Corona ready for criminal raps, lawyers say

Posted at 05/30/2012 9:56 PM | Updated as of 05/31/2012 10:24 AM

Defense counsels divided over filing appeal before SC

MANILA, Philippines - Ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona is ready to face any criminal case that may be filed against him, his lawyers said Wednesday.

His lawyers, however, added that they are not sure if Corona will retain them in his possible future court battles.

Several graft complaints have already been filed against Corona before the Ombudsman.

Investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman have found possible violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act by Corona after an AMLC report showed multi-million dollar transactions by the deposed chief justice.

Corona may also face a forfeiture case after the same investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman found his wealth to be "grossly disproportionate" to his official income.

Corona sad over decision

After the Senate rendered its decision Tuesday, Corona's lawyers went straight to Medical City, where he has been confined.

Defense team members said Corona was with his family and close friends and the sadness was clear in his face.

"Sabi niya, ipinapasa-Diyos na niya ang lahat at bahala na ang kasaysayan humusga sa kanya," Atty. Tranquil Salvador III said.

Corona thanked the 12 members of the defense team who were all present.

The meeting lasted for almost 2 hours, and Corona is said to have asked each of them of their opinion on whether they should appeal the impeachment court's decision.
   
Corona lawyers divided on SC appeal

Corona's lawyers are divided on the issue.

Some believe the fight is now over.

However, there are those like former Justice Serafin Cuevas who want to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court (SC).

Corona himself is undecided and has asked his lawyers to study the matter thoroughly.

"Ako personally, let's end it here, tapos na ang proseso," Salvador said. "Pero sabi ng iba, puwedeng iakyat sa Supreme Court dahil walang nakasaad sa batas na final and executory ito."

He said he is not sure if Corona's current defense team will handle his future cases.

"Hindi na siguro niya kailangan ng 12, pipili na lang siya sa amin," he said. "Iyung iba rin kasi, kailangan na rin bumalik sa trabaho nila, may iba nang plano."

The defense believes it has 60 days to appeal the impeachment court's ruling.

A test case on jurisdiction

Meantime, constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas said Corona can try going to the Supreme Court to appeal his ouster from office.

Bernas, one of the authors of the 1987 Constitution, told ANC this would test the issue of whether the high court can assume jurisdiction over Corona's case. 

He said there is “ambiguity” in the provisions of the Constitution which the defense can use.

Section 1, Article 8 of the Constitution says the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over cases involving grave abuse of discretion on “the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.”

On the other hand, he said Section 6, Article 11 of the charter states the Senate shall have “the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.”

He cited as an example the sole power of electoral tribunals over all election disputes in the country. “Still, the Supreme Court reviews [the electoral tribunal’s] decisions," Bernas said. 

“The Supreme Court will have to deal with this not purely on a legal basis, but also on basis of what is best for the country,” he said.

Bernas said, however, that by his "own estimate, it [Corona appeal] will not succeed.”

Enrile warns SC

Speaking on ANC's Headstart on Wednesday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile warned the SC against defying the impeachment court's ruling.

"I will say this very frankly and I hope they understand, if they will question the jurisdiction of the impeachment court and reverse our decision, we will defy them. If they want a Constitutional crisis in this country, they will have one," he said.

"In fact, I told the lawyers of the defense when the Chief Justice walked out, you want to create a revolution in this country, go to the streets, I will face you. A law must be enforced in this country. We cannot be lackadaisical of our laws," Enrile added.

Enrile said members of the High Court, if they rule in favor of their former colleague, will have no one to implement their decision.

"Who will enforce their order? I'm sure the members of the Court will understand this. We are given a special jurisdiction. The people removed this case from the ordinary courts covered by the judicial system by Article 8 of the Constitution. We belong to Article 11 and we are outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in terms of the trial and judgment in an impeachment case," he explained.

A political question

Under Constitutional law, the Supreme Court cannot answer a "political question" such as an impeachment case. It can only rule on a complaint involving grave abuse of discretion in an impeachment case.

"They cannot review our decision. Otherwise, they will be the one to make the final decision in violation of the Constitution, which says that the Senate has the sole power to decide and try all impeachment cases," he added.

A copy of the Senate impeachment court's decision on Corona's case was submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a Corona rival, assumed the post of acting chief justice following Corona's conviction.

Enrile said it will be difficult for the former chief justice's lawyers to prove that the Senate impeachment court committed grave abuse of discretion in handling Corona's case.

"Well, they can find out any instance where we did a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and then they must point out," he said.

"In my case, I stretched out the rule in favor of the defense in order that they cannot accuse us of any grave abuse of discretion. Where in this country could you point out a case where the witness was allowed to testify through a narrative? The defense did not ask any direct questions addressed to the Chief Justice. I allowed him to recite and say anything he wanted to defend himself," he added. -- with reports from Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News; Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com; Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com