MANILA, Philippines - In less than two weeks, the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona will resume but his defense team is still adamant there is no need for him to appear before the Senate impeachment court.
In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, lawyer Tranquil Salvador said there is “continuing study” to thresh out whether there is a need to present the chief magistrate in court. At this point, no such need has arisen, he added.
“If there’s a new twist, we’ll know. This is a continuing study,” he said.
Nonetheless, “It is basic in law that the prosecution will have to stand on their evidence and not on the weakness, if there is any, on the part of the defense,” he said. The prosecution has not provided any damning evidence that would push Corona to explain himself in court, he added.
He said the trial is not a performance or play that would require the “main character” to be there. The case should be based on evidence, he added.
Asked if the “new twist” could still happen, Salvador said it will be up to the prosecution. He does not want to answer, however, if the prosecution will present rebuttal witnesses.
Based on court procedures, new evidence cannot just be presented in court in the middle of the game. The prosecution has already rested its case. It is not yet known if they will go for a rebuttal.
Asked if the defense lawyers themselves would present “new matters,” he only said: “We’ll just have to wait for it. I don’t want to flaunt or float our evidence outside of court.”
‘De Lima as hostile witness old issue’
In a separate press conference, the defense team said they have at least ten remaining witnesses who will be presented when trial resumes starting May 7.
Only until then will they know if Justice Secretary Leila de Lima would still be called as a hostile witness.
Salvador also told ABS-CBNnews.com that de Lima was mentioned in a previous request for subpoena. De Lima’s testimony, if there will be any, would be part of the case in Article 7.
Article 7 says Corona “supposedly betrayed the public trust through his partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.”
When the trial resumes on May 7, the defense would still be discussing Article 2, which revolves around the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of Corona.
Salvador refused to comment on the new SALN of Corona, which will be filed on April 30. He said that any request for its disclosure would have to be filed with the Supreme Court.
The SC allows the release of SALNs but only upon request, except in cases where “the request is not made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and, with the implicit threat of its disclosure, to influence a decision...” The ruling has been in place since 1989.
Salvador said he is not in a position to declare where Corona is now in terms of completing his new SALN. Nonetheless, he feels it will not be relevant to the trial.
‘He’s human too’
Salvador, in a separate interview with radio dzMM, defended Corona’s reaction to the issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita.
In an earlier text message to reporters, Corona answered “sigurado [I’m sure]” that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III will get back at him after the high court issued its final ruling distributing the land in Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries.
“The reality is, the court of opinion is large. He’s just sharing his thought on the matter,” especially [since] there is no let-up in the accusations against him despite a truce informally forged with the prosecution while the trial is on a down time, he added.
Salvador said some quarters are too loose in their criticisms because the chief magistrate is at the center of it all.
Exaggerated, says Angara
In a separate interview with dzMM, prosecution spokesman Juan Edgardo Angara said Corona’s reaction is “exaggerated.”
He said Corona is just thinking of a “scapegoat…that he was politicized in case of conviction.”
He said the prosecution is still hoping that Corona will answer all allegations himself “which he promised on two separate occasions.”