February 25, 2012
Speaking on the Supreme Court’s move to block the testimony of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on account of “judicial privilege”, Senator-judge Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan says that the Supreme Court has gone too far in trying to limit the powers of the impeachment court, the sole body mandated to try impeachment cases against government officials.
“We cannot allow the Supreme Court to dictate, by way of restraining orders and court rulings, how we are to try and decide this case,” Pangilinan says. “The trouble here is that our respect for the TRO has emboldened the Supreme Court to further limit and cut down our powers and prerogatives as a court.”
“Unless we do something about this now, pretty soon our sole power to try and decide impeachment cases will become a joint undertaking with the Supreme Court, but with the impeachment court as a junior partner,” Pangilinan adds.
“Only when the impeachment court asserts its authority will the Supreme Court back off from its acts of obstruction in matters over which they have no jurisdiction.”
A lawyer himself, Pangilinan goes on to explain the concept of judicial privilege. “Judicial privilege exists, yes, but it cannot be invoked to cover-up for wrongdoing—nor can it be invoked to undermine or defeat the Constitutional mandate of the Senate having the sole power to try and decide impeachment cases.”
“Moreover, it is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has taken this path of non-disclosure and strict confidentiality when transparency and accountability are hallmarks of the 1987 Constitution. For any witness in the judiciary to secure the consent of the Supreme Court before they can testify before the impeachment court undermines our powers and prerogatives as the only constitutional check to excesses in the Supreme Court.”
“How can they explain this anomalous situation wherein we need to secure the consent of the court for witnesses to appear before us in a trial where in the Chief Justice himself is being tried? What makes things worse is that four or five of the sitting justices have publicly shown support for the Chief Justice in a series of rallies. How can these justices decide with impartiality?”
“This is now a case of the tail wagging the dog. The only check on the Supreme Court, the impeachment court, is now being checked by the same Supreme Court. First, they TRO’d our subpoena, now they have limited our powers to summon witnesses. What’s next? Voiding the trial altogether? They have exceeded the limits of their judicial authority.
“The impeachment court must take the necessary steps to prevent these unwarranted incursions on the impeachment proceedings,” Pangilinan ends.