Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco holds a Philippine Star front page photo showing him without his shoes during a break in the impeachment trial the other day. Tiangco apologized to the Senate Tuesday for what he said might be seen as disrespect, explaining, “I was just tired. I just wanted to relax a bit.”

MANILA — The first witness for Chief Justice Renato Corona testified Monday that he was not shown the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives before being asked to sign it — something that would render the complaint invalid.

Even before Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco testified for the defense, however, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, refused to throw out the impeachment complaint, with senators pointing out that it was already too late for this.

Tiangco said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. had told members of the House of Representatives at a caucus in December last year that Corona “is a protégé of GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)” and would be impeached on that day.

“This is non-debatable. No questions will be entertained,” Tiangco quoted Belmonte as saying.

Tiangco did not sign the complaint.

Belmonte disputed the story and said House members were merely advised to vote however they pleased.

Tiangco said when Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon complained that congressmen were being asked to sign an impeachment complaint that they had not even read, Belmonte allegedly told them they could get their copies later: “Ginagawa pa sa likod, kumuha na lang kayo mamaya (It’s still being printed in the back, get your copies later).”

Instead lead prosecutor Niel Tupas of Iloilo gave a PowerPoint presentation of the eight Articles of Impeachment in “bullet points” with accompanying “narrative,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco also claimed Malacañang had used the congressional pork barrel to punish those who didn’t go along with the impeachment of Merceditas Gutierrez as ombudsman.

The insinuation was that fear of similar sanctions prompted 188 members to sign the impeachment complaint against Corona.

Hindi po ako pumipirma kung hindi ako bumabasa (I don’t sign if I don’t read it),” he said, recalling that he eventually made a privilege speech the next day, condemning the act.

Meanwhile, the Senate impeachment court rejected Monday the latest attempt of the defense to throw out the Articles of Impeachment.

The defense was hoping to present witnesses to show that the impeachment complaint against Corona was invalid because it failed to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.

In a ruling, the court denied the defense’s applications to subpoena the secretary-general of the House of Representatives, lawmakers and the staff of a cable television news program on grounds that the court had already settled the matters involved in the pleadings in a previous ruling.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, impeachment court presiding officer, said the Senate had already acquired jurisdiction over the case, and that the trial has already reached an advance stage.

“The purpose of the subpoena is to present evidence on the circumstances of the verification of the Articles of Impeachment, which has been previously ruled on by this court when it considered the motion for preliminary hearing filed by the defense,” he said.

“The request is hereby denied. It is the opinion of this court that it is too late to raise the question of the verification at this point.”

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, the lead defense counsel, said Corona was not given due process when the impeachment complaint was transmitted without any notice to him, as well as hear his side.

“The due process clause enshrined in our fundamental law is a condition sine qua non that cannot be ignored in any proceeding,” he said.

“It is a matter of fact that there was no determination of probable cause. In other words, there were no evidences, there were no allegations that would prove the existence of probable cause and yet the public officer involved was immediately impeached.”

Sen. Joker Arroyo said the impeachment complaint, once it secures the required signatures of one-third of all the members of the House and is transmitted to the Senate, the upper chamber has no choice but to accept it.

“What is the objective in filing this motion?” he asked.

“As I see it, supposing the Senate will grant your request, if the allegation is true, the Senate has to dismiss the complaint?”

“In the prosecution of (President Joseph) Estrada, the same issue arose. What the House transmits to Senate, defects and all, will have to be accepted by the Senate because the Senate cannot direct the House on how to make an impeachment complaint,” he added.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said the defense arguments were the same as those contained in their motion for a preliminary hearing that the Senate had denied.

“The Jan. 18, 2012 ruling of this court categorically validated the verification,” he said.

“If there was no need to present evidence on the matter of the preliminary hearing, there is no need to present evidence on the affirmative defenses.

“So it was not true that it was only the motion for preliminary hearing that was denied, it is the validity of the verification itself that was ruled upon.

“The purpose, obviously, of a hearing on the affirmative defense, is to have the case dismissed because of lack of verification, which has been ruled upon by this court on Jan. 18, 2012.”

Cuevas responded, “If that commentary was made by the members of the prosecution arm, we would have no objection. We are worried that this may be interpreted as an argument by a prosecutor.” 

Drilon shot back that he took exception to the statement of Cuevas as “totally improper.”


Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco stretches his legs during a break on the 27th day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate Monday.

Sen. Francis Escudero wanted the court to be more liberal and allow the defense to present some members of the House, as long as it would limit its presentation to no more than three to five members as Cuevas had stated.

Escudero said the concern of the court was that the defense might present all 188 signatories to the complaint and bog down the proceedings.

“But if it is to set the tone of the impeachment case, and you will not present all 188, some bending over may be given (by the court to the defense panel),” he said.

The defense intends to call as adverse witnesses Representatives Romero Quimbo of Marikina, Lorenzo Tañada III of Quezon and Joseph Emilio Abaya of Cavite, Cuevas said.

The defense, in trying to seek a dismissal of the impeachment complaint, had intended to argue that non-compliance with requirements in the impeachment process, including rules on verification of the lawmakers’ signatures on the complaint, rendered it defective.

Tiangco also linked President Benigno Aquino III and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in the alleged “pattern to pressure” congressmen into signing important measures in the House of Representatives, including impeachment complaints.

The Navotas congressman, a first-termer, also cited text messages and communication with Abad inquiring about delays in the release of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations after he decided not to sign the verified complaint against Corona on Dec. 12, 2011.

Dennis Manalo, the lawyer designated by the defense to present the witness, explained to the court the need to make Tiangco take the witness stand in a bid to create “reasonable doubt” on the integrity of the complaint.

“There are two points...first, the testimony will tend to prove that the grounds relied upon in the Articles of Impeachment are not substantial or do not rise to the level of the impeachment offense,” Manalo said.

“And actually, our second reason is to question the integrity not only of the complaint but also of the complainants so as to create a doubt that will later on prove to be invaluable to the senator-judges when they decide whether or not to convict or acquit the impeached officer,” Manalo explained.

“To us, your honor, this creates a reasonable doubt and this will be material in the evaluation that will be made by the senator-judges when the time comes,” Manalo said.

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