Midas might testify if SC allows it

Posted at 03/06/2012 11:15 AM | Updated as of 03/06/2012 4:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Midas Marquez said Monday he would take the witness stand in the impeachment trial of his boss Chief Justice Renato Corona if he is allowed by the Supreme Court en banc.

“If I receive a subpoena, I will have to refer the subpoena to the court,” Marquez said in an interview.

Marquez cited the SC resolution last February 14 prohibiting the disclosure of privileged information, including details of closed-door sessions of the high court, in the impeachment trial.

“If we’re going to follow the Feb. 14 resolution, the judicial privilege belongs to the court and therefore it is only the court that can waive the privilege. It does not belong to any justice or any official alone. Only the court can waive such privilege,” he explained.

Marquez was dragged into the impeachment case after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima accused him of misleading the public about the date of effectivity of the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the DOJ travel ban on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in November last year.

De Lima, who testified for the House prosecution panel, alleged that the SC official misled the public by announcing in a press conference that the TRO was immediately executory even if the three conditions set by the high court for its implementation had not been met yet by the camp of Arroyo.

“I stand my ground. What I said before was correct. I never misled the public,” Marquez said in response.

In Article 7 of the impeachment complaint, it was alleged that the serving of the TRO was made in a rush so that Mrs. Arroyo and former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo could leave the country despite a pending electoral sabotage case against her.

Article 7 accuses Corona of “partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.”

SC reiterates judicial privilege

The Supreme Court (SC) has reiterated its bar on Justices, court officials, and employees from testifying on confidential matters and information covered by judicial privilege.

In a 5-page per curiam Resolution promulgated on Feb. 28, the High Court affirmed its ruling as stated in an earlier resolution dated Feb. 14 that justices, court officials, and employees are bound by the rules on confidentiality and barred from disclosing information pertaining to the raffle of cases, actions taken on each case in the agenda of court sessions, and deliberations of Justices in court sessions on cases and matters pending before it.

The reiteration, the High Court stated, was intended "to reflect the sense of the Supreme Court on the question of confidentiality, privilege, and the constitutional separation of powers."

The resolution was brought about by a written explanation by Clerk of Court En Banc Atty. Enriqueta Vidal regarding the production of court records and documents and attendance of court officials and employees as witnesses in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona under the Impeachment Court subpoena of Feb. 9 and letters from the prosecution dated Jan. 19 and 25 requesting for certified true copies of various court records.

The High Court reiterated its invocation of judicial privilege, stressing that individual Justices, officials or employees may not, on their own, waive the same.

The High Court maintained that its position affirms the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

"[I]t is the sense of the Court that its ruling has been fully expressed and explained in its Feb. 14, 2012 Resolution, and that it cannot waive the privilege that belongs to the Court as an institution, not to any individual justice, official or employee who may disclose or may have disclosed these documents without the Court's authority. Nor does the Court intend to waive any privileged matter so declared in our Resolution of Feb. 14, 2012.'

"It is this sense that dictated the issuance of this Resolution, as well as the Court's intense desire to fully be mindful and compliant with the separation of powers that the Constitution mandates for the three branches of government -- the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary," the resolution read. With a report from Edu Punay, The Philippine Star