Day 23 Corona Impeachment Highlights: Do you hear what I hear? No, it’s hearsay!

by Wilfred Avila
Originally posted at the Noisy Minority Facebook

Pound for pound, Senator Miriam Santiago Defensor stared Daza down as he manifested after her speech on the fundamental Bill of Rights. She even dared him to answer a Judge. What a sight! The “gentle lady” from Iloilo showed no remorse for berating and lecturing the prosecution.

It’s all part of the game you joined, she almost seemed to scream out! She said that the criticisms received by the prosecutors of Chief Justice Renato Corona is “part of the risk you take by appearing in court.”

She continued to say that, “In our case, we know the public are judging us. We are not really the supreme judges … but the public. We want the public to see that we insist on the rules, a fast-paced trial, and that the proceedings will be coherent to the public.”

She generously offered some advice to the prosecution. She recommended better preparation and reminded them that they can file motions for reconsideration to senators sympathetic to their cause. “Maghanda kayo. Sa kalagitnaan palang ng presentasyon ninyo, binabalaan ko kayo kasi kung baga sa kabayo, mauuna na ang defense kaya pagbutihan ninyo ang paggawa ninyo,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for us getting castigated yet we’re the one defending the process,” said spokesperson Rep Miro Quimbo. He further said they find the treatment unfair especially because unlike the defense, they do not run to the Supreme Court, bash Senator-Judges on Twitter, or complain that some members of the court — like Senator-Judge Santiago — are biased. But Santiago insisted otherwise. When asked if she would lecture them again, Santiago laughed.

Upon arrival to the Senate, DOJ Secretary De Lima, seemed to forget the humiliation of being called a “Hearsay” witness the day prior. She was all smiles as she was surrounded by those who were closely identified with the Prosecution.

There seems to be a stark contrast in the way the Prosecution and the Defense panels carry themselves. The prosecution are hell bent to out do even each other (notably at the beginning of the hearings) and the Defense was more than happy to make their captain ball, former justice Serafin Cuevas, iconic. The end result is obviously disastrous. The prosecution is judged by their individual members while the Defense basks in the affection and the admiration of its Lead. Cuevas glows in the almost starlike quality following he has. People rush to him after the trial for pictures, handshakes and, yes, even a buzz! He actually and literally enjoys the glow!

With 22 Senator-Judges present, the trial was called to order shortly after 2:00 pm.

Following up his previous day’s query, Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo again asked about private prosecutor Marlon Manuel – if he was a lawyer for the PAL Employees Association (PALEA). Prosecutor Representative Kaka Bag-ao confirmed that he was indeed. Arroyo emphatically said that both sides should avoid having lawyers with “vested interests” in the case but prosecution countered saying that they didn’t see it since FASAP and PALEA were different.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was called back to witness stand for the continuation of the cross examination. Lead Defense Counsel Serafin Cuevas began his cross examination.

De Lima said that there was no compliance of the TRO at the time it was issued and it was made to appear that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could already leave even if conditions were not met. She further stated that a letter from SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said important matters discussed in en banc session of the Supreme Court were not reflected in the resolution.

She said that the infirmities in the TRO were that it was conditional but executory, no voting record was stated and that the Chief Justice demanded that his own version of resolution be published.

Cuevas also asked whether the justice secretary read the decision of the other 8 confirming justices and why she seemed to zero in only on the dissenting opinion of Sereno and Carpio.

Cuevas then demanded that De Lima read the portion where Justice Sereno’s dissenting opinion reflected any part that mentioned information being withheld by CJ Corona in the November 18, 2011 court resolution.

An argument on the quality of the testimony of de Lima ensued. A minor discussion on “hearsay” testimony of De Lima. “Irregularities in the issuance of the TRO have no bearing on my alleged non-compliance with the TRO,” De Lima argued. Enrile allowed her testimony in the end, saying, “Ang ating testigo dito ay hindi pangkaraniwang testigo. Siya ay tanyag na abugado, intelihenteng testigo.”

Cuevas moved to strike out De Lima’s testimony. Prosecutor-Representative Raul Daza objected. Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile echoed Cuevas to clarify that the move was to strike out the testimony as far as the truth and falsity of the Sereno dissent is concerned.

Daza countered saying that the dissent was part of the judicial notice. Enrile clarified that Cuevas said that he wanted the court to disregard claims made to the irregularity attributed to others by Sereno because witness was not in the deliberations of court.

Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago added on the striking out of De Lima’s testimony. She said that De Lima was not there at the Supreme Court during the deliberations and that the witness herself said so. She underlined that De Lima’s testimony was therefore hearsay primarily because she was not qualified as an expert witness.

Enrile finally ruled out that the De Lima testimony remain on record but that the truth or falsity of parts of her testimony coming from the Sereno dissenting opinion will be considered hearsay. He further clarified that the hearsay rule does not apply in impeachment cases.

Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson was recognized. He asked on exactly when and at what time De Lima received her copy of the Sereno dissenting vote.

He also asked as to where the authority of the Justice Secretary came from to issue Hold orders since this is not based on the Constitution and other Legislative Acts of Congress. The Senator-Judge also added that Section 41 of the DOJ Circular is not part of the law of the land and that the Secretary may be taking powers unto her own hands. He further said that he himself was made to suffer because of this unconstitutional provision of the DOJ.

He suggested that the Secretary subpoena instead the staff of Sereno present in the en banc session of the Supreme Court. Daza however reminded the impeachment court that the SC issued a resolution barring justices and employees of the Supreme Court from testifying in Senate.

“Baka maawa si Justice Sereno at pumunta dito sa ngalan ng bayan,” Daza coyly added.

Lacson continued to ask about the circumstances surrounding the barring of the Arroyos from leaving the country. She informed the court that she defied the TRO despite not having known if the conditions set by the court were met. She said that there was no memo from the court received as of that time.

Lacson then changed the topic and asked De Lima questions about the hold departure orders, watch list orders, and the legal basis for the DOJ issuing such orders. Lacson underlined that it was a “self-serving” since the DOJ made the circular which they themselves were to implement. He then asked if the HDO would be used against political enemies of the Administration as what the previous government did? (Lacson was speaking from his own problems concerning the Dacer-Orbito case and the Kuratong Baleleng cases. He also conveniently forgot that they were murder cases.) De Lima said they wouldn’t do that.

As if from a hidden signal, Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon stood up to ask questions on the points that Presiding Judge JPE struck from the records earlier. Victorious, De Lima effusively thanked Drilon for bringing that up again and began her almost ten minutes of “hearsay” testimony again! She recounted events leading to the issuance of the TRO.

After her long, very long answer, Drilon gamely said (mostly playing to the crowd and he succeeded in that, the first laugh he ever got from the crowd ever), that because of the long answer, he had no other questions. I did not join the laughter because I understood his ploy which was just to allow De Lima to say once more what was originally struck out of the records.

Senator-Judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr. asked the Presiding Judge as to how to handle her testimony? Enrile quipped that “we are all intelligent. I think we will know how to appreciate it.” De Lima immediately countered that part of her testimony was also based on personal knowledge. Marcos brushed her statement aside asif she did not exist. (I seemed to hear the echo of an earlier statement of BBM, “Great minds think alike.”)

Senator-Judge Gregorio Honasan’s turn came. He asked where justice and the national interest began and ended. He intimated that he suffered the same fate that Senator Lacson did and underlined that maybe the DOJ Secretary remembered where he was coming from as he himself understood where she was coming from. It was more a call for unifying the country rather than destroying the unity of a people. Whether the Secretary understood what he meant is anyone’s guess because her demeanor showed that she did not.

Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada asked clarificatory questions for the prosecution panel, specifically about Articles I and VII. He jokingly asked (Maybe some meat to it, actually), “Kung sakali ma-convict si CJ Corona, kayo raw po ang magiging susunod na Chief Justice? Laughter in hall, as DOJ chief, appearing shocked, said she didn’t know, and would probably decline if offered. How about the Senate, Estrada continued. De Lima still acting surprised but a curl of a smile on her lips replied, “hindi ko po alam.” She continued, “I did not plan my career.”

Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, joked about “to complete the cast” of the 3 soldiers in the Senate” in introducing Senator-Judge Trillanes. He then asked clarificatory questions of the prosecution. He then submitted a motion to send written questions to Sereno. Sotto said the motion could be discussed in Monday’s caucus. Trillanes’ angry statement leaning to support the DJO because “it did not allow GMA to escape” made it so obvious that he was also voting for the impeachment of CJ Corona. With that statement alone, he shouldn’t be a Judge at all.

Majority Floor Leader Sotto, in introducing prosecutor Judge Loren Legarda said that actually there where four soldiers in the Senate but what took the house was his comment about Senator-Judge Gringo Honasan being dishonorably discharged. Legarda gamely countered that it was only Sotto who could say that because Honasan and Sotto were the best of friends.

Senator-Judge Loren Legarda took to the floor and asked about the “threshold of bias and partiality” of the Chief Justice that warrants conviction. Daza citing “irregularities” earlier mentioned by De Lima in court stated that, “There were individual acts of the Chief Justice, that when pieced together, will show partiality.” Daza then requested for a much needed break.

Senator-Judge Alan Peter Cayetano asked about the confidentiality of the court sessions of the Supreme Court. He also asked, “Do you have other sources, aside from the Sereno dissent, about Corona’s actions?” De Lima declined and invoked executive privilege. Cayetano also asked the prosecution same question. Daza explained that they had info from numerous sources.

Prosecutor Representative Neri Colmenares then explained why the Chief Justice manipulated or controlled the decision in the TRO.

Cuevas interjected that Colmenares should be on the witness stand. Colmenares said he was just making a manifestation.

Majority Leader Sotto moved to strike out Alan Cayetano’s earlier statement, “mga lalaki kami dito,” and quipped that it was gender insensitive. Cayetano apologized, but Enrile allowed the statement to stay as part of the manifestation of the minority floor leader. This drew loud laughter from every man and woman in the hall, notwithstanding gender.

The session was about to be adjourned when Majority leader Vicente Sotto noticed that De Lima had not been excused from the witness stand. Louder laughter in the hall ensued. Enrile joins the laughter and excuses De Lima from the witness stand and orders all witnesses who were not able to testify to come back for the next session on Monday.

Did you hear what I hear? He said, She said. Oh no, it was all HEARSAY!