Defense: Corona's wife may no longer testify

from a report by Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2012 09:12 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2012 06:14 PM

If she doesn't, defense would have to present CJ, says prosecution

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona's wife Cristina may no longer testify for her husband in his impeachment trial in the Senate, defense lawyers said on Friday.

Atty. Rico Quicho said they have other witnesses and documents that can explain the bank accounts of the Coronas.

Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza took the witness stand on Thursday and told the Senate impeachment court that the city of Manila paid P34.7 million to Mrs. Corona for a piece of land belonging to a family corporation Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI).

According to the Coronas, the money ended up in a bank account of the chief justice in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), which he withdrew on December 12, 2011, the same day he was impeached by the House of Representatives, since it was not his money but BGEI's.

The defense team said witnesses like Atienza who have personal knowledge of the Coronas' financial transactions can testify, without having Mrs. Corona herself explain her side.

The Chief Justice's lawyers also denied that Mrs. Corona is hiding something regarding their financial affairs.

"Hindi naman ho siguro sa natatakot humarap. Ang tanong ho, kung kinakailangan ba," Quicho said.

Atty. Tranquil Salvador III said if the Chief Justice's wife testifies, she may lose face and cry if she is asked sensitive questions regarding transactions and her dispute with her relatives over BGEI.

'No to grilling, possible ridicule'

"Why do we need to expose her to possible grilling, to possible embarassment to possible ridicule," Salvador said.

"Kapag mamaya, inupo mo sa witness stand iyan at medyo ang pakiramdam niya ay masyado siyang nagigipit... eh baka umiyak. Ayaw naman namin iyon," he added.

Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas is still undecided about the Coronas testifying, noting that senator-judges can ask witnesses anything and the defense cannot object.

The prosecution, meanwhile, believes that if Mrs. Corona does not testify, the pressure will be on her husband himself to take the witness stand.

"Kung totoo ngang hindi na haharap si Mrs. Corona, ang ibig lang sabihin nito ay lalung wala nang option ang depensa kundi i-prisenta si CJ. No CJ testimony means surrender by the defense of their case," prosecution spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.

'Open your dollar accounts'

Meantime, a religious group on Friday joined calls for the Chief Justice to open his foreign deposit accounts and to testify at his impeachment trial.

The Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, a network of the religious, priests, seminarians and lay individuals, is also urging Corona take a leave of absence until the verdict is handed down.

Students joined members of the group at the Supreme Court on Friday  to deliver the letter to Corona detailing their demands. - with reports from Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News; ANC