Monday, January 16, 2012

Day One Ends in Prosecution Win But Will Supreme Court Take Up Corona's Fight?

Day One of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona ended in an unequivocal victory for the House Prosecution team. After hearing both sides address the issue of the validity or nullity of the House impeachment complaint, and even allowing the Defense two turns on the key issues of verification and due process based on notice and hearing for the Accused, Presiding Senator-Juror Juan Ponce Enrile DENIED FOR LACK OF MERIT the Defense's plea for a full blown judiciary-style Preliminary Hearing.  Citing the House's compliance with Article XI of the Constitution ("exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment") and its own House Rules for doing so, he rejected Defense counsel and former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas' arguments based on Supreme Court decisions, such as Art Panganiban's ponencia in the Francisco case.

Discussions on Twitter among my correspondents there have centered on what will happen now at the Supreme Court, where hearings on five petitions for a TRO nullifying the House Impeachment Complaint largely on the same grounds as propounded by Cuevas, such as that by lawyers Homobono Adaza and Alan Paguia, are scheduled to start tomorrow 17 Jan 2001.  The BIG QUESTION is whether the Supreme Court will indeed intervene.

One suggestion comes from @ageofbrillig who opines that the Supreme Court is not likely to intervene before a verdict of conviction is rendered by the Senate weeks or months from now. Another comes from Francis Acero (@FrancisAcero) who opines that the High Court might require the Senate to grant the Defense's motion that a full blown Preliminary Hearing be conducted to establish probable cause and touch other judicial bases before proceeding with trial proper.

I think that both scenarios are unlikely for the following reasons.

In the case of @ageofbrillig's scenario of the Supreme Court waiting for a verdict of conviction, there would be by then a huge preponderance of evidence that the accused Chief Justice Renato Corona is in fact guilty of one or more of the eight charges against him.  Public Opinion will surely have hardened by then and with a two thirds majority of the Senators having to concur in such a verdict of guilt, the Supreme Court would have to wage a  huge political battle to reverse not only perception but solid trial evidence and other process that it may have neither the fortitude nor the public support to carry out.  A verdict of conviction would be politically insuperable for it to overcome. Not only would the Court have to retry FACTS it would have to reverse however many rulings and deliberations and votes the Court will by then have accomplished.

As for the notion of @FrancisAcero that the Supreme Court might in the next week or two decide to overrule Juan Ponce Enrile's ruling today, it might occur to them that they would then be risking the ire not only of a House of Representatives that could turn around and impeach one or more of them, but also that of Enrile and the Senators behind him for dissing the Senate Impeachment Court's first major ruling.

I think the Supreme Court will think twice about doing either of these two things, out of either a natural pusillanimity of unelected judges to take on both Houses of Congress with its hardened politicians as well as the Mass Media and the Public, and/or a growing instinct of self-preservation from a fight that only now involves the Chief Justice anyway.  

On a lighter note, I have received some humorous comments on the graphic shown here that I've adopted from the Bill Clinton Impeachment in the United States because the Chief Justice has been at great pains to paint himself as a victim and a saint--even holding Novena Masses at the Supreme Court itself in violation of Freedom of Religion articles in the Constitution and allowing himself to be photographed receiving Communion from Manila Archbishop Juan Luis Tagle and even weeping in confession to Archbishop Oscar Cruz.   The Church has allowed itself to be used as a prop by the Chief Justice, because I believe it is hoping to stop the Reproductive Health Bill in the Supreme Court if and when Congress passes that controversial measure into law and President Aquino signs it.

No comments: