Senate won’t subpoena 4 SC justices in Corona impeach trial
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate has turned down a motion by the prosecution team to subpoena four justices of the Supreme Court in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The court resolves to deny the request,” said Senate Secretary Emma Reyes, who sits as clerk of court in the trial, reading from a prepared resolution.
Those sought by the prosecution to appear before the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, were Associate Justices Martin Villarama, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes and Presbitero Velasco Jr.
The justices were requested to appear and bring court documents in relation to the illegal retrenchment case filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines against the Philippine Airlines in 1998.
Corona’s “integrity, competence, probity and independence” have been put in question when he allegedly allowed the Supreme Court to act on mere letters of PAL’s legal counsel, which resulted to the reversal of earlier rulings in favor of FASAP.
In denying the prosecution’s request to subpoena the Supreme Court justice, the resolution cited a provision of the high tribunal’s own rules about confidentiality of court sessions.
Under section 2 of the rules, court sessions are considered “executive in character, with only the members of the court present.”
“Court deliberations are confidential and shall not be disclosed to outside parties except as may be provided herein or as authorized by the court,” it further said.
“It’s therefore unequivocal from the above rule that the sessions of the Supreme Court are executive in character with only the members of the Supreme Court present and that the deliberations therein are confidential,” said the Senate Secretary.
The resolution said the Senate could not also grant the subpoena, citing the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
“This court can’t do so without transgressing the basic constitutional principle of separation of powers. This court is bound to respect the internal rules of the Supreme Court, which is a co-equal branch of government under the Constitution,” Reyes said.
“This argument is not without justification,” the resolution said pointing out that unlike in the 1935 and the 1973 Constitutions, the present 1987 Constitution does not provide Congress the power to amend the rules of court.
The 1935 and 1973 Constitution, it said, specifically provided that the rules of court promulgated by the Supreme Court may be “repealed, altered or supplemented” by Congress.
“No similar provision appears in the 1987 Constitution. This will show that the power to promulgate rules of pleadings, practice and procedure is no longer shared by this court with Congress,” Reyes further said.
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