Pangilinan urges ‘liberal’ application of impeachment rules

January 6, 2012

Jonathan de Santos
January 6, 2012
Sun Star Online

MANILA — Senator Francis Pangilinan said Friday impeachment rules that discourage public statements on the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona should be “construed” liberally since impeachment is a political, and not a judicial proceeding.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., lead prosecutor in the Corona impeachment and Pangilinan’s party mate in the Liberal Party, as well as the rest of the prosecution panel were criticized this week for a public disclosure of evidence for the trial.

Documents alleging Corona owns an expensive condominium unit in Taguig City were shared at a press conference this week along with a challenge for Corona to make his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth available.

Two Supreme Court associate justices, Maria Lourdes Sereno and Antonio Carpio, have already released summaries of their net worth upon the request of Newsbreak and civil society group Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

Senators, including Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, have called on House prosecutors to respect the Senate’s rules on the impeachment trial.

“We recognize that the rules provide that senator judges as well as lawyers should refrain from making public comments. Be that as it may, it is my view that the rule should not be applied strictly, but applied liberally with respect to the lawyers of both the prosecution and the defense,” Pangilinan said.

He said that even in judicial proceedings, lawyers from both sides of a case “are routinely interviewed by the media as a means to secure information about pending cases.”

Although the sub judice rule, which restricts comments and public disclosures to insulate the court from influence, applies to judicial proceedings, Pangilinan said this did not stop lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, counsel to the Arroyos from “saying they are willing to ‘cut their balls’ on national television.”

He was referring to Topacio’s boast that he would castrate himself if former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then subject to a watch-list order that barred her from leaving the country, would not return from medical treatment abroad.

“If this is allowed in a judicial proceeding, all the more it should be allowed in a political proceeding,” Pangilinan said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson has warned House prosecutors that if they continue to disregard the Senate’s rules, he will move to cite them for contempt.

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