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Impeachment trial crawling like a snail

/ 09:15 PM January 19, 2012

The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in the Senate is crawling along like a snail. Chief defense counsel Serafin Cuevas is citing too many technicalities. If the defense team is employing dilatory tactics, then it is succeeding beautifully. At the rate the impeachment trial is crawling along, it would not be finished within one year.

The protagonists, including the senator-judges, must remember that the impeachment trial is not a trial in a criminal court but a summary  proceeding. The reason is that the respondent, if found guilty, will not be put in prison or made to pay a fine but merely removed from office because he is not fit for it. Besides, the Senate cannot waste its time, and the people’s money, on it.

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It has to go back to its principal job: legislation.

The purpose of the trial is to find out the truth, not to show how smart the lawyers are.

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OPINION

There are two kinds of lawyers: those who write the legal briefs, and the trial lawyers— those who argue their cases during court hearings. The defense team has many of these experienced private lawyers. The prosecution also has private lawyers but they have been emasculated by the presiding senator-judge by a ruling that the principal prosecution role will be performed by the congressmen-lawyers, and the private lawyers will have a secondary role only.

And many of the congressmen may be lawyers and may have practiced law before they entered politics, but they lack the experience of veteran trial lawyers. Thus, the prosecution team is at a disadvantage and the defense team is using its advantage to the fullest. It may be well for Senator-presiding judge Juan Ponce Enrile to remind the lawyers of the summary nature of the impeachment trial and admonish them against being too technical.

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The rivalry between Caloocan Mayor Recom Echiverri and his vice mayor, Edgar Erice, is becoming worse. Erice has filed a case against Echiverri with the Office of the Ombudsman for the latter’s failure to remit premiums of Caloocan government employees to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Very sad, because the two were teammates in the last local elections.

Echiverri claimed that were it not for him, Erice would be a political has-been. He said that Erice ran for mayor in 2004 and lost. He ran for congressman for the second district of Caloocan in 2007 and lost again. He said the present case  is a desperate attempt by Erice to earn political points for the 2013 elections.

Anyway, Erice filed charges with the Ombudsman against Echiverri for alleged failure to remit the premiums of Caloocan government employees to the GSIS, causing the state insurance firm to suspend the benefits of the employees.

Echiverri said that the arrears were incurred during the administration of his predecessor, Reynaldo Malonzo, and that his administration has been faithfully remitting every month the current premiums of the employees.

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He added that of the P126.5 million that the GSIS is demanding, only P15.2 million is the principal, and the balance of P111.3 million is interest. He said he has already paid the principal and had an agreement with the GSIS to pay the interest in installments, as a result of which the employee benefits have been restored by the GSIS.

On the charges filed by Erice with the Ombudsman on July 15, 2011, seeking Echiverri’s preventive suspension, the Ombudsman issued, less than a week later, or on July 17, 2011, a Sunday, an order placing Echiverri and his co-accused under preventive suspension for six months.

Echiverri, et al., filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.

On July 22, 2011, the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the Ombudsman and the Department of Interior and Local Government to desist from enforcing the preventive suspension.

On Sept. 7, 2011, the Court of Appeals issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the DILG from enforcing the preventive suspension during the pendency of the petition.

On Dec. 4, the administrative case before the Ombudsman (where the preventive suspension came from) was deemed submitted for resolution, hence the order of preventive suspension was considered moot and academic as the investigation of the administrative case  has already been terminated.

On Dec. 16, Echiverri filed a motion to lift the order of suspension before the Ombudsman but on Jan. 2, 2012, the Court of Appeals lifted its injunction and instead affirmed the suspension order.

On Jan. 9, 2012, Echiverri filed a petition for declaratory relief with prayer for the issuance of a TRO and/or preliminary injunction before the Caloocan RTC. At 11 a.m. on that day, the RTC issued a 72-hour TRO.

On Jan. 12, the RTC extended the 72-hour TRO to an additional 17 days. The other day, an angry Erice announced that he would file charges against the judge for extending the TRO.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: Next Monday, Jan. 23, being the Chinese New Year, there will be no Kapihan sa Manila and no Plaridel lunch. Both will be resumed the following Monday.

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TAGS: corona impeachment, edgar erice, featured columns, local government, ombudsman, opinion, recom echiverri
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