Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parts of de Lima's testimony 'hearsay'

Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Leila De Lima gives her testimony as a witness during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona (not pictured) at the Senate in Manila February 22, 2012. Corona has vowed to fight to clear his name in a trial which has its roots in the bitter rivalry between President Benigno Aquino and his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest awaiting trial herself on charges of election fraud and corruption.

Before presiding officer Enrile made the decision, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has already concurred with the Corona camp’s motion.

“It appears the justice secretary has never participated in counting the votes or in the decision-making process of the Supreme Court. If she was absent how can she have a personal knowledge?” Santiago said.

“What we’ve been hearing are a series of opinions. The rules are clear. No opinion is allowed in the court unless she is being qualified as an expert witness which she is not,” she added.

And while De Lima's statements may be included on record, they would only strike out to the extent of “the truth or falsity of what has been narrated in the dissenting opinion”, said Senate President and impeachment presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile

“I suggest to my fellow senator-judges to disregard the portion on what the chief justice or the other justices did during the deliberation because it is beyond the witness’ competence to testify on,” Enrile said.

The Senate came to that ruling after lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas moved to disregard De Lima’s statement on Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's dissenting opinion, noting that the testimonies were merely based on hearsay.

“It is much to my regret to strike out the witness’ testimonies. The defense panel’s motion to strike is based on her admission that she has no personal knowledge and merely read the dissenting opinion of Justice Sereno,” Cuevas said.

De Lima earlier stressed that Sereno’s dissenting opinion revealed the irregularities committed by the Supreme Court, particularly by Chief Justice Renato Corona, on the issuance of temporary restraining order.

Cuevas cross-examined the justice secretary and pressed her why she is highlighting Sereno’s dissenting opinion in her testimony.

“I am giving it serious credence because it has not been disputed and denied by other members of the court,” she explained.

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