Defense seeks Corona acquittal on dropped articles of impeachment
MANILA, Philippines — The camp of Chief Justice Renato Corona will seek his acquittal, and not mere withdrawal, of the five of eight articles oof impeachment filed against him by the prosecution to ensure that the same allegations would not be revived.
Corona’s lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, feared that if Articles 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8 were simply withdrawn “without prejudice,” then the allegations contained in the articles could be used again in filing another impeachment case against the Chief Justice after the one-year ban for filing lapses.
“[If it is] dismissed with prejudice, I think we can agree with that…They can’t refile anything on this five articles anymore…If it will amount to an acquittal , then that’s fine with us. But if you’re saying: No, we’re withdrawing this without prejudice to refiling them from December or after the one year, that’s different. How can we agree to that?” Esguerra said over a phone interview on Wednesday.
For this reason, Esguerra said the defense team would first seek a clarification from the prosecution team whether they were withdrawing the five articles with or without prejudice.
And if the prosecution team decides to withdraw the allegations without prejudice, then Corona’s camp will present evidence to seek the acquittal of the Chief Justice on the five articles of impeachment.
“We might as well present evidence on the five articles so that there will also be a ruling ultimately by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court on the five articles not only the three. That’s just fair,” he said.
“You cant just go to court and say: You know, I’m accusing you of 10 counts but I’m withdrawing nine [and] I will stick to one,” Esguerra added.
Esguerra issued the statement after the prosecution rested its case against Corona after presenting only evidence and witnesses for only three of eight articles in the impeachment complaint.
The three articles submitted for decision to the Senate impeachment court were Article II pertaining to Corona’s alleged non-disclosure of statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, Article III on his alleged lack of proven competence, probity, integrity and independence and Article VII pertaining to his alleged “partiality” in the granting of a temporary restraining order on the government’s watchlist order against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November 15.
The prosecution team decided to drop the five other articles contained in the complaint.
Under the impeachment rules, the prosecution has to prove the respondent’s guilt in at least one allegation or article they fled against Corona.
Still, Esguerra said, the defense team should not be faulted if they would pursue the acquittal and not mere withdrawal of the five other articles.
“You have accused us of eight and we will answer the eight. And we will introduce most probably evidence on the eight articles not only on the three articles,’ he added.
No less than Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile surmised that the prosecution team had no evidence on the five articles that was why they decided to just drop them.
“Kung ‘yung lima lang ang batayan nila, hindi nila matatanggal ‘yung nasasakdal. ‘Yun ang katotohanan. ‘Wag na tayong magkukunwari. [If the five were the only basis, they cannot remove the respondent. That’s the truth. Let’s not pretend here],” Enrile said in a radio interview.