Avoiding a Confrontation?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, February 23, 2012 – In disallowing Philippine Air Lines vice president for sales Enrique Javier from testifying for the prosecution on the perks or special benefits the airline had given Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, is the Senate as impeachment court avoiding a confrontation with the Supreme Court?

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, in dismissing Javier from the witness stand reasoned that his testimony was irrelevant – accusing Corona of bribery which is not included in Article III, the charge under consideration. When Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., head of the prosecution, remarked that Javier’s testimony was disallowed on technicality, Enrile retorted, “… you are asking us in effect to review the decision of the Supreme Court [in the FASAP case].

In the FASAP case, the Supreme Court after receiving a mere letter from PAL’s counsel Estelito Mendoza reversed its decision against PAL — in a labor case earlier won by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines — even if the decision had already become final and executory. The Court’s “flip-flopping” was blamed on Corona.

Tupas in explaining the relevance of Javier’s testimony said they were just laying down the motive for the Supreme Court in reconsidering its decision for the final time in favor of PAL. The special benefits from the Platinum Cards PAL had given the Coronas were the reasons for the flip-flopping.

However, the prosecution has only itself to blame if the impeachment court did not see the relevance of Javier’s testimony. Article III is diffused, hence confusing – in Pilipino kalat, malabo,magulo. Following is Article III in full:

Respondent committed culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayed the public trust by failing to meet and observe the stringent standards under Art. VIII, Section 7(3) of the Constitution that provides that[a] member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independencein allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in discussing with litigants regarding cases pending before the Supreme Court.

That Enrile lost his patience over a poorly constructed complaint is understandable. Yet, he should have held his patience and allowed Javier to testify. The burden to relate the evidence to the charge is on the prosecution. He should have granted that according to the prosecution plan, Javier was not to testify against Corona for bribery but just to show the motive for favoring PAL in the FASAP case. The court has the prerogative to reject Javier’s testimony or any other evidence if it is not shown to be relevant to the charge.

The prosecution was not to be discouraged. Last Wednesday (February 22), it came back to court with Article III, as expanded, abridged – withdrawing paragraphs 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 but keeping 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3, the FASAP case still included. After presenting FASAP President Robert Arduiza as witness, the prosecution ended the submission of evidence for the FASAP case.  It is expected to present later evidence for charges 3.2 and 3.3.

Obviously, the prosecution wants the impeachment court to review the decision of the Supreme Court on the FASAP. — Patricio P. Diaz, General Santos City/MindaNews.

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