Monday, January 30, 2012

Behind the impeachment process

An administrative case is similar to an impeachment case wherein the accused, if found guilty, does not lose his life, liberty or property. He only loses his job and will be barred from future employment in the government. But he can still get a job in the private sector. If Corona is convicted, he only ceases to be the Chief Justice, but he can still work as a consultant in a private firm or practice law.

That is why many Filipinos do not understand why the defense tried to bar Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares from testifying and furnishing the court with copies of his tax returns when the declarations in his ITR will determine his honesty and his fitness to be Chief Justice.

The reason given was that it is not clear that ill-gotten wealth is among the charges filed against him, although that is included in Article 2 of the impeachment charges. The defense and, surprisingly, the presiding officer made it very difficult for the prosecution to present its witness and evidence through legal technicalities. The defense took advantage of the relative inexperience of the congressmen-prosecutors to block them every inch of the way from presenting evidence. For almost every question, former Justice Cuevas would make an objection that left not only the prosecution but also the people frustrated. The people only want to know the truth, not how smart the lawyers are.

But the Senate impeachment court has its own rules. Presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile made that clear at the beginning of the trial. The Rules of Court are only “suppletory” to the Senate rules, meaning, they only “supplement” the Senate rules. Therefore, if the impeachment court thinks the Rules of Court are a bar to the truth, it should discard them. But the senators seem to have forgotten this.

Let us not forget that the purpose of the trial is to find out the truth. Is Corona still fit to be Chief Justice? If he is not, then he should go. If he is, then he should stay.

It is not whether he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charges against him. It has been said time and again that the impeachment trial is not a criminal trial where guilt beyond reasonable doubt has to be proven. It is nearer to an administrative case where only preponderance of evidence is necessary.

The reason for the difference is that if an accused is found guilty in a criminal trial, he loses his life, liberty and property. In an administrative case, he loses only his job, or is censured or suspended. He is not barred from finding a new job or, if he is merely censured or suspended, he can go back to his old job. That is why only a preponderance of evidence is needed to convict him.

Right now, it would appear—by the way legal technicalities not understandable to the ordinary citizen are flying back and forth—that the trial is the exclusive domain of lawyers. Even some of the senator-judges who are not lawyers have a difficult time trying to understand what’s going on.

The same is true with perhaps 70 percent of the Filipinos watching the trial on their television sets. They can’t make heads or tails of what is going on. In fact, many of them have lost interest in the trial and have turned to other channels. Too bad, because many of the lawyers, especially lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas and some of the senators, are playing up to the gallery.

There is a saying among lawyers: If your client is guilty, prevent evidence and witnesses from being presented. No evidence, no guilt. The defense seems to be succeeding in this.

The impeachment court, and the presiding officer, should be wary of this ploy. Let the senator-judges and the Filipino people know the truth. Is Renato Corona still fit to be Chief Justice?
I understand what is happening. The lawyers are so steeped in the law. Having been immersed in it during their student days in law school and during most of their adult life as lawyers, they breathe and think and live the law. The way the lawyers, especially the defense counsels, are governed by the Rules of Court and the Rules of Evidence, you would think that these rules are The Ten Commandments themselves. The lawyers do not see outside the rules. So the rules are made to appear like blinders on horses.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

List of Congressmen Who Signed/Did Not Sign the Corona Impeachment Complaint

The count had reached 188, according to Representative Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the justice committee which initiated the process.

The grounds for Corona’s ouster included betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and graft and corruption, citing specifically in the eight articles of impeachment his “undue closeness” to Arroyo who is under hospital arrest for electoral sabotage.

Below is the list of Congressmen Who Signed/Did Not Sign the Corona Impeachment Complaint. Also read the text of the Impeachment complaint after the list of names.

List of solons who signed the impeachment complaint against CJ Corona:

Reps. Niel Tupas Jr. (Iloilo); Reynaldo Umali (Mindoro Oriental); Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite); Arlene Bag-ao (Akbayan); Marcelino Teodoro (Marikina City); Winston Castelo (Quezon City); Ma. Evita Arago (Laguna); Roilo Golez (Paranaque City); Jay Lacson Noel (Navotas; Aurora Cerilles ( Zamboanga del Sur); Emi Calixto Rubiano (Pasay City); Walden Bello (Akbayan); Jim Hataman SAliman (Basilan); Nancy Catamco (North Cotabato); Scott Davies Lanete (Masbate); Rodolfo Valencia (Mindoro Oriental); Florencio Noel (An Waray); Llandro Mark Mendoza (Batangas); Rex Gatchalian (Valenzuela City); Aurelio Gonzales (Pampanga); Jeffrey Ferrer (Negros Occidental); Daisy Avance Fuentes (South Cotabato); Isidro Rodriguez Jr. (Rizal); Victor Yu Jr. (Zamboanga del Sur); Zenaida Angping (Manila); Rogelio Espina (Biliran); Deogracias Ramos Jr. (Sorsogon); Julieta Cortuna (A Teacher); Florencio Garay (Surigao del Sur) Ma. Carmen Zamora-Apsay (Compostela Valley); Roger Mercado (Southern Leyte); Herminira Roman (Bataan); Janette Garin (Iloilo); Neptali Gonzales II (Mandaluyong City); Georgina De Venecia (Pangasinan); Enrique M. Cojuangco (Tarlac); Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Bagong Henerasyon); Tupay Loong (Sulu); Ma. Jocelyn Bernos (Abra); Nur-Ana Sahidulla (Sulu); Pangalian Balindong (Lanao del Sur); Agapito Guanlao (Butil); Mylene Garcia Albano (Davao City); Rachel Arenas (Pangasinan); Kimi S. Cojuangco (Pangasinan); Ana Cristina Siquian-Go (Isabela); Susan Yap (Tarlac); Antonio Alvarez (Palawan); Acmad Tomawis (ALIF); Arnulfo Go (Sultan Kudarat); Eulogio Magsaysay (AVE); Jesus Sacdalan (North Cotabato); Oscar Malapitan (Caloocan City); Raden Sakaluran (Sultan Kudarat); Mercedes Alvarez (Negros Occidental); Alfredo Benitez (Negros Occidental); Abigail Faye Ferriol (Kalinga); Jerry Trenas (Iloilo City); Mel Senen Sarmiento (Western Samar); Josefina Joson (Nueva Ecija); Arnulfo Fuentebella (Camarines Sur); Jeci Lapus (Tarlac); Edwin Olivarez (Paranaque City); Lucy Torres Gomez (Leyte); Carlo Lopez (Manila); Joselito Mendoza (Bulacan); Arnel Cerafica (Pateros-Taguig); Ma. Isabelle Climaco (Zamboanga City); Arturo Robes (San Jose del Monte City); Rene Relampagos (Bohol); Tomas Apacible (Batangas); Florencio Miraflores (Aklan); Teodorico Haresco (Kasangga); Jesus Paras (Bukidnon); Manuel Agyao (Kalinga); Romeo Acop (Antipolo City); Edgar San Luis (Laguna); Ireneo Maliksi (Cavite); Roy Loyola (Cavite); Angelo Palmones (Agham); Mariano Piamonte (A Teacher); Paolo Javier (Antique); Loreto Leo Ocampos (Misamis Occidental); Isidro Lico (Ating Koop); Jesus Celeste (Pangasinan); Jose Ping-ay (Coop Natcco); Ryan Luis Singson (Ilocos Sur); Ponciano Payuyo (Apec); Vicente Belmonte (Iligan City); Eleanor Bulut-Begtang (Apayao); Ronald Cosalan (Benguet); Nelson Collantes (Batangas); Miro Quimbo (Marikina City); Bernardo Vergara (Baguio City); Fernando Gonzales (Albay); Antonio Lagdameo (Davao del Norte); Godofredo Arquiza (Senior Citizen); Antonio Ferrer (Cavite); Baby Aline Alfonso (Cagayan); Gabriel Quisumbing (Cebu); Benjamin ASilo (Manila); George Arnaiz (Negros Oriental); Randolf Ting (Cagayan); Henry Pryde Teves (Negros Oriental); Raul Daza (Northern Samar); Joseph Violago (Nueva Ecija); Linabelle Ruth Villarica (Bulacan); Justin Chipeco (Laguna); Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol); Aflredo Garbin Jr. (Ako Bicol); Jocelyn Limkaichong (Negros Oriental); Eleandro Jesus Madrona (Romblon); Cesar Sarmiento (Catanduanes); David Kho (Senior Citizens); Francisco Emmanuel R. Ortega III (Abono); Neil Montejo (An Waray); Robert Estrella (Abono); Albert Garcia (Bataan); Giorgidi Aggabao (Isabela); Daryl Grace Abayon (AT); Roberto V. Puno (Antipolo City); Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (Cavite); Eufranio Eriguel (La Union); Mariano Michael Velarde (Buhay); Irwin Tieng (Buhay); Mariano Piamonte Jr. (A Teacher); Pedro Pancho (Bulacan); Maria Valentina Plaza (Agusan del Sur); Andres Salvacion (Leyte); Yevgeny Emano (Misamis Oriental); Nelson Dayanghirang (Davao Oriental); Raymond Mendoza (TUCP); Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo); Mark Enverga (Quezon); Salvador Cabaluna III (1-Care); Homer Mercado (1-Utak); Jose F. Zubiri III (Bukidnon); Patricio Antonio (Agbiag); Dakila Cua (Quirino); Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Marinduque); Pedro Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato-Gen. Santos City); Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar); Henedina R. Abad (Batanes); Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela); Raymond Palatino (Kabataan); Antonio l. Tinio (ACT); Nicanor Briones (AGAP); Neri Javier Colmenares (Bayan Muna); Teddy Casino (Bayan Muna); Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora); Mary Mitzi Cajayon (Caloocan City); Carol Jayne Lopez (YACAP); Jorge Banal III (Quezon City); Irvin Alcala (Quezon); Benjo Benaldo (Cagayan de Oro City);Jonathan Yambao (Zamboanga Sigubay); Lorenzo Tanada III (Quezon); Peter Unabia (Misamis Oriental); Cresente Paez (Coop-Natcco); Leopoldo Bataoil (Pangasinan); Amado Bagatsing (Manila); Julio Ledesma IV (Negros Occidental); Bai Sandra Sema (Maguindanao-Cotabato City); Rommel Amatong (Compostela Valley); Sharon Garin (Aambis-Owa) Vincent Crisologo (Quezon City); Czarina Umali (Nueva Ecija); Napoleon Dy (Isabela); Michael Rivera (1-CARE); Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (Quezon City); JC Rahman Nava (Guimaras); Joseph Victor Ejercito (San Juan); Nur G. Jaafar (Tawi-tawi); Marlin Primicias-Agabas (Pangasinan); Rachel del Mar (Cebu City); Jack Enrile (Cagayan); Anthony Golez (Bacolod City); Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis); Renato J. Unico Jr. (Camarines Norte); Trisha Bonoan (Manila); Franklin Bautista (Davao del Sur); Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu); Red Durano (Cebu); Cinchona Gonzales (CiBAC); and Sherwin Tugna (CIBAC)

List of Congressmen Who Did Not Sign the Corona Impeachment Complaint

Aglipay, Emmeline Y.

Albano, Rodolfo B.
Isabela, 1st District

Alcover, Pastor Jr. M.

Almario, Thelma Z.
Davao Oriental, 2nd District

Amante-Matba, Angelica M.
Agusan del Norte, 2nd District

Andaya, Rolando Jr. G.
Camarines Sur, 1st District

Antonino, Rodolfo W.
Nueva Ecija, 4th District

Apostol, Sergio F.
Leyte, 2nd District

Aquino, Jose II S.
Agusan del Norte, 1st District

Arroyo, Diosdado Macapagal
Camarines Sur, 2nd District

Arroyo, Iggy T.
Negros Occidental, 5th District

Aumentado, Erico B.
Bohol, 2nd District

Bagasina, Catalina C.

Biazon, Rodolfo G.
Muntinlupa City, Lone District

Bichara, Al Francis DC.
Albay, 2nd District

Binay, Mar-Len Abigail S.
Makati City, 2nd District

Bondoc, Anna York P., M.D.
Pampanga, 4th District

Bravo, Narciso Jr. R.
Masbate, 1st District

Brawner Baguilat, Teddy Jr.
Ifugao, Lone District

Cagas, Marc Douglas IV C.
Davao del Sur, 1st District

Calimbas-Villarosa, Ma. Amelita A.
Occidental Mindoro, Lone District

Canonigo, Ranulfo P.

Cari, Jose Carlos L.
Leyte, 5th District

Castro, Jane T.
Capiz, 2nd District

Co, Christopher S.

Dalog, Maximo B.
Mountain Province, Lone District

Datumanong ,Simeon A.
Maguindanao, 2nd District

Defensor, Arthur Jr. R.
Iloilo, 3rd District

Del Rosario, Anthony G.
Davao del Norte, 1st District

Diaz, Antonio M. (†)
Zambales, 2nd District

Dimaporo, Fatima Aliah Q.
Lanao del Norte, 2nd District

Dimaporo, Imelda Quibranza
Lanao del Norte, 1st District

Duavit, Joel Roy
Rizal, 1st District

Ecleo, Ruben Jr. B.
Dinagat Islands, Lone District

Escudero, Salvador III H.
Sorsogon, 1st District

Fabian, Erico Basilio A.
Zamboanga City, 2nd District

Fariñas, Rodolfo C.
Ilocos Norte, 1st District

Fernandez, Danilo Ramon S.
Laguna, 1st District

Flores, Florencio Jr. T.
Bukidnon, 2nd District

Fua, Orlando B.
Siquijor, Lone District

Garcia, Pablo John F.
Cebu, 3rd District

Garcia, Pablo P.
Cebu, 2nd District

Gullas, Eduardo R.
Cebu, 1st District

Gunigundo, Magtanggol T.
Valenzuela City, 2nd District

Ilagan,Luzviminda C.

Jalosjos, Cesar G.
Zamboanga del Norte, 3rd District

Jalosjos, Romeo Jr. M.
Zamboanga Sibugay, 2nd District

Jalosjos, Seth F. P.
Zamboanga del Norte, 1st District

Kho, Antonio T.
Masbate, 2nd District

Labadlabad, Rosendo S.
Zamboanga del Norte, 2nd District

Lagdameo, Monique Yazmin Q.
Makati City, 1st District

Lagman, Edcel C. Albay, 1st District

Lazatin, Carmelo F.
Pampanga, 1st District

Leonen-Pizarro, Catalina G.

Macapagal Arroyo, Juan Miguel

Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria M.
Pampanga, 2nd District

Magsaysay, Ma. Milagros H.
Zambales, 1st District

Mandanas, Hermilando I.
Batangas, 2nd District

Marañon, Alfredo III D.
Negros Occidental, 2nd District

Marcoleta, Rodante D.

Marcos, Imelda R.
Ilocos Norte, 2nd District

Matugas, Francisco ‘Lalo’ T.
Surigao del Norte, 1st District

Mellana, Evelyn P.
Agusan del Sur, 2nd District

Mercado-Revilla, Lani
Cavite, 2nd District

Nograles, Karlo Alexei B.
Davao City, 1st District

Obillo, Reena Concepcion G.

Ocampo, Rosenda Ann
Manila, 6th District

Ong, Emil L.
Northern Samar, 2nd District

Ortega, Victor Francisco C.
La Union, 1st District

Osmeña, Tomas R.
Cebu City, 2nd District

Pacquiao, Emmanuel D.
Sarangani, Lone District

Padilla, Carlos M.
Nueva Vizcaya, Lone District

Pangandaman, Mohammed Hussein P.
Lanao del Sur, 1st District

Pangandaman, Nasser C.

Pangandaman, Solaiman C. (Resigned)

Panotes, Elmer E.
Camarines Norte, 2nd District

Pichay, Philip A.
Surigao del Sur, 1st District

Radaza, Arturo O.
Lapu-Lapu City, Lone District

Remulla, Jesus Crispin C.
Cavite, 7th District

Rodriguez, Maximo Jr. B.

Rodriguez, Rufus B.
Cagayan de Oro City, 2nd District

Romarate, Guillermo Jr. A.
Surigao del Norte, 2nd District

Romualdez, Ferdinand Martin G.
Leyte, 1st District

Romualdo, Pedro P.
Camiguin, Lone District

Romulo, Roman T.
Pasig City, Lone District

Sambar, Mark Aeron H.

Singson, Eric Jr. G.
Ilocos Sur, 2nd District

Singson, Ronald V. (Resigned)
Ilocos Sur, 1st District

Socrates, Victorino Dennis M.
Palawan, 2nd District

Suarez, Danilo E.
Quezon, 3rd District

Sy-Alvarado, Ma. Victoria R.
Bulacan, 1st District

Syjuco, Augusto Boboy, Ph.D.
Iloilo, 2nd District

Tan, Milagrosa ‘Mila’ T.
Western Samar, 2nd District

Tiangco, Tobias ‘Toby’ M.
Navotas City, Lone District

Tinga, Sigfrido R.
Taguig City, 2nd District

Ty, Arnel U.

Villafuerte, Luis R.
Camarines Sur, 3rd District

Villar, Mark A.
Las Piñas City, Lone District

Yap, Arthur C.
Bohol, 3rd District

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Justice delayed is justice denied

She earlier stressed the need to hasten the impeachment proceedings saying that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago threw tantrums on Wednesday after failing to solicit attention during the sixth day of Chief Justice Renato Corona's impeachment trial.

“You should not treat me as a mere observer, I am a judge. Do not drown me out with your screaming. Only I can scream here and my fellow judges,” Santiago said after she was not recognized while the prosecution ande defense were in the middle of a heated debate.

"Kaya tayo tumatagal, may oration pa eh! This is not a school on oratorical skills. This is a school on logic and experience," the veteran senator and lawyer said.

Santiago was also irked with prosecution panel’s persistent questioning on witness Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares even though her testimonies, according to the senator-judge, were already enough.

“Tapos na itong babaeng ito! May trabaho pa iyan! Pauwiin niyo na iyan!

“Let's just abbreviate the process, mark the documents and call the next witness. She is not the proper witness.

“Bakit pa natin papatagalin ito? Huwag niyo kami pilitin sa ayaw namin gawin!” Santiago lamented.

She earlier stressed the need to hasten the impeachment proceedings saying that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

The senator-judge then warned laweyer Arthur Lim, private prosecutor, “You’re in danger of contempt.”

Netizens expressed their concern for Santiago who just recovered from hypertension which kept her from attending the first week of the trial.

“Hinay hinay lang Sen. Santiago. Ang BP niyo po. High Blood po kayo,” said Twitter user iRuianM.

User johndanvic also said: “Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, ang BP nyo po, baka tumaas.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Renato Corona SALN

Based on Corona's 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) turned over by Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal, Corona bought a condominium in Makati in 2003 worth P1.2 million, a condominium in Taguig in 2004 worth P2.3 million, and another condominium in Taguig in 2010 worth P6.8 million.

These prime properties were purchased purportedly on installment after Corona was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002 by then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. His net worth has gone up by P8 million since his appointment to the high court.

Corona's net worth has been rising since 2004, based on his SALNs.

The 2 condominiums in Taguig City are believed to be a unit at Bonifacio Ridge and a unit in Bellagio Tower.

The condominium in Makati is believed to be a unit in The Columns, Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

Corona has admitted to owning a 300-square meter apartment in The Fort, Taguig, and that he has declared this in his SALN "when they acquired it," according to his reply to the impeachment complaint.

He has also admitted to owning 4 other properties from a Land Registration Authority (LRA) list of 45 properties released by House prosecutors last week.

This was Tupas’ initial assessment of the SALNs after these were obtained by the Senate impeachment court.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona's net worth jumped from P14.9 million in 2002 to P22.9 million in 2010, according to documents submitted to the impeachment court.

After getting copies of Corona's SALN, House chief prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas said Corona did not declare 6 supposedly big-ticket properties in his SALN.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Expectations in Corona’s impeachment trial

The following are what is expected in the impeachment against Renato Corona that will redound to a fair and just verdict:

1.That the trial will not be against Corona, the person, but Corona, the Supreme Court Chief Justice (SC CJ).

2.As a public official and SC CJ, has Renato Corona been exercising judicial independence in his decisions for the good of the greater number of people or bias for those instrumental in his appointment as CJ?

3.Has Corona been using his influence among former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) SC appointees for favorable decisions in cases against her?

4.Has Corona been exercising the highest degree of ethicality in the performance of his job, especially with regards to cases against GMA?

5.Why has there been flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases?

6.Is Corona working to straighten justice and truth or bending it for expediency and accommodation?

7.How true that Renato Corona has amassed vast wealth in just 9 years?

6.What made Corona issue the “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez?

7.Why has Renato Corona failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN)?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Who is Justice Renato C. Corona?

Appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on April 9, 2002 as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the Philippines. Corona had served over thirty years both in private sector and government administration. Renato C. Corona is the 150th member of the highest court.

Alumni from Ateneo de Manila University, where he graduated Bachelor in Arts with honors and continues his study in Bachelor of Law and ranked as the 5th in the class. Corona passed the bar examination in 1974 and ranked as the 25th place with 84.6% grade. He then served 17 years as an Ateneo faculty member, where he taught Corporation Law and other commercial law subjects.

He continued his Masters degree in Business Administration at the Ateneo Professional School and took his Masters in Law from Harvard Law School in 1982 majoring the field of foreign investment policies and the regulation of corporations and financial institutions.

On his early year as a young lawyer, he had served Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) as a consultant. He then became a senior vice president of the General Counsel and a corporate sec. of Commercial Bank of Manila.

Corona also writes for The Manila Chronicle. His column was called “Tax Corner” where he deals with tax and commercial law issues. In 1998, he received the Philippine Legion of Honor Award and was once called one of the Outstanding Manilans.

In 1992, he had served as the Presidential Legal Counsel and Deputy Executive Secretary to President Fidel Ramos. He then became the spokes person and chief of staff of V-President Arroyo in 1998. In 2001, where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became the president, Renato C. Corona had promoted to Presidential Chief of Staff, Presidential Spokesperson, and afterward, Acting Executive Secretary.

As a member of the Supreme Court, he is the Chairman of the Third Division, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Oversight Committee, Legislative-Executive Relations Committee, House of Representative Electoral Tribunal, a Co-Chairman of the Administrative Concerns Committee of the Supreme Court and a member of the Management Committee of the Judicial Reform Support Project and Committee on Public Information.

On international conferences, corona represented the Supreme Court of the Philippines and submitted numeral papers in bar and judicial congresses abroad. He also writes and teaches International Law at the Graduate School of the University of Santo Tomas.

To the new Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, congratulations and we wish you all the success in your endeavors.

Impeachment Trial cost 5 million pesos

Senator Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III said yesterday that P5 million will be used for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona starting January 16. Sotto said that the amount was set aside initially for the impeachment trial of Ombusman Maria Merceditas N. Gutierrez.

It was unspent because it was pre-empted by her resignation. The money, Sotto said, will be used to purchase equipment, pay overtime, and buy food, among others. Sotto said the money will be taken from the Senate President’s budget last year, and any additional funds will be tapped as the trial goes along.

Senators who are not lawyers unfazed by role in Corona impeachment trial

Like many of his fellow senators, Lapid lacks legal background, which would come in handy in an impeachment trial. But Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III defended his low-profile colleague, saying Lapid would not be a liability in the proceedings.

Sotto, himself not a lawyer but a veteran lawmaker and an expert in parliamentary rules and procedures, said senator-judges were no different from members of the jury in the American legal system.

“There, waitresses and taxi drivers can serve as jurors in the trial of mayors and congressmen,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “So, why should people look down on senators who are not lawyers such as Lito? He is a senator elected by the people, so why would they belittle him?”

Sotto said one difference was that a jury votes as one while senator-judges decide individually in an impeachment court.

Half of the 24 senators are not lawyers, but these senators can always tap legal consultants to provide perspective on the impeachment trial, according to Sotto.

During the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada, Sotto said he was regularly briefed by his own team of legal experts before and during the aborted trial. “But at the end of the day, it was I who still made the decisions,” he said.

Two of the lawyers in the chamber – Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan –are under fire for previously calling on Corona to inhibit himself from any cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But Drilon and Pangilinan, who belong to President Aquino’s Liberal Party, turned down suggestions that they inhibit themselves from the impeachment trial owing to their previous position against Corona. Both senators used to be allies of Arroyo.

Drilon blasted Corona for being a former chief of staff of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who later appointed Corona to the Supreme Court. He also questioned the chief justice’s impartiality, noting that he might have felt bad when Mr. Aquino refused to take his oath before Corona last year.

Drilon sought to justify his action, saying, “I only issued an appeal that he inhibit himself from participating in Supreme Court cases involving Arroyo due to public perception of partiality as he once served as her chief of staff and spokesperson.”

Pangilinan said the rules on inhibition did not apply in an impeachment trial, which he described as a “political proceeding.”
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