SC right in issuing TRO on CJ’s dollar deposits
With due respect, it seems to me that our honorable senator-judges in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona have been unduly taking too much canopy under the constitutional provision that they have the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to try all impeachment cases. The truth is no one—neither Jesus nor Satan—has ever questioned them on that. But for the senators to believe, as they quite ostensibly do, that the impeachment court is superior to the Supreme Court—to the extent that the latter should already surrender its sole and exclusive power of judicial review and of final interpretation of the laws of the land—cannot but sadly mirror an abuse of discretion.
One case in point was the senator-judges’ relentless insistence that PSBank president Pascual Garcia III, as witness, reveal matters and numbers related to Corona’s foreign-currency deposit accounts—although it’s as clear as water is wet that there is a law providing for the absolute secrecy of such bank accounts! And so I ask: Do the senators think they may now interpret that law to their heart’s desire for the simple reason that they are trying an impeachment case? It was good that the witness had resolutely stood his ground in refusing to comply, at the risk of being held in contempt by the impeachment court. And it was reassuring that the Supreme Court came to the witness’ succor by issuing a temporary restraining order. Whether or not the senators would question the TRO—before the high tribunal, of course—remains to be seen. I wish them the best of luck there is on earth when they do.
In the interest of fairness and towards a relatively broader perspective, all concerned should probably take some cue from the comments of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, and I quote: “There is only one Senate which occasionally acts as impeachment court, in the same manner there is only one [Supreme Court] which occasionally acts as Presidential Election Tribunal. The Senate, whether acting as impeachment court or legislative body, is the same Senate that is co-equal and not superior to any other department. Even if the Constitution states that the electoral tribunals shall be the sole judge of all election protests, the high court came in to determine whether there had been abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the electoral tribunals. What all these mean is that the Supreme Court can come in when needed to determine the meaning of the law.” Quite incidentally, wasn’t this what Corona’s lead defense counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, kept arguing but which the impeachment court simply sneezed at?
As things are, one earnestly hopes the foregoing should be sufficiently robust for the impeachment court to moderate its unbridled arrogance in thinking and asserting time and again they are higher than the Supreme Court, and so, no one—except the military, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had once said—may stop it from proceeding with Corona’s impeachment trial.
—RUDY L. CORONEL,
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