The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate sitting as an impeachment court would most likely hand down Tuesday its verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona instead of rushing a vote right after oral arguments are made on Monday, according to Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
It would be better to allow senator-judges more time to “digest” the oral arguments by both defense and prosecution---who were given one hour each for the purpose—and to weigh these alongside each judge’s earlier appreciation of what went on in the nearly five-month trial, Sotto added.
In a radio interview Sunday morning, he laid down the process expected to be followed when the court resumes session at 2 p.m. Monday after both parties completed their offer of evidence last Friday, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, court presiding officer, declared the case submitted for resolution.
Also on Friday, Day 42 of the trial, the court discharged Corona after he took the witness stand for the second time as witness in his own defense. Enrile had said earlier the court may opt to vote late Monday after oral arguments are made by parties; or may defer the voting to Tuesday.
In an interview with radio DZBB, Sotto on Sunday said each of the three articles of impeachment still remaining---Articles II, III and VII---will be voted on in separate voting rounds. But if a verdict of “guilty” is reached in the first round on Article II, the court will no longer proceed to Article III; similarly, when it reaches a “guilty” verdict in Article III, senator-judges will no longer have to vote on Article VII.
Sotto explained that since the penalty is removal from office and the accused can only be removed once, there is no need to ascertain the votes on other articles if a “guilty” verdict is reached in Article II or III. Article II deals with Corona’s alleged failure to fully disclose all his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). There is widespread view that this Article II has emerged as the most crucial of the three, with much of the court’s focus having been devoted to it.
It is also crucial because both defense and prosecution have virtually no dispute on whether or not Corona excluded items from his SALN, as the chief justice admitted doing so last Friday. He said he excluded completely all his $2.4 million accounts from his SALN because he felt protected by the Foreign Currency Deposits Act. He excluded some of his P80-million peso accounts because there were “co-mingled” funds that belonged to his wife’s side of the family, or were funds of his children held in trust.
2-minute cap strictly observed
Meanwhile, Sotto said the court’s rules limiting explanation of votes to strictly two minutes will be observed, even as certain senators have asked for extensions. Corona is not expected to be there when the vote is made, as his presence is not required.
The court’s verdict will be relayed to Corona in a Senate resolution notifying the people concerned about the voting results.
On observations that there is no law stating when a “guilty” verdict becomes executory as to the ouster of the accused, Soto said, “we will perhaps include in the Senate resolution an order stating the effectivity” of the order of expulsion.