Lawmaker won’t inhibit from Corona trial

MANILA (Updated) — Senator Franklin Drilon said there is no basis for him to inhibit from the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Despite his perceived bias against the head of the judiciary, Drilon said he will not stay away from the impeachment trial.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report said on Monday that defense lawyers plan to ask Drilon to stay away from proceedings over “partiality” in the trial, which began last week.
Sun.Star tried but failed to confirm this with defense lawyers Tranquil Salvador III and Karen Jimeno.
Jimeno said, however, in a radio interview that there is still no decision whether actual manifestations will be filed to ask particular senators to inhibit from proceedings.
She did not mention Drilon but said comments from people who have taken no side (on the issue) and online discussions are saying some senators have shown bias.
The Senate’s rules on impeachment trials direct senators to “observe political neutrality during the course of the impeachment trial.” This means acting as a judge “without unfair discrimination and regardless of party affiliation or preference.”
Drilon is a senior member of the administration Liberal Party at the Senate.
Also, under the rules that the Senate adopted for impeachment trials, senators have two minutes to ask witnesses and lawyers from either side.
It was through Drilon’s questioning that the impeachment court was able to get the copies of Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Drilon also made the Taguig City register of deeds testify that the Chief Justice acted as attorney-in-fact when his daughter purchased property at McKinley Hill, an upscale real-estate development project.
Senators who perceived to be friendly to Malacanang also tried to convince Supreme Court clerk Enriqueta Vidal to turn over the documents. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile later ordered her to give the documents up.
Defense lawyer Jose Roy III later said the prosecution “got what they wanted without doing anything.”
But in a television interview Monday, Drilon said he had been asking questions as a member of the impeachment court, and not on behalf of prosecutors from the House of Representatives.
Before Corona’s impeachment, Drilon had been calling on the Chief Justice to distance himself from cases connected to Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Former Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas, chief of the defense team, earlier said that asking senators to inhibit from proceedings would be a very sensitive issue.
Among the considerations is the risk of offending senator-jurors. “If we antagonize them, what would be the price of that?”
In Malacanang, Palace officials defended Drilon, saying the defense panel can’t compel Drilon to inhibit from the trial.
“No, it’s not fair. Number one, the call for inhibition is a personal call. It’s up to the senator to do so. Under the rules of the Senate impeachment court, the Senate impeachment court cannot compel someone to inhibit himself,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, said the defense panel is deliberately accusing Drilon of bias in the impeachment trial of its client so it can secure a temporary restraining order to stop the proceedings.
Colmenares believes the defense panel is setting a “dangerous trap” to pave the way for the Chief Justice to file a petition to stop the Senate impeachment trial.
House Deputy Majority Leader Romero Frederico Quimbo, spokesperson for the prosecution panel, also said the defense’s call for inhibition is only meant to delay the trial “so that the public interest would wane.”
Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Francis Escudero asked the prosecution to make clear what the charge of Corona’s alleged non-disclosure of his assets covers.
The prosecution wants to prove ill-gotten wealth while the defense wants arguments only on whether Corona filed his SALN.
The prosecution panel is determined to prove that Corona acquired properties from ill-gotten wealth as its members are expected to disclose irregularities in the latter’s tax records as the impeachment trial resumes Tuesday.
Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has been summoned to appear in this week’s continuation of the impeachment proceeding.
Prosecutors likewise sought the tax records from 2000 to 2010 of his daughter Carla and son-in-law Constantino Castillo III, and from 2005 to 2010 of son Francis and daughter-in-law Charina.
The defense earlier argued the prosecution should not anymore look into the properties of Corona and his family since they only accused the Chief Justice of non-disclosure. The prosecution, however, stressed it also accused Corona of amassing ill-gotten wealth as stated in the impeachment complaint.
Quimbo challenged Corona’s lawyers to allow the prosecution to present his tax records “without delay and objection” if their client has nothing to hide as they claim. (Jonathan de Santos/Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/JCV/Sunnex)

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