BIR chief Kim Henares stands her ground vs legal eagle
MANILA, Philippines - Did defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas unwittingly allow "damaging testimony" against Chief Justice Renato Corona to come to light?
Cuevas on Monday came under fire from the spokesman of the House prosecution team for his failed attempt to have the testimony of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares removed from the records of Chief Justice Renato Corona's impeachment trial.
"Kapag tila hindi nagugustuhan ng defense iyung kasagutan, ay sila mismo ang nagpapa move to strike out," said Rep. Miro Quimbo.
Henares, during her cross-examination by Cuevas, said she found discrepancies in Corona's statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs).
She said that in 2003, Corona's La Vista property was only declared at P3 million, when it was worth some P11 million.
Henares added that in 2004, Corona also did not declare a property in Diliman, Quezon City and another property in Fort Bonifacio in 2005.
From 2006 to 2009, Corona disclosed lower net worths, Henares said.
"My understanding is when I submit a SALN, that has to be complete and true," she said when asked by Cuevas if the SALN can be corrected after it is sworn in and filed. "If it can be amended anytime, it is a useless exercise."
She also defended the BIR's move to investigate perceived irregularities in the tax records of members of the Corona family, saying the "public expects us to do our job."
Senate president and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile rejected Cuevas' effort to have Henares' testimony stricken off, saying the defense will have its time to present its own evidence for Corona.
Quimbo described Henares' testimony as "very damaging" on the defense's efforts to clear Corona regarding allegations in Article 2 of the impeachment complaint.
"Everybody knows, kaming mga abugado, that every time you ask a question on cross examination, any answer that is given by the witness, you take the risk on what is answered by the witness," he said.
"On this case, she clearly stated very categorically, the damaging testimony pertaining to the fact that more than P50 million of the assets ni Chief Justice nung 2010, ang dineclare lamang po niya ay P14.5 million," he added.
"Huwag po nating kalimutan that the BIR is an integral part of the SALN mandatory submission," Quimbo said. "Nakalagay po iyan, kapag tayo'y nagsusubmit ng ating SALN, nakalagay po sa likod mismo, you authorize the other agencies, including the BIR, to actually use this para sukatin kung ika'y nagbabayad ng tamang buwis."
"Kaya nga importante iyung SALN, bilang sukatan, sinasabi mismo ng Korte Suprema -- na bahagi po si Chief Justice -- na ang SALN is a way for us to measure and prevent graft and corruption," he said. "Kaya iyan under oath, para natin makita, masuma natin, macompel natin magsabi ng totoo."
"Makikita natin iyung pagtaas ng kaniyang assets. Ito, kritikal na kritikal na impormasyon sa naipakita po natin today, because clearly, the agency or at least the commissioner of the agency that is in charge of using the SALN in determining tax liabilities, malinaw na she has the required expertise that the SALN is a matter that is reviewed regularly by the commissioner of the BIR," Quimbo said.
He added that Henares' testimony given under cross examination by Cuevas is "wrapping up" of the SALN issue hounding Corona. "Lahat ng atin pong allegations o pertaining to fact that the SALNs were misdeclared or grossly undeclared considering the testimony herself of the testimony of the BIR."
Henares' statement irrelevant, says defense
The defense, however, came to Cuevas' aid.
They questioned Henares' statements, saying they are irrelevant to the impeachment case.
"The discrepancies were not verified. Premature to say may itinatago si CJ Corona," said lawyer Karen Jimeno, spokesperson of the defense team.
"Di pa puwede pagbasehan yung computation (ni Henares)," she said. "Klaro na sarili niyang (Henares) opinyon yun. Hindi siya ipinresenta as an expert witness ng prosecution."
Another member of Corona's team also said that the chief justice's SALNs are accurate and they're ready to prove that when they present their evidence.
"Maipapaliwanag namin na walang inaccuracies sa SALN ni Chief Justice," said Atty. Rico Paolo Quicho. - with ANC