Prosecutors ask for 'lenient' court rules at impeachment trial

MANILA -- Prosecutors from the House of Representatives on Sunday said the Senate should apply court rules "liberally" against legal technicalities that they said defense lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona are raising to block evidence in the impeachment trial.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, spokesman for the panel, said Corona's Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) and land titles of allegedly undeclared property should be accepted as evidence despite opposition from former Justice secretary Serafin Cuevas, head of the defense team.

"The prosecution must not be prevented from presenting as much evidence as possible before the impeachment court, not only to convince the senator-judges of the truthfulness of the allegations against Mr. Corona but more importantly to satisfy the public’s thirst for truth and justice," he said in a press statement.

Defense lawyer Jose Roy III has called the presentation of the SALNs and titles a fishing expedition and the defense has said properties registered under Corona's relatives have nothing to do with his client's alleged failure to file and disclose his net worth.

The defense has questioned the competence of witnesses presented at the trial--which include records personnel from Malacañang, Quezon City, Taguig City, and Marikina City--saying they were not present when the documents were processed. Cuevas has also argued that the allegation in Article II of the impeachment complaint, which deals with Corona's SALNs, has already been answered. The proof, he said, is in the SALNs that were submitted to the Senate last week.

Cuevas has also said they will object when the documents are offered as evidence. Documents have been marked as evidence but Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has said their admissibility has yet to be decided. He has noted the defense's continuing objection the presentation of the SALNs and land titles.

"Among lawyers, we were always taught that if you want to hide something, use all technicalities that you can raise to prevent its disclosure," Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo, also a prosecution spokesman, said. Prosecutors have said Corona misdeclared or undervalued his assets, and that that is an indication of ill-gotten wealth.

The prosecution has said this is not among the charges in Article 2. The Senate has directed both parties to submit their written positions on what Article II should cover.

"We should not be too technical about this. We hope the senator-judges will not be tied down by strict rules considering that (the) impeachment trial is not a criminal trial," Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, yet another spokesman for the prosecution, said.

Angara's father, Senator Edgardo Angara, sits on the impeachment court but both have said this does not constitute conflict of interest. The younger Angara said there would have been had he signed on as a prosecutor and not a spokesman.

Senator Angara, during the Christmas break, had proposed a pre-trial to attempt to settle the impeachment complaint out of court. The House prosecution, meanwhile, opposed a Corona motion asking for a preliminary hearing to discuss the validity of the complaint. They said the motion, which the Senate dismissed for lack of merit last week, was just a delaying tactic. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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