It’s now Day 23 of the trial and I wrote earlier that I am getting tired watching it but still, I remain glued infront of the television every afternoon anticipating what will happen next or who will appear as the Prosecution’s next witness. Yesterday, it was Secretary of Justice de Lima who was called to the witness stand and she testified on the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court last November 15, 2011 which we all know she defied. It pertains to the motion filed by the Arroyo family to grant them permit to travel abroad to seek medical help while they were still on the Watch List Order (WLO). The rest is history since the Bureau of Immigration didn’t allow them to leave on the instructions of Secretary of Justice de Lima. She said in her testimony that the TRO issued, which she said is a continuing TRO (for ordinary people like me, that means, there is no expiry date) did not reach her office until the following day. She further said that the SJ spokesperson Midas Marquez announced the validity of the TRO even if these conditions were not met.
At the start of the trial today, she was cross-examined by the lead Defense lawyer Cuevas and moved that all the testimonies pertaining to the dissenting opinions of Asst. Justice Sereno be removed from the record since De Lima has no personal knowledge of what took place inside the Supreme Court and she just based her testimonies on the records attached (dissenting opinions of Justice Sereno). Despite Sen. Santiago’s motion that the Defense team was right in their assessment that it was a hearsay evidence, the Senate Pres. Judge Enrile made a ruling that they are not striking out the testimonies made yesterday by de Lima since an Impeachment Court is different from a criminal court where hearsay evidences are not allowed except in eleven instances where they recognizes such. He cited two books, two extensive studies made in the US regarding Impeachment trials. And since this is the first time that they are impeaching a Chief Justice, they could not base it on some previous trials made in the past. The Impeachment Court had decided earlier at the start of the trial that they would not issue subpoena to the judges of the Supreme Court.
Watch List Order (WLO) prevents anyone from just leaving the country without a “lifting” or “allow order” and has a 60-day duration while Hold Departure Order (HDO) is valid for 5 years unless lifted by the Court of Justice. Sen. Lacson asked de Lima if there is a law that authorizes Circular 41 and she answered that there is no law expressly authorizing the Department of Justice (DOJ) or DOJ Chief to issue a WLO but DOJ has power to issue rules and to promulgate rules and regulations. She further said that the power to issue HDO/WLO may have been abused in former Pres. Arroyo’s time but she assured Lacson that she won’t do that out of a political vendetta.
I won’t delve into the nitty-gritty of what happened today since it was so obvious that most senators were just grandstanding by way of “clarificatory questions” but I appreciate what I learned, that in a criminal court, hearsay evidence is not permitted and you don’t need to worry about your rights being violated if you are a law-abiding citizen, you would not even be served a HDO or a WLO.
And here’s the latest news on former Pres. Arroyo’s arraignment today at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court. Arroyo entered a “not guilty” plea on poll sabotage case.