Press Release
February 10, 2012

Post Trial ambush interview
Impeachment Trial Day 15; February 9, 2012
Re: Debates on Jurisdiction of SC & Impeachment Court

Reporter: Ano na po ang magiging step ng impeachment court after maglabas ng TRO ang SC?

The possibilities are infinite but again, we will have to see the TRO first. The first determination will be whether or not the impeachment court believes that the issue is within the sphere of the Supreme Court or whether or not they have already overstepped.

My understanding is that both parties are given ten days to file a comment. Pero may implications din ito. Because if you file a comment, that means you are recognizing the jurisdiction of the court in this issue. Although it is also possible to file a comment but state there that the position of the Senate is that we think that this issue belongs solely to the sphere of the impeachment court.

Reporter: Do you think that the issuance of the TRO is a big blow to the impeachment court?

I don't think this is a big blow because the Supreme Court did not issue a TRO to stop the proceedings or to question our power to decide. It is a specific incident which is the opening of a certain type of bank account, in this case, the dollar accounts.

Mabigat na desisyon ito dahil alam naman natin na nasa sentro ng ekonomiya ang banking system. And we all know that the confidence of the depositors also depend on the banks following the bank secrecy law.

Reporter: Sabi ng prosecution kanina may malaking conspiracy ang Supreme Court kaya naglabas ng TRO.

Dahil nga very contentious at maraming controversies pagdating sa impeachment cases at kulang tayo sa mga precedent locally, we have relied on foreign precedents. Sa US, ilang beses din naman na ang US Supreme Court ay nagkaroon ng desisyon tungkol sa mga legal issues sa impeachment court.

Sa Pilipinas, nangyari din 'yan pero kadalasan nasa House of Representatives pa at hindi kapag nandito na sa Senado at tina-try na. But even when a case has reached the Senate, for example the bank accounts of a person related to former President Estrada, it can still be decided on by the Supreme Court.

Kaya ang nagiging kwestiyon ngayon sa senator-judges at impeachment court ay kung ang in-issue na TRO at 'yung issue na nag-take ng jurisdiction ang korte amounts to grave abuse of discretion that amounts to excess of jurisdiction, or whether or not we believe that this is not part of the powers of the Supreme Court at dapat iniwan na sa Senado.

Kasama ng desisyon na iyon ay kung paano namin sasagutin 'yung sa Supreme Court kasi binibigyan din ng sampung araw ang mga panig para sumagot. Do we put our position there and in effect giving jurisdiction to the court or admitting jurisdiction, or do we question the jurisdiction in our response?

It will be a very difficult decision because, remember, we're dealing with bank accounts. The banking industry and sector is in the middle of the economy. Kaya hindi ka basta pwedeng magdesisyon na mag-cause din ng damage sa ating bansa at sa ating ekonomiya.

On the other hand, we know that corruption is one of the biggest problems of the country, kaya hindi natin basta mai-ignore na mayroong confirmed ngayon na dollar accounts at mayroong order ang impeachment court na buksan ito.

Reporter: Personally, ano po ba ang take niyo? Dapat po bang mag-abide by the TRO 'yung Senado?

I haven't seen the TRO yet so it will really depend on the legal basis. Pero sasabihin ko na napakabigat ng magiging diskusyon at debate nito sa Lunes.

What is the basis for the TRO? Definitely, the legal basis for issuing it in terms of subject matter would definitely be the law which absolutely prohibited opening of foreign currency accounts.

Pero ang question ko ay ano ang basis nila na sabihin na desisyon nila at hindi interpretasyon ng impeachment court ang dapat masunod kapag impeachment ang pinaguusapan.

Reporter: Option po ba ninyo na i-defy itong TRO?

That is an option if we believe that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to issue such orders to the impeachment court. But as of this point in time, I do not think we're prepared, personally, to make that assessment without seeing the TRO. That will be one of the arguments.

Basta may TRO on any issue sa impeachment court, isa sa unang titingnan 'yon - whether or not sakop ba talaga ng Supreme Court ito. That's why it's a very delicate issue dahil you're balancing the powers and jurisdiction here.

Kailangang maging unemotional tayo dito at tingnan at himayin ang issue dahil napakadali na tingnan ang TRO ng Supreme Court kapag hindi ang Chief Justice o justices ng Supreme Court ang involved. Kaya kung president, o chairman ng Comelec, o COA ang ini-impeach dito, pwede nating sabihin na takbuhan talaga ang Supreme Court.

Pero dahil ang Chief Justice ang ini-impeach at may spekulasyon kung anong suporta niya mula sa miyembro ng korte, nagiging very emotional ang issue. That's why I won't even comment sa mga nag-a-accuse na may conspiracy ito o pinag-usapan ng mga justices, because we have to assume good faith. We have to presume clarity. But I would admit it adds emotion, it adds flavor sa discussion dahil Chief Justice ang ini-impeach.

Reporter: Magiging consideration ba ang pag-iwas na magkaroon ng clash sa pagitan ng Supreme Court at impeachment court?

That's always a consideration, but the problem is mayroon na ngang clash dito. Mayroon nang clash ang public policy of protecting foreign deposits and upholding the absolute confidentiality of the law at 'yung mga pwedeng mangyari sa banking industry, 'yung sa confidence ng depositors, 'yung mga foreigners na dito naglalagay ng dollars, at 'yun namang interes natin na mawala ang mga corrupt.

Pwede din maging interpretation ng iba, ilipat na lang ang perang kinorup sa dollar account para hindi mabuksan.

These are policy directions that may directly affect our decisions. Noong walang TRO, ang conflict talaga nasa batas at kami ang magdedesisyon. Pero ngayon na na may TRO, ang una naming titingnan diyan, 'yung kapangyarihan at sakop ng Supreme Court which I'm not prepared to give a stand right now, because I want to study the TRO first. 'Yan ang pag-uusapan namin sa Lunes.

But let me recognize right now that there have been times in the US and in the Philippines wherein the Supreme Court really questioned the jurisdiction of the impeachment court and the issue was really brought to the SC.

Reporter: Ito na ba ang simula ng kinatatakutang constitutional crisis?

Maaaring pumunta doon. We're one step closer to a constitutional crisis, but we're not yet there. The constitutional crisis will come if and when there is a decision not to recognize an order from the Supreme Court. But the mere fact that a TRO was issued is not yet resulting in a constitutional crisis, but it's a step closer to that.

Reporter: So nasa kamay ninyo kung magkakaroon ng constitutional crisis?

Nasa kamay ng lahat, because if the SC did not issue a TRO, we're not one step closer. In the same manner that if we say we will respect the TRO, walang constitutional crisis. But it's not fair to blame the impeachment court if and when we decide not to respect the TRO, because in the first place, ang SC ang nag-issue ng TRO.

Reporter: Paano ninyo maiiwasan ang constitutional crisis?

In my opinion, when there is a clash of jurisdiction, it's not a question of how to prevent a constitutional crisis from happening, but a question of how it can be resolved.

Because the Supreme Court believes that it's the final arbiter of what's the law, while we in the impeachment court believe that we're the sole judge when it comes to impeachment cases. The problem here now is when do the powers of the Supreme Court and the impeachment court overlap and where do we draw the line. Napakahirap sabihin.

So let me go back to my statement that we have to think as if it's not the Chief Justice who is being impeached. Dahil kung ipapasok natin ang emotional issue na tinutulungan ba siya ng Supreme Court, hindi magiging purely on logic and reason ang magiging desisyon ng impeachment body.

Reporter: Kapag pumayag kayo na sundin ang TRO, maaaring lahat ng ruling ninyo dalhin na ng kampo ni Corona sa Supreme Court.

Yes and no. If we abide by this TRO, the possibility of the defense taking all our orders up to the Supreme Court will be opened, but it's not necessarily going to happen. Because we can also agree as an impeachment court that there are certain interpretations of the law which are really within the power of the Supreme Court.

At the same time, there are certain issues that are not really interpretations of the law, but rather going to our sole authority to try and decide and try cases. Trying a case is as important as making the decision.

Sa ngayon ang masasabi ko magiging mabigat na mabigat na diskusyon ang mangyayari sa Lunes. Hindi ko din masasabi kung matatapos sa caucus ang desisyon na 'yan dahil napakabigat ng implikasyon ng magiging desisyon na 'yan.

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