By JOSEPH HOLANDES UBALDE
THE defense team in the trial of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona is prepared to declare a mistrial should the Senate impeachment court’s decision show “grave abuse of discretion.”
The defense’s chief lawyer, former Justice Secetary Serafin Cuevas, said in an interview he and his team are not ruling out filing a petition for mistrial after the impeachment court hands down its decision.
“We will resort, we will exhaust all legal resources,” Cuevas said. “Maski saang laban pag matatalo ka na, sasabihin mo ba, ‘Sige magpahinga ka na, magpahinog ka na?’ Hindi naman siguro ganoon ang inaasahan natin sa kliente (In any fight, when you are about to lose, will you just throw in the towel? That’s not what we expect of our client).”
The chief justice, Cuevas also said, has been prohibited by his doctors at the Medical City in Pasig from leaving the hospital because of his ailment.
Corona was brought to the hospital Tuesday night after complaining of dizziness and transferred to the intensive care unit early Wednesday for what doctors said could be heart attack.
“Sya mismo nagsabi aattend sya pero sa ngayon ni hindi sya makatayo. Sabi ng duktor pinagbabawalan nila (He said he will attend the trial but as of now he can’t stand. The doctors said they have prohibited him from attending).”
When asked if the Senate impeachment court has abused its discretion in the course of the trial, Cuevas said defense lawyers will still review the case.
“Syempre babasahin namin uli yung transcript so …hindi naman lahat ng error ng court ay (We we review the transcript, but not all the court’s errors constitute) grave abuse of discretion sufficient to raise the issue of mistrial,” he added.
Cuevas said the Supreme Court could also nullify the impeachment court’s decision if grave abuse of discretion were present. The chief legal counsel of Corona refused to say a definite answer if this would lead to a constitutional crisis.
But Senator-judge Franklin Drilon denounced the defense team’s plan and said a mistrial cannot be declared in an impeachment court.
“Dun yun sa jury system (It’s only possible in a jury system),” he said.
Drilon added that the Senate will not take any act of the Supreme Court sitting down, should the situation arise. “Kung darating ang panahon (When the time comes), we will prepare,” he said.
Cuevas said, however, he remains confident that their case is strong and reiterated the chief justice’s commitment to appear before the court again.
Members of the defense team, including Cuevas, and some relatives visited the chief justice at around 9:30 a.m. and waited till the medical bulletin was issued past 11 am.
Cuevas said he did not have an opportunity to speak with Corona who was under “sedation.”
Reacting to allegations that Corona was just “acting” his heart ailment, he said, “E di puntahan nila ngayong kung nagdududa sila (Why don’t they go see for themselves).”
Earlier, defense spokesperson, lawyer Rico Quicho, said defense lawyers are determined to get Corona to return to the trial after he delivered a three-hour opening statement on Tuesday.
“We have no intention not to allow him to testify again,” he said.
Quicho added that Corona already showed his willingness to testify with his appearance on Tuesday, and has no other reason except for his health condition to do otherwise.
Lawyer Dennis Manalo echoed Quicho’s statement and said the chief justice wants to immediately terminate his checkup and attend the impeachment hearings for cross-examination.
“He is determined to continue with the proceedings,” Manalo said. “But it’s up to his doctors.”