Officials seem to be in disagreement as to who shouldn’t be allowed to speak about the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona.
So who’s really covered by the gag order?
This question was floated after members of the House prosecution team presented to the public evidence against Corona that was supposed to be presented during the impeachment trial, which was immediately admonished
by several senators who will serve as judges during the proceedings.
Section XVIII of Senate Resolution 39
, which contains rules on the impeachment trial, prohibits prosecutors, senator-judges, the person impeached, their counsel and witnesses from “making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial.”
But in a text message to GMA News Online on Monday, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that “all are covered” by the gag order.
“No one should be discussing the merits of the case in public,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the Senate public information and mass media committee, said that spokespersons should be included in the prohibition.
“Kasama yan, kaya tinawag na spokesman yan, dahil tagapagsalita. So wala silang sasabihin kung hindi position ng lahat na involved dito,” Honasan said in an interview on dzBB radio.
The prosecution team has assigned three lawmakers to serve as spokespersons: Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.Tañada, Quimbo, and Angara signed the complaint but only Angara expressed reservations.
Not in the rules
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, however, said that spokespersons are not covered by the gag rule as stated in the impeachment rules.
“So as long as the spokesperson are neither prosecutors nor defense counsels who have entered their apperance, they can speak about the impachment case. The witnesses are also covered by the gag rule,” Trillanes told GMA News Online in a separate text message on Monday.
But Senators Francis Escudero and Panfilo Lacson, in separate text messages to GMA News Online on Monday, said spokespersons can be included if they are also complainants in the case.
“Only the parties, their counsels and witnesses are specifically mentioned. If, however, the spokespersons are complainants themselves, then they are covered by the express provision of the impeachment rules.” said Escudero.
“According to rule XVIII of the rules of procedure on impeachment trials, they are not covered but since they are most probably among the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against the CJ, they are covered,” said Lacson.
Escudero said that the spokespersons may also included in the gag order depending on the impeachment court.
Impeachment court spokesperson Valentina Cruz, for her part, said that although there is no specific provision preventing spokespersons from issuing statements about the case, she would advise them against it.
“If they represent either prosecution or defense I would recommend that they exercise prudence and not comment on the merits of the case,” she told GMA News Online on Monday.
She added that they may comment on the merits of the case “at their own risk.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earlier said they have the power to cite anyone for contempt if they violate any of the court’s rules.
The Palace, meanwhile, last Wednesday said that they will follow
whatever the Senate orders.
But three days later, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they are not covered
by the gag rule. — RSJ, GMA News