Day 17 Highlights: Love rules the day

by Wilfred Avila
Originally posted at Noisy Minority Facebook page

As I went into the senate front door, I found a series of trucks delivering “Lechon” to various senatorial offices accompanied by various caterers. It couldn’t have been an early Valentine’s party for all of them. This was for lunch and I see this almost daily, minus the lechon of course. No, I wasn’t invited to any and I am not crying either.

As early as yesterday, Prosecution Spokesman Miro Quimbo announced he wasn’t going to be in the Impeachment Hearing today. He made true his words! He was never there!

From the grapevine in the Senate corridors, the entire Prosecution Team and their Spokesmen left the Senate yesterday through the Senate fire Exit at the rear of the building to avoid the pressmen looking for them after the “Fake” story came out in the hearings. The “Little Lady” was still the big subject! It just didn’t want to die down!

I really have no idea why Lead Prosecutor Niel Tupaz arrived late. Was it just coincidental that he quietly siddled up the prosecutor table as soon as Senator-Judge Miriam Santiago left the hall?

As she had warned earlier in the hearings, Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago left the court ushered out by the television cameras. She certainly has become an important part of the hearings.

Being viralled in the net is that Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon is related to Annabel Buenaflor Tiongson , the Branch Manager of PSBank at the Katipunan Branch. Annabel has disowned the fact that she is related to any Senator-Judge when asked by Senator Jinggoy Estrada. Just a question, why, then, did Jinggoy ask this? (Editor’s Note: @Teddylocsin heard that Franklin Drilon denied this )

Now, to the trial proper.

The session was called to order by the presiding-Judge, Juan Ponce Enrile at 2:09 pm. Seventeen senators were present for the hearing. Senator-Judge Miriam defensor Santiago was present and I expected real entertainment for the second day straight. She did not fail me!

Senator-Judge Gregorio Honasan immediately stood up to ask a question on unverified reports addressed to both defense and the prosecution teams regarding unverified reports. He underlines that the trial has been greatly affected by unverified information. He ends by asking whether the individual’s right on search warrants apply here?

Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas was not around to answer the query so Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas rose to take up the cudgels for and in behalf of the prosecution and says that the matter was not about search warrants but subpoenas in light of the evidence. He added that the subpoena request did not state that the bank documents were genuine but that it was their duty to bring it to the attention of the court.

On the other hand, Defense Lead Attorney Serafin Cuevas retorted that the provision of the Bill of Rights on search of documents are applicable to the trial. He clarified that the subpoena was like a general warrant and that it required due process. If this right is violated, the proceedings would then be a nullity, he finished.

Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson asked whether the prosecutors got the documents as individuals or did they use the powers of the state as members of the House of Representatives. Prosecutor Fariñas answered saying that the subpoena was very particular, saying it enumerated documents for 10 accounts, year-end balances, opening documents. On the other side, Cuevas said that he dissented from the prosecution’s view, and said that they had filed opposition to the legality of the subpoena. Cuevas added that there should have been a showing of materiality and relevance to the case of the documents requested.

Senator-Judge Alan Peter Cayetano then spoke about the difference of a subpoena and of a search warrant. He told the court that the subpoena issued had specified account numbers. (This was actually unknown to the prosecution at the time and hence, the rush to the table of the witness when the account numbers were first shown and submitted.)

Enrile then ordered both prosecution and defense to submit memoranda on the issuance of the impeachment court subpoena and a search warrant.

Santiago: “It is my duty to submit it to this court” Duty my foot!

1:30 Sen. Santiago makes a manifestation

It was then the turn of Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago to take the podium. All ears perked up expecting the brillance of her histrionics. She emphatically says that the issue was not about a comparison of search warrants and subpoenas. She pointedly stated that the issue was, can counsel, in any proceeding, attach a document which he doesn’t know anything about?

She continued that one cannot base a request for subpoena on an anonymous source, and said that it could be a case of disbarment if one were to give a fake document or testimony in court. She also added that it was the duty of counsel to prove authenticity of their evidence.

She then went on a different vein altogether. She went to the gag order of the Impeachment Court which she said covered media as well.

Presiding Judge Enrile stated his position on the matter. Here is his full statement:

“May I now state the position of this humble presiding officer. And this position is subject to the opinion of the court, of the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

“In the humble view of the presiding officer, the Senate as an impeachment court must at all times observe the rule of law. It cannot transgress any of the applicable provisions of the bill of rights. It must be guided by the presumption of innocence, before the pronouncement of guilt. It must at all times observe the principle of procedural and substantial due process.

“It cannot use its power to issue compulsory process or processes to compel any witness to appear and testify and in testifying is forced to commit a crime. It cannot compel a witness to testify against himself.

“It cannot arbitrarily declare a person guilty of contempt and deprive of that person his or her liberty. It cannot violate the laws passed by Congress of which it is an integral part.

“That is the humble position of this presiding officer of this Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

“Now, as far as the subpoena duces tecum involved, which was issued by this presiding officer upon the behest of the prosecution, this presiding officer assumes full responsibility for issuing that subpoena. And is ready to defend his position in any court of law if there is a need for that.

“I will not pass the buck to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court. It was my decision as the presiding officer and I am personally bound to assume the consequences of my action as a presiding officer.

“Having said that, I do not wish to delve on the issue, exercise to issue compulsory processes by this court in this particular instance involving Republic Acts 1405 and 6426.

“I do not want to make any pronouncement on that because precisely this court, through this presiding officer, exercised the discretion to heed the request of the prosecution to issue a subpoena duces tecum to help them obtain the evidence they wanted in the face of proscriptions by laws of the land passed by Congress.

“And that is the subject matter now of the case before the Supreme Court filed by a private party asserting its rights under the laws of this country and under the Constitution to be protected from any liability, and that is the reason for which the Supreme Court issued a TRO.

“And that is the reason why this court, or a majority of this court, yesterday ruled, in an open, uninfluenced voting that the court must respect the order of the Supreme Court to issue its temporary restraining order.

“Whether or not in the end this court abused its discretion or committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction will be decided…by the Supreme Court being the highest court of the land and the final arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution of this country.

“For no one else was given by the sovereign people in their Constitution the power to make a final determination or interpretation of what the Constitution ought to be or what a law ought to be except the Supreme Court. Not the executive. Not congress. But only the Supreme Court.

“And so it is my bounden duty, as the presiding officer of this impeachment court, to respect the authority, the power of the Supreme Court to review acts of this impeachment court, in interlocutory matters, meaning, matters bearing on the manner which this court will conduct the trial of this particular impeachment case.

“But it is my humble view that the Supreme Court, in spite of the fact that it has the power of judicial review, cannot assume jurisdiction over the power, the sole power of this Senate sitting as an impeachment court to try and decide this impeachment case.

“That is the position of this humble presiding officer.”

The whole tenor of this manifestation of the Presiding-Judge disturbs me a bit. This may just be the loophole that the Prosecution may be looking for. The fact that the Presiding Judge said this would remove culpability from the prosecution panel for they were allowed to go a fishing expedition by the very ruling of the court.

It would seem that by this statement, JPE agreed with the position taken by Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor- Santiago. But, knowing the mind of JPE, he must have something up his sleeve too. He will not leave himself left to hang dry in the open sun!

Senator-Judge Drilon loudly manifested that he disagreed that the SC had power over interlocutory matters in the impeachment court. Enrile only said: “Noted.”

The Prosecution then recalled BPI Ayala branch manager, Leonora Dizon but Cuevas calmly said that was out of order. Escudero clarified that the witness was called for clarificatory questions from senator-judges, not for a direct or cross examination.

Dizon is grilled by Drilon. He asked about the documents the defense asked to examine. Cuevas interjects and said that they just asked for the breakdown of the account. The defense lawyer also said they filed manifestation that there was no more need to visit the bank and check the documents. Private prosecutor Arthur Lim argued that it was, in fact, the defense who introduced the issue to court.

Enrile reiterated that it was Senator-Judge Drilon who requested the recall of Dizon to the witness stand and that it was a prerogative of a member of the court. He continued to say that he could not cannot control the senator-judges. he ends by saying the court is composed of a body with 23 minds.

Drilon then went on to ask Dizon his questions. Dizon said that she did not bring the requested records pending instruction from the court. Enrile ordered her to answer Drilon’s questions, but Drilon finished by directing her to come back tomorrow with the documents.

Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano asked the relevance of the monthly statements to Article II of the Articles of Impeachment. Senator-Judge Sergio Osmeña, meanwhile, reminded the court that it was Cuevas who offered the monthly statements and not the court who asked.

Cuevas recalled to the court, that they had filed a motion to quash the subpoena. Enrile then decided the court would allow subpoena of documents in relation to the BPI account in the original subpoena. Cuevas cited a subpoena for other financial instruments, adding that it was similar to a general search warrant. Enrile, howver, said the the request made by Senator-Judge Osmeña is reasonable to find out if the Chief Justice did not include in his SALN the asset from the bank. Osmeña then proceeded to ask his questions.

Sadly for Osmena, Dizon said that none of the documents she brought related to the bank account in the original suboena. She further testified that there was no other accounts, such as time deposits, money placement, or trust funds, under the Chief Justice’s name in their branch. osmena left it alone with the quip of: “So why all the hullabaloo about this?” He really should know the answer to that question since he asked it in the first place.

It was then that the Defense moved for suspension of the session. Cuevas coyly said, “Valentine’s Day naman po eh, in short a declaration of cessation of hostilities.” Cuevas also noted it is Enrile’s birthday today. The Prosecution joined the defense motion. Senator-Judge Francis Pangilinan says Enrile deserved the early dismissal of today’s session, since it is his birthday.

The day did not start with much love but certainly ended with too much of it — for the Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile!

Happy Birthday Sir! And happy Valentine’s to all!