The impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate will commence on Monday (January 16), when Congress resumes session.
Corona will be represented by a formidable legal team composed of former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas, and lawyers Jose Roy III, Jacinto Jimenez, Ernesto Franciso Jr., German Lichauco II and Dennis Manalo.
Lawyers Karen Jimeno, Tranquil Salvador and Ramon Esguerra will act as Corona’s spokespersons, along with Cuevas.
Meanwhile, the 11-man prosecution panel is composed of Representatives Niel Tupas Jr. (Iloilo), Rodolfo Farinas (Ilocos Norte), Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (Cavite), Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao (Akbayan), Raul Daza (Northern Samar), Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite), Reynaldo Umali (Oriental Mindoro), Giorgidi Aggabao (Isabela), Sherwin Tugna (Cibac), Marlyn Primicias-Aggabas (Pangasinan).
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III will act as the panel spokesperson.
Corona’s lawyers earlier asked the Senate to impose sanctions against House prosecutors for releasing purported evidence against him in a string of press conferences before his trial.
Specifically, the Chief Justice protested the reports about his condominium unit at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, saying the acquisition of the property “was candidly admitted and explained” in his official reply to the impeachment complaint against him.
Corona described Tupas’ actions and other members of the House prosecution team as “a clever ruse to destroy (his) image before the bar of public opinion and generate a negative public perception of his guilt ahead of the impeachment trial.”
Corona strongly objected “to the prosecution’s unbridled dissemination of information or documents, which may not be admissible in evidence or relevant to the case.”
He said the actions by Tupas and company were “a contemptible affront” to the impeachment court, whose constitutional mandate was “precisely to pass judgment on the complaint.”
He cited Rule XVIII of the impeachment trial, which barred senators, including the defense and prosecution, “from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial.”
Corona also mentioned Rule V, which said that the Senate “shall have power … to preserve order and to punish in a summary way contempts of, and disobedience to, its authority, orders, mandates, writs or judgments, and to make all lawful orders, rules, and regulations which it may deem essential or conducive to the ends of justice.”
Tupas and his fellow prosecutors earlier came under fire from senators for releasing documents about Corona’s purported properties. Senator Panfilo Lacson warned that the prosecutors could be cited in contempt.
Prosecutors initially held a press conference announcing that Corona owned a 303.5-square-meter unit worth P14.51 million at The Bellagio in Taguig.
Corona is facing eight allegations:
1. Partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration from the time of his appointment as Supreme Court associate justice up to his dubious midnight appointment as Chief Justice and up to the present.
2. Failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required under Section 17 Article XI of the Constitution.
3. Failure to meet and observe the stringent standards under the Constitution that provided that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence in 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 cases pending in the Supreme Court.
4. Blatantly disregarding the principle of separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
5. Wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the principle of res judicata, or resurrecting decided cases, and in deciding in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving the 16 newly created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province;
6. Arrogating unto himself, and to a committee he created, the authority and jurisdiction to improperly investigate an alleged erring member of the Supreme Court for the purpose of exculpating him. Such authority and jurisdiction are properly reposed by the Constitution in the House of Representatives via impeachment.
7. Partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.
8. Failure and refusal to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.