SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel III on Monday called on his colleagues to have an open mind during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“My appeal to all is that we should be prepared to convict if there is evidence and acquit if there is no evidence,” Pimentel said.
It’s not that you would acquit even if there is evidence and convict if there is no evidence. Don’t do that because it’s unfair. We should all be fair.”
Pimentel made his statement even as Sereno’s camp on Monday expressed appreciation with Pimentel’s statement.
“It is exactly what we expect a fair impeachment tribunal should do: to judge the case based on facts and the law,” Sereno’s spokesman Jojo Lacanilao said in a text message.
He said Sereno was confident she would be vindicated if the “fair” Senate, acting as an impeachment court, heard her case.
The Senate will convene as an impeachment court and the senators will sit as a jury when Sereno’s impeachment is transmitted to it from the House of Representatives.
Pimentel said the public will judge the Supreme Court based on its decision on the pending quo warranto petition, which seeks Senate to void the appointment of Sereno in 2012 and which was filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
“A lot of people who are concerned about this issue will judge the SC based on their decision,” Pimentel said.
Meanwhile, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and detained Senator Leila de Lima are urging the high court to dismiss the quo waranto petition against Sereno due to lack of jurisdiction.
They aired their concern over the propriety of the high court justices during the oral arguments on the quo warranto petition.
“In the course of the proceedings, the animosity between the parties and some of the members of the Honorable Court became quite palpable and apparent. It has become evident that the Honorable Court cannot render a judgment based purely on the merits of the case, given such hostile environment,” Trillanes and De Lima said in a resolution.
“The April 10 proceedings cannot honestly be considered as wholly impartial as to satisfy the due process requirement that those who shall hear, try and decide cases ought to possess the cold neutrality of impartial judges.
“The quo warranto petition is a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority he or she has in exercising some right or power the person claims to hold―in this case Sereno as chief justice of the Supreme Court.”
The senators said they had a specific interest in ensuring that the exclusive jurisdiction of the Senate to hear and decide impeachment cases, as well as the exclusive prerogative of all senators to try the same, were not undermined.
Trillanes said the manifestation was a reminder to the high court justices that the quo warranto proceedings were illegal and unconstitutional and would diminish the power of the Senate.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, counsel for the senators, said the first intervention they filed focused on the need for the Senate to be heard and the second manifestation raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction.
Trillanes and De Lima earlier sought the permission of the high court to intervene in the ouster plea against Sereno so they could properly ask that it be dismissed.