Senate President Enrile, as presiding judge of the impeachment court, made a ruling–within the context of Article 3 of the Complaint for Impeachment–to the effect that the court will not entertain the testimony of a key witness, PAL Vice-President for Sales Enrique Javier. the ground he cited was that the testimony is beyond the subject matter of the said article in its allegation of “bribery” which is a separate item in the constitutional bases for impeachment. Article 3 alleges only the charge of “culpable violations of the constitution” and betrayal of public trust.
This basically slams the door in the face of further presentation by the prosecution of their evidence–at least on Article 3. This is so since the core argument is the presentation of specific incidents where Chief Justice Corona “failed to meet and observe the stringent standards under Art. VIII, Section 7 (3) of the Constitution that provides that ‘[A] member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.’” This led to the cutting short of the trial on Article 3, and the prosecution manifested their decision to rest their case in regard to this article, based only on the testimony of one witness and corresponding documents.
This decision by the Senate President has pushed the situation dangerously close to the crisis situation of the “second envelope” in the impeachment case of former president Erap Estrada. Together with the 13-10 decision of the impeachment court honoring the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) on the opening of CJ Corona’s dollar account, this decision–apparently supported by the majority of the senator-judges–may easily be seen by the public as the hiding of important and relevant information.
My own opinion on why there is not much reaction yet from the public is that there is an apparent conclusion being drawn already by many, if not the majority, that the information thus far shown in court, specifically his SALN, the peso bank deposits and the owned properties is already enough to convict CJ Corona of the charge under Article 2. The situation has already shifted from one of gathering the critical mass of evidence to one of making a conclusion (or voting) on the basis of the currently-available evidence.
This situation puts the Senate sitting as an impeachment court in a quandary. On one hand, if it cannot end immediately the proceedings and put the matter to a vote, the public impatience may build up and overwhelm the proceedings, possibly inviting the undermining of its own credibility and standing. On the other hand, if it ends the process now, it runs the risk of being depicted as unfair or partial in any decision it may vote for.
A number of senator-judges, maybe a majority already, recognized this. Within the context of the upcoming elections and the political nature of the impeachment process, there appears no viable reason to go through all the articles and eventually vote. The point here is: Vote now and vote later, there appears to be little difference in the outcome if there is already a conclusion drawn by a critical number of senator-judges.
It is an interesting situation that needs a political solution.