SC asks Congress to comment on stop trial plea

Chief Justice Renato Corona talks to lady employees of the Supreme Court during a rally in the Supreme Court

Chief Justice Renato Corona talks to lady employees of the Supreme Court during a rally in the Supreme Court

MANILA  — The Supreme Court (SC) asked the Senate and the House of Representatives to comment within 10 days on the petitions seeking to stop the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

The resolution directing the two houses of Congress to comment on petitions was handed down last January 17 but was only released Monday.

On Tuesday, the SC is expected to tackle two controversial cases – the bid to stop to the impeachment trial and the other is one of the subjects of the impeachment complaints.

Set to be discussed were the six petitions challenging the legality and constitutionality of the impeachment complaints against Corona and pleading for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the trial.

Also to be tackled are the consolidated cases filed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, against the watch list order (WLO) issued last year by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for which the SC had issued a TRO.

The SC’s issuance of the TRO on November 15, 2011 is one of the eight Articles of Impeachment filed against Corona.

The TRO in favor of Mrs. Arroyo, now a member of Congress representing the second district of Pampanga, effectively became moot when the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued an arrest order against her on a case for electoral sabotage.

Mrs. Arroyo is now under hospital arrest.

But it is expected that any ruling on the six petitions challenging the impeachment trial may not be handed down this morning as the resolution asking Senate and the House co comment was only released Monday afternoon.

If mailed to the parties, the copies of the resolution may be received by the respondents only within the week and the 10-day period to file comment would start from receipt of the resolution.

Expected to be tackled are several letters, for or against, the six petitions on the impeachment trial.

In the cases filed by the Arroyos, the SC had required the parties to file their respective memorandum last December after conducting oral arguments.

As this developed, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is seeking divine intervention to curb the impulse of his colleagues to be partial in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

In his prayer before the start of the eighth day of the trial, Enrile asked God to “soften the divisive impulses that may arise from bringing out the truth.”

“Temper the judgments so that no one may jump into premature conclusions. Let not our personal biases cloud our perceptions,” he said.

“As elected representatives of the People, we embrace this opportunity to bestow us the wisdom to apply the law equally to all,” he added.

Apparently bracing for a lengthy trial, Enrile also sought divine help that senator-judges be guided with wisdom and strength from above.

“Afford us the political maturity to withstand this exercise; strengthen our institutions; and guide us, as citizens of a democratic nation, that we shall be governed by a system of laws that emanate from our Constitution.

After the prayer, Enrile opened the proceedings by suggesting that the defense and prosecution panels agree on the number of witnesses they will be presenting.

Enrile also rejected suggestions the Senate take up the allegations that a lawyer has asked retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas to abandon the defense team.

“That will only prolong the proceedings,” Enrile said of published reports that an unidentified lawyer, supposedly acting in behalf of Malacañang, had approached Cuevas, lead defense counsel.

But if there is a motion to be presented to the impeachment court, “I will be forced to submit it to the Senate for decision… so that it does not clutter the proceedings with side issues,” he said.

Cuevas tried to evade reporters seeking his reaction to the lawyer issue.

Meanwhile, the finance director of Megaworld Properties, a real estate developer, testified Monday and confirmed that the Chief Justice and his wife Cristina bought expensive properties like condominiums in Taguig City worth millions of pesos which the prosecution claimed was hidden by Corona himself by not declaring it in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN).

But the prosecution said it smelled something fishy on a big discount given to Corona by the Megaworld Corporation from the purchase of a penthouse in Taguig City.

On the direct examination by private prosecutor lawyer Joseph Perez, Megaworld finance director Giovanni Ng testified that Corona was able to avail himself of a 40 percent discount, an estimated P10 million, in the purchase of a 300-square meter penthouse unit in the company’s prime development site at the Bonifacio Global City.

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