Conclusion of trial seen by end of May
MANILA, Philippines - The names of Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, Cristina, are still on the witness list, but members of the defense still do not see the need for them to face the senator-judges.
Defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra told ABS-CBNnews.com, “though no final decision has been reached yet, the Chief Justice and Mrs. Corona are still on the list of witnesses that I was given.”
The defense still has around 10 witnesses on the list, which may still be trimmed down depending on the need for their corroborative testimonies.
“At the most, we have ten witnesses which can be trimmed down still,” Esguerra said. He said the list includes: a representative of the developer of the Bonifacio Ridge, two more from the city government of Manila, two court personnel on the public auction of the shares of stock of Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc., a buyer of Ayala Heights, an official from the Commission on Audit and a representative from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
In a separate text message, defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima may still be called to the witness stand.
Prior to the six-week break, the defense was finally able to get a chance to present evidence against three of the allegations of the prosecution. From the original eight articles, prosecutors dropped five, claiming they already have enough to convict Corona.
The defense was able to present more than 10 witnesses so far. They were presented to debunk the alleged properties in Corona’s name.
From 45 to 21 to 5?
Though tagging him as its own witness, the defense seemed to have placed Land Registration Authority Administrator Eulalio Diaz III on the spot to reveal how the prosecution got hold of a “bloated” list of 45 properties against Corona.
Prosecutors later denied they fed the media with information that Corona had 45 properties to his name. They said they have produced evidence to show the Coronas have 21 titles.
The defense, on the other hand, said Corona only has five properties (six titles) to his name: a unit at Bellagio and Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig; a unit at The Columns in Makati; a unit at Burgundy and the family home at Xavierville in Quezon City.
Last to appear on the witness stand for the defense and is expected to show up again on Monday afternoon is former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.
During his testimony, Atienza, who was the mayor of Manila when the city bought a property BGEI in 2001, said they needed a property where the Sampaloc market would be transferred. The Sampaloc market was then sitting on a property at the Legarda and Bustillos streets, and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) wanted to put up a station there for the LRT Line-2.
Why CJ should not appear in trial
In separate interviews, defense lawyers Salvador and Rico Quicho explained why there is no need anymore to present Corona at the witness stand.
Quicho told dzMM, “it’s because the prosecution does not like the answers so far presented. They want that they be fed with information, which they could later use against the chief justice.”
Salvador, for his part, told ANC, “I’m surprised why they keep on pushing and egging us to present the chief justice…Why are they teaching us to defend the chief justice?”
He said that if the prosecution is already confident as they are now with their evidence, they should already think twice on the need for Corona to stand trial.
The same goes for Corona’s wife Cristina, he said. “There’s still no need for her testimony…Otherwise, we may be blamed for delaying the trial.”
Prosecution spokesman Miro Quimbo denied they have been pushing the defense to present Corona.
He said it is Corona himself who is “being egged by his own actions.” He said the chief magistrate has been interviewed several times, outside trial, denying the allegations against him.
He said it is the “public” who is expecting the answers straight from the horse’s mouth.
A hanging issue, he added, is the dollar accounts supposedly in the name of Corona. He said the prosecution is still waiting for a final decision from the Supreme Court on the opening of the dollar-denominated accounts.
This is still separate from the alleged $10 million that the Office of the Ombudsman is seeking to investigate.
In a text message, Quimbo said the probe and the possible testimony of the Ombudsman and their inclusion in the Senate trial are still being discussed by their team.
Quicho said, “We will just focus on the trial. It seems there’s a witch hunt going on. We will just answer when the right time comes.”
The defense insists the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over Corona.
End of trial near
While both quarters don’t see eye to eye on the development of the trial, both are one in saying that the trial already needs to cross the finish line.
Quimbo said they do not want to rush the defense, but “we have to sit down and let’s come up with an acceptable deadline. The SC and the legislative departments have to go back to their normal routes. This already has to be terminated.”
Esguerra, for his part, said that “barring any rebuttal and sur-rebuttal evidence, trial and judgment should be concluded by the end of the month.”
He said the defense should be done presenting evidence in two weeks time.