Day 1: Highlights of Corona impeachment trial at the Senate

Call to order   At 2:10 p.m. Monday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, as the Presiding Officer, called to order the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court. Only 21 out of 23 senators answered the roll call. Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Loren Legarda were absent. Enrile delivered a short statement stating the role and function of the Senate in the impeachment trial.  Introduction of panels and a plea of not guilty   Members of the House prosecution panel led by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. made their entry of appearance for the impeachment court’s record.  Private prosecutors entered their appearance, stating that they are under the direct supervision and control of the public prosecutors from the House of Representatives.   Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, head of the defense team, made a manifestation for the record. He said the defendant, Chief Justice Renato Corona, was present in the gallery of the session hall to show his respect for the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court. Cuevas also manifested that Corona was entering a plea of not guilty to all charges in the articles of impeachment. Senator Franklin Drilon, however, told Cuevas that he is only being asked to enter the appearance of the defense team and not make manifestations yet. The remaining members of Corona’s defense team made their entry of appearance.  Impeachment court denies Corona’s motion for a preliminary hearing   Upon the motion of Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto, the Senate tackled the motion for a preliminary hearing filed by Corona’s defense team regarding the verification of the impeachment complaint, which Corona claims was "fatally defective."  Presenting the arguments of the defense, Cuevas said the defect in the verification of the complaint “goes into the jurisdiction of the impeachment court,” stressing the more important element of due process because procedures were not followed. Presiding Officer Enrile denied the request of Rep. Tupas to allow private prosecutor Mario Bautista to argue for the prosecution panel regarding the verification of the impeachment complaint. Speaking for the prosecution panel, Tupas argued that the impeachment process was done in accordance with the rules of the House of the Representatives. He presented a copy of the House journal showing that the 188 signatures in the impeachment complaint were verified by House secretary-general Marilyn Baura-Yap. Ruling on the motion, Presiding Officer Enrile denied Corona’s motion for a preliminary hearing “for lack of merit.”  Motion for indirect contempt denied   The Senate tackled the motion filed by lawyer Fernando Perito to cite the members of the prosecution team for indirect contempt for presenting at a press conference the deed of sale of Corona’s condominium unit at The Bellagio in Taguig. Presiding Officer Enrile denied the petition because Perito does not have “standing” in the impeachment court, pointing out that “[Perito] is neither a lawyer for the defense or lawyer for a participant in this proceeding.”  Action on presentation of evidence noted   Presiding Officer Enrile noted Corona’s motion to take appropriate action against the prosecution team regarding the presentation of evidence to the media. Enrile requested all parties to refrain from making public statements, stressing that the impeachment case is for the Senate to decide and not the general public who are not under oath. Opening statements Lead Prosecutor Rep. Tupas delivered the opening statement for the House panel. He laid down the eight articles of impeachment that he said would show that Corona had committed betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the law, and graft and corruption. He said Corona failed to file his statements of assets, liabilities and net-worth (SALNs) and showed partiality to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in several high court decisions. He also presented a slide show on the properties allegedly owned by Corona. Atty. Eduardo delos Angeles delivered the opening statement for the Corona defense team. Delos Angeles denied the accusation that his client failed to file SALNs properly, and dismissed the slide-show presentation of alleged Corona properties as irrelevant to the case because these were not included in the articles of impeachment.  He pointed out that in decisions of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice has only one vote and cannot tell the other 14 justices how to vote.  Adjournment   At 3:37 p.m., the Presiding Officer adjourned the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona until 2:00 p.m. the following day.  - Marlon Anthony R. Tonson/YA/HS/KG, GMA News