Supreme Court: No double standard on witnesses
What double standard?
The Supreme Court on Sunday dismissed insinuations that it exhibited a “double standard” when it allowed its budget officer to appear as a defense witness in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona despite its own resolution barring court personnel from testifying in the proceedings.
In a statement, Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said the testimony of Araceli Bayuga was not covered by the tribunal’s resolution that was issued on Feb. 14.
The resolution blocked the prosecution panel from calling to the witness stand a driver and a security guard of the high court who had served the injuctive order that would have allowed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country in November 2011.
Marquez, who referred to the driver and the security guard as “process servers” of the high tribunal, explained that the resolution prohibited court personnel from testifying only on matters concerning judicial privilege.
“The task of the two court process servers was part of the decision processes of the court on a pending case and, therefore, judicial privilege was not waived,” he maintained.
On the other hand, Bayuga’s testimony and duties as a budget officer “have nothing to do with the deliberative processes of the court and, therefore, are not covered by the prohibition” of the court’s Feb. 14 resolution, he said.
“I don’t think there’s a double standard there. One will have to carefully read the resolution of the court to appreciate the distinction,” Marquez said.
Others barred, too
Aside from the driver and the security guard, the court also barred Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal and her deputy, Felipa Anama, from taking the witness stand in connection with the seventh of the eight articles of impeachment.
The seventh impeachment article accused the Chief Justice of flip-flopping in a labor case filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines against Philippine Airlines.
In her testimony, Bayuga said that Corona had received about P21 million in salaries and other financial benefits since Arroyo appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2002.
Bayuga was the defense panel’s first witness to counter the prosecution’s allegation in Article 2 that Corona had failed to disclose all in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Her testimony suggested that the Chief Justice had the means to qualify for loans and acquire condominiums, including a multimillion-peso unit in ritzy The Bellagio in Taguig City.
Whether or not the Chief Justice truthfully reflected his assets and net worth in his declaration is becoming the crux of the Senate trial after the prosecution dropped five of its original eight articles of impeachment against Corona.
The House prosecution panel centered its argument on Article 2, which charges Corona with betrayal of the public trust for failing to disclose all his assets in his SALN. Similar issues of betrayal of the public trust are alleged in two other articles retained, including Corona’s role in resisting the administration’s hold departure order against former President Arroyo.
Dropped were allegations regarding Corona’s “dubious” appointment as chief magistrate, the disregard of the separation of powers in the case of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, questions on high court positions on cityhood bills, and the plagiarism case against another justice, among others.
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