Prosecution draws first blood: Senate junks CJ Corona’s motion for preliminary hearing

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 January) – Citing “lack of merit,” the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, today denied the motion of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for preliminary investigation.

Corona’s lead counsel, former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, argued his client was denied due process by not giving him the chance to present his side before the complaint was submitted to the Senate.

But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who made the ruling, said the filing of the verified impeachment complaint was made in accordance with paragraph 4 of Section 3, Article II of the Constitution.

“There’s no more need for a preliminary hearing to receive evidence on this matter. The Senate shall forthwith proceed for that’s the mandate to us given by the Constitution with the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona on the articles of impeachment in accordance of the mandate of the Constitution,” Enrile said.

The Senate also dumped a motion to cite the prosecutors in contempt for speaking on the merits of the case outside of impeachment court. Filed by lawyer Fernando Perito, the motion cited the news conference where the prosecutors announced they have documents showing Corona’s ownership of a high-end condominium unit at The Fort in Taguig.

Enrile said Perito has no juridical personality being neither a lawyer for the defense nor the prosecution.

However, Enrile ordered both the prosecution and the defense against further disclosing evidences in public.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued after the Senate adjourned today, Malacanang hit back at Corona for saying the impeachment is the fruit of a conspiracy involving the President and two other officials. (See related story)

“The man on the dock is the Chief Justice. He is there, impeached and undergoing trial, because of his behavior. He has no one to blame for this but himself. For the Chief Justice to allege conspiracy is simply a desperate ploy to deflect attention from the subject at hand: himself.”

In a speech before court employees after a mass at the Supreme Court this morning, Corona insinuated that Aquino wanted him out owing to the court’s decision ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to its workers under the agrarian reform program.

Without naming names, the Chief Justice also said two other personalities wanted him impeached. One of them, he said, was a defeated candidate for vice president in 2010 and the other “ay nagmamadaling maging bise presidente pero hindi nanalo noong 2010” (was in a hurry to become vice president but did not win in 2010), “at ang isa naman ay gustong maging (and another one wants to become) Chief Justice.”

Corona was apparently alluding to Transportation and Communication Secretary Mar Roxas, Aquino’s running mate in 2010, and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

“Mr. Corona’s conspiracy theory ignores reality and plain facts. The Department of Agrarian Reform has categorically stated that the administration has pushed for, and argued, before the Supreme Court, the distribution of land to tenants in Hacienda Luisita. His other allegations, concerning the President’s running mate and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, go beyond being merely undignified –they are slanderous attacks for the purpose of deflecting attention. No Chief Justice has ever demeaned himself by the gutter language he used this morning,” the Palace statement added.

The historic trial of the Chief Justice has begun. We call on all citizens to follow the proceedings, as the Senate conducts its duty to hear and weigh the evidence. The trial will bring daylight where there used to be darkness: shedding light on actions and actuations of the Chief Justice. The truth will come out. We believe that the truth will set the judiciary free. (MindaNews)