Corona asks SC to stop impeachment trial, bank subpoenas
MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Renato Corona on Wednesday asked his colleagues in the Supreme Court to temporarily stop the ongoing impeachment proceedings against him and the presentation of evidence allegedly pertaining to his bank deposit and illegal wealth.
Claiming his right to due process was violated and that the Senate, as an impeachment court, committed grave abuse of discretion, Corona filed a 39-page urgent petition for certiorari that sought from the high court a temporary restraining order as well as a writ of preliminary injunction during the pendency of the case.
“Petitioner has suffered grave and irreparable injury due to the continuing violation of his constitutional rights by respondents. Unless a TRO is issued forthwith, the trial shall continue and banks and their representatives will produce and disclose the confidential statements, documents and accounts of petitioner, amounting to irreparable injury from which petitioner has not appeal or other plain, speedy and adequately remedy,” Corona said.
The Chief Justice, in a separate petition, also asked for the inhibitions of Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno from participating in the deliberation of the case, saying both Carpio and Sereno have been openly critical of Corona and were even reported as being eyed as his replacement.
Corona also filed a third petition asking for a special raffle of the case so that a justice who will be the poente or writer of the Court’s orders and the final decision may be selected as soon as possible.
The petitions were filed together at the Supreme Court at around 2 p.m. Wednesday. The tribunal may tackle them in its special en banc (full court) session on Thursday.
Aside from seeking a halt of the impeachment court’s proceedings during the pendency of the suit, Corona also asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the impeachment court’s resolution, dated Feb. 6, 2012, that granted requests for subpoena to the responsible officers of PS Bank and BPI for them to testify and bring and/or produce impeachment documents on the alleged bank accounts of the Chief Justice, only for the purpose of the impeachment proceedings.
Corona also asked that the Supreme Court prevent the officers or representatives of the two banks from testifying and submitting documents on his or his family’s bank accounts.
He also sought the stopping of the presentation, reception and admission of pieces of evidence relating to paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 of the impeachment complaint pertaining to ill-gotten wealth.
After giving due course to the petition, Corona asked the Supreme Court to render judgment declaring the impeachment complaint null and void ab initio (from the start) and making the TRO or writ of preliminary injunction permanent.
Corona said the impeachment complaint was “null and void because it was transmitted without due notice and hearing to [me].”
In his arguments, Corona said the impeachment court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in retaining paragraph 2.3 of Article II of the complainant.
“A simple reading of the Articles of Impeachment will show that probable cause to impeachment Chief Justice Corona has not been established. Per force of circumstance, this impeachment is riddled with constitutional defects too numerous to withstand even cursory legal scrutiny,” he said.
Corona said the impeachment court should have refrained from proceeding to trial on the basis of this complaint “because it is constitutionally inform and defective, for lack of probable cause,” adding that “while the complaint is verified, that alone would not justify the violation of Chief Justice Corona’s fundamental right to due process.”
Following public admissions by congressmen stating they had not opportunity to read the complaint and that the majority signed without reading, Corona said “it stands to reasons that the impeachment court gravely abused its discretion when it accepted the articles of impeachment even if they were patently without probable cause.”
Corona recalled that in 2003, the Supreme Court stopped the House of Representatives from proceeding with the filing of an impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide, saying the proceedings violated due process because Davide was not given notice and hearing.
However, while seeking to nullify the articles of impeachment and stop the impeachment proceedings, Corona scored both the form and content of Article II, which dealt with Corona’s failure to disclose his statement of assets and liabilities.
Corona said paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 of Article II should be deleted because these were merely “based on pure speculation and conclusions, which cannot be considered as ultimate facts sufficient to support a complaint.”
He said the impeachment court violated his right to due process when it allowed the presentation of evidence of his “reported” violation of the anti-graft and corruption law and of his being “suspected and accused” of illegally accumulating real property and bank deposit.
Regarding the subpoenas to the banks, Corona said the impeachment court, as requested by the prosecution, “committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing [them].”
“An information which alleges that defendant is accused of having committed an offense, but which does not directly charge that defendant committed the offense, is insufficient.”
He said that “time and again, [the Supreme Court] has held that charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence, and it would be absurd if mere suspicion and speculation would be treated as valid basis to oust an incumbent Chief Justice.”
Corona also faulted the impeachment court for bowing to the prosecution’s request for summonses for Corona’s alleged bank accounts when its purpose was for a “fishing expedition” and was not obtained independently.
Corona faulted the prosecution for basing it requests for subpoenas about his bank account based on the information provided by an “anonymous small woman,” who purportedly approached Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a member of the prosecution panel.
On the other hand, another prosecutor, Rep. Miro Quimbo, claimed “mysterious documents” were found in the office of the prosecution at the Senate.
Corona said the basis subpoenas were illegal because they were based on confidential information protected by the bank secrecy law.
“The subpoena issued must be quashed for being the fruit of a poisoned tree—the illegality stems from the mere possession of the bank documents without any waiver from the depositor,” Corona said.
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