POSTSCRIPT / February 14, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Senate honors TRO, submits to SC review

SENATE HONORS TRO: The Senate meeting in caucus decided yesterday by a vote of 13-10 to honor the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order against the opening of the reported dollar bank deposit of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

With that, the defense was able to open to SC review, even only slightly, the interlocutory orders of the Senate impeachment court. To be consistent, similar orders or actions of the impeachment court in the future may also be reviewed.

As explained below, while this columnist believes the FINAL judgment of the impeachment court is beyond review by the Supreme Court, interlocutory orders leading to that final judgment are open to review when they impinge on basic rights.

The senators who voted to respect the TRO were Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Joker Arroyo, Alan Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, Miriam Santiago, Loren Legarda, Manuel Villar, Bong Revilla, Chiz Escudero, Tito Sotto, Bongbong Marcos and Koko Pimentel.

Those who voted to reject the TRO were Franklin Drilon, Ed Angara, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Serge Osmeña, Ralph Recto, Ping Lacson, Antonio Trillanes, Kiko Pangilinan and Teofisto Guingona Jr.

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BARE IT ALL: President Noynoy Aquino has dared Chief Justice Corona to open up his dollar bank account, implying that the latter’s refusal to do so confirms that he is hiding illegally acquired wealth.

To clear the air, it is time to ask BOTH the President and the Chief Justice as the lead accuser and accused, respectively, in the impeach-Corona trial to make a simultaneous disclosure of their bank accounts showing their monthly ending balance for the past five years.

As the people are anxious to know the whole truth on both sides, the President and the Chief Justice might as well include in their disclosure their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, as well as their Income Tax Returns, covering the past 10 years.

That is, if they have “nothing to hide,” to borrow one of the favorite lines of those hounding the impeached Chief Justice and other victims of harassment.

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DEFENSE MUST WAIT: To clarify, we are not saying here that the Chief Justice is innocent of the impeachment charges, or that he has no dollar account, or that if he has one he can explain it.

In the same way that the impeachment court itself has not come to the point of judgment, it is premature (at least in theory) for the watching public to convict or acquit Corona now.

Under the rules, the prosecution is the first party to present all its evidence without an instant rebuttal from the defense whose turn will come after the prosecution is done with the eight articles of impeachment.

The problem of the accused is that by the time it is time to present his case, the watching public may have been already conditioned or convinced by the prior presentation of the prosecution.

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LEVEL GROUND: On our proposed simultaneous disclosure, the President’s side is expected to point out that he is not the one impeached. But to people aching for a speedy and just resolution of the impasse, that detail does not matter much.

It is only fair that both accuser and accused face the people with clean hands and stand on level ground before the court of public opinion.

As my Postscript of two weeks ago (Jan. 31) said, in paraphrase of a biblical line (John 8:7), “Let him with an honest SALN cast the first stone.”

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WE DISTINGUISH: The vehemence with which some senators reject the SC’s TRO on the opening of Corona’s dollar account supposedly rests on their claimed absolute independence of the impeachment court from the Supreme Court.

This non-lawyer has taken the position that the impeachment court’s final judgment of guilt or innocence is indeed beyond review by the SC. That, we grant. But as regards interlocutory orders issued along the way to a final judgment, these are open to review when they impinge on basic rights. We distinguish.

We cannot close our eyes to the constitutional fact that persons brought to court, ANY COURT, are not automatically deprived of their right to due process and the presumption of innocence.

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QUAKES & OIL: My recent joke about earthquakes becoming more frequent “because of the accelerated speed and volume of our extraction of the oil that lubricates the earth’s constantly moving subterranean plates” brought sharp reactions to a rejoinder of inventor Harry Freiressaying our ideas “coincided.”

One from Cal Dancel said that Freires’ concept was “complete nonsense.” Dancel explained: “Oil extraction cannot shift the poles of the earth. It’s not true 32 billion tons had been added to earth. The water that seeped underground due to oil extraction is already part of the earth’s mass before it seeped.

“Besides, 32 billion tons is 0.00000000001 smaller than earth’s mass. It will not affect earth’s rotation. If at all, it will be too small to be detected. It’s true that the Japan earthquake moved earth’s axis by a few inches. But there is no known catastrophic effect whatsoever.

“Melting polar ice caps and rising sea level are happening due to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, not directly due to oil extraction. But if you burn the oil, that will produce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.”

Another reader, Manuel C. Diaz, said: “Attributing the shift of the pole to oil extraction is voodoo science. The pole has always been on the move since the creation of earth, this movement is called the precession of the equinoxes. The earth’s pole wobbles it is close to the vertical at 22.1 degrees and furthest from the vertical at 24.5 degrees the complete cycle of this precessional movement is 41,000 years this was known to the pre-dynastic Egyptian astronomers and was rediscovered by the Greek Hipparchus.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 14, 2012)

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