed the belief that Cuevas and other defense lawyers might have been emboldened to air their sentiment because the impeachment court did not discipline the House prosecutors for prematurely disclosing Corona’s supposedly secret assets.

“This is the consequence of our failure to moderate our words, actions and public pronouncements,” he said.

Honasan recalled that after the senator-judges cried foul over the prosecution’s premature release of information on the 303-square-meter penthouse unit supposedly owned by Corona in Taguig City, “no one was cited for contempt [despite calls to do so].”

“Shortly after that, Cuevas insinuated that Malacañang is approaching senator-judges to convince them to vote for a conviction… What is happening is the continuous process of trial by publicity,” he said.

Honasan called on everyone concerned to “allow the process to finish.”

“Let it unfold. [Give it the] benefit of the doubt. The trial is a work in progress,” he said.

He also said the defense should “give the prosecutors a break.”

“Even a seasoned lawyer like Mario Bautista can get nervous in front of a judge. What more in front of 23 senator-judges?” he said.

Honasan said sitting as a judge was “a heavy burden” and that the Senate, like the rest of the nation, was “on trial” on whether it could dispense justice.

He said the people “owned the process” but appealed to them to “not be swayed” by emotion and refrain from making conclusions early on.

“If we make premature conclusions, it would be unfair to the senator-judges and to the Filipino people. We can’t impute partisanship to them at this early stage. Let’s not become impatient. This is a serious process,” he said.

Challenge to senators

In another phone interview, Sen. Joker Arroyo said the challenge facing him and his colleagues in the coming weeks of the impeachment trial was to act as “true jurors.”

“The public expects the senators to be like true jurors, and [it] will hold the Senate to that,” Arroyo said. “The challenge is to be impartial and objective.”

Arroyo, who was among the prosecutors of then President Estrada on charges of corruption, incompetence and inefficiency, said the senators were aware that the public was watching “whether the Senate will be impartial.”

Commenting on Cuevas’ comment that Drilon was “substituting” for the prosecution, Arroyo said: “Is that not a test of what the public wants—absolute neutrality on the part of the Senate? That is our oath: to dispense impartial justice.”

He said it was also incumbent on the media to deliver a fair coverage for the benefit of the public.

“Since the viewership [of Corona’s impeachment trial] doesn’t approximate the one of Estrada, where public participation was almost total, generally the public has to rely on media’s report and interpretation. That puts a responsibility on the part of the media to report fairly as the events happen in the trial,” he said.

To the contending camps he issued this challenge: “The prosecution should prove whatever it stated in the articles, and the defense should controvert and disprove the evidence of the prosecution.”

Search for truth

In a statement, the group called Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) called for sobriety from all sides in the course of the trial.

“We should not let the lawyers’ argumentation and legal technicalities blind us to the moral essence of why CJ Corona is being impeached,” the FSGO said.

It said it agreed with the lead prosecutor, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who said: “We are not here to indict the Supreme Court as an institution, or to do battle with the judicial branch of government. We are here to search for the truth so as to restore the strength and independence of the judiciary.”

First posted 12:09 am | Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Corona impeachment trial, Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.