MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/9 May) – After Senators Franklin Drilon and Edgardo Angara, who will the defense lawyers of impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona ask (read demand) to inhibit from the trial?
Corona’s lawyers had asked Drilon to inhibit after the senator helped the prosecution elicit information that they failed to obtain from witnesses during trial. In the case of Angara, they said there is “conflict of interest” citing his son’s work as spokesperson of the prosecution team and endorsement by President Aquino as a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party in the 2013 election, among others.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas said they filed the seven-page motion for Angara’s inhibition because Corona has the “feeling” that the senator-judge might not be impartial in his decision.
And here’s the defense panel’s clincher, the last paragraph of the petition which reads: “The only way Senator Angara can redeem himself is to vote for acquittal.”
It’s not unlike saying the only honorable thing the Senate can do is to acquit the Chief Justice.
Coming as it did at crunch time – the Senate intends to finish the trial by May 31 – the petition has only made the defense camp look desperate even if there are no outward indications yet of how the impeachment court would vote on the case. The petition did a disservice to Corona’s cause by imputing that Angara will hand a “guilty” verdict owing to his congressman-son’s political indebtedness to the President.
The fears – or maybe paranoia – of the defense lawyers may not be baseless. But the reactions of the senators suggest that the petition has done more harm than good to Corona by implying that a vote against him is meant to return a favor from Malacañang. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself rejected the idea of shunting Angara from the trial.
The Senate faces greater problems if it grants any petition to inhibit a senator-judge, as it would open a floodgate for similar moves. Cuevas and company may ask too for the inhibition of senator-judges who are known allies of the President – Teofisto Guingona, Ralph Recto and Francis Pangilinan. Corona’s lawyers would resort to an algebraic solution, that is, cancel out common values to simplify the equation before arriving at the answer.
If the Senate submits to this tack, there would be no senator-judges left to try the case. Why, the prosecutors may also find it convenient to ask the likes of Senator Joker Arroyo to inhibit too. There is no doubt in my mind that he will vote for Corona’s acquittal based on his impassioned manifestations in favor of the defense, but I don’t think he should be barred from the trial.
Inhibiting senator-judges from the trial is tantamount to disenfranchising the people who voted them so they may perform their constitutional duties, including the task of deciding the fate of impeached officials. This or that senator may not vote on the impeachment according to our personal wishes, but that’s a bitter pill we have to swallow.
Let the trial proceed to its logical end. The rest is better left to the wisdom of the sovereign people. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno writes mainly on the environment, human rights and politics. He can be reached at [email protected])