Enrile open to issuing subpoenas to House members
MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Sunday he could require the appearance of members of the House of Representatives to testify in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
But Enrile did not close the door on the possibility of prosecutors presenting relatives of Corona’s wife, Cristina, in connection with the family feud over the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI), later in the trial.
The impeachment trial is set to resume at 2 p.m. on Monday, with the Senate deciding on the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence and the defense’s motion to acquit Corona on the five articles of impeachment earlier withdrawn by his accusers.
Defense counsels will then begin presenting their own evidence, beginning with the argument that Corona was denied due process when House members prepared the verified complaint that led to his impeachment last December 12.
Enrile said the matter was already settled, and the trial has been ongoing. But defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra on Friday said the Senate denied only the motion for preliminary hearing when trial began last January 16.
Still, Enrile said the court would be “liberal” and accommodate the defense’s bid to summon certain House members to testify. But he said it would be better if the congressmen would “volunteer” to appear.
“We will consider that,” he said, noting that Corona, being the accused, had the “right under the Constitution to seek the compulsory process” of the impeachment court “to compel the attendance of witnesses for his defense.”
“If the defense panel has a request, we will discuss that in caucus.”
Enrile added: “We will not limit the defense … I will allow their evidence. It’s up to the court to examine which among them would be used or not.”
The defense earlier listed six House members—including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and lead prosecutor Representative Niel Tupas Jr.—among its witnesses.
But Esguerra said his camp would likely settle with Represenatatives Hermilando Mandanas and Tobias Tiangco and House secretary general Marilyn Yap. Mandanas and Tiangco both refused to sign the impeachment complaint and later lost key positions in the chamber.
Enrile said the prosecution could use the testimony of Cristina Corona’s relatives if they would be “relevant” to the charges against the Chief Justice. He said this would come later in the rebuttal stage after the defense has argued its case.
Cristina’s cousin Ana Basa earlier came forward to accuse the Coronas of a variety of misdeeds in connection with the family-owned BGEI.
Enrile said the issue should focus on the P11-million cash advance from BGEI, which was declared in Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. He said the court should know if the corporation was still in a position to extend the cash advance.
“(The prosecution) can use that (evidence) during rebuttal if it has a connection or if it is relevant,” he said.
Enrile also set aside Corona’s allegation that a senator-judge had asked him to resign even before the impeachment trial court began.
“It’s immaterial and irrelevant (in the trial), but if he wants to identify who that person is, then he can do so,” he said in Filipino.
“The motives of the people who accused him are immaterial to the decision on whether or not he is guilty or not. Is he guilty or not? That’s the issue.”
Enrile said he would not advise Corona to stop making the rounds of media outlets in an effort to explain his side. He said prosecutors did the same and had “exposed to the media everything they exposed in the impeachment court.”
“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” he said. “I won’t ask (Corona) to keep silent. Let him reveal whatever he wants to reveal so long as it is relevant to the issue.”
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