MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona's supposed walkout after testifying in his impeachment trial last Tuesday not only weakened his case but also showed signs of his "disintegrating" defense team, a senator-judge said.
Shortly after Corona left the witness stand and the session went on break, chief defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas reportedly went to the executive lounge to explain to senators.
"Justice Cuevas came in to explain that he had no hand in this, that he did not know this was going to happen," Sen. Franklin Drilon told reporters in a briefing on Thursday. "From that statement, you could imply that somebody else was directing the show."
At that time, defense lawyer Jose Roy III was giving a live interview on television.
"Ayan, daldal nang daldal. I-contempt n'yo at ikulong n'yo nang 10 araw. Hindi ako mag-o-object," Drilon quoted Cuevas as telling senators when he saw Roy on TV.
Drilon confirmed reports that Cuevas got a dressing-down from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile inside the lounge.
After this, Drilon said Roy attempted to go to the senators' lounge, but Cuevas reportedly told him, "Papasok ka diyan? Mumurahin ka."
In an earlier interview, Roy had denied that Cuevas reprimanded him.
'Premeditated and planned walkout'
For Drilon, it was clear that Cuevas did not have a hand in what he believes was Corona's "premeditated and planned" walkout. He believes Cuevas would have stopped the plan if he knew it.
He is convinced, however, that other defense lawyers knew about it. He said he has information that a member of the defense team was already at the basement parking waiting for Corona to go down after he left the witness stand.
Drilon did not name any lawyer who may have had a hand in Corona's "walkout."
"Indeed, the defense team was disintegrating. This added to the difficulties of Chief Justice Corona in presenting his defense when his legal team is imploding," Drilon said.
Drilon said Corona lost the public's sympathy after testifying and leaving the witness stand.
"Certainly, he lost the public support which he could have gained given the emotional appeal he made," he said. "He lost it all when he walked out."
Salvador belies they're disintegrating
For his part, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III denied that the Corona team is disintegrating.
He said the defense lawyers are in constant contact with Corona and will be backing him up once he returns to the witness stand tomorrow.
Salvador said Corona was unable to finish his testimony last Tuesday after he allegedly suffered hypoglycemia after finishing his opening statement.