CJ defense cuts witness list, may finish by May

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 02 2012 06:12 PM | Updated as of May 03 2012 07:35 PM

Presentation of CJ, wife still up in the air

MANILA, Philippines - The defense team of Chief Justice Renato Corona will try to finish its case this May, with plans to reduce the number of witnesses to five or six.

Defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra told ABS-CBNnews.com the remaining five or six witnesses will be for the three articles presented by House prosecutors against Corona.

With its original list of 12 remaining witnesses cut by half, the defense may be able to wrap up everything this month.

In a separate interview with radio dzMM, Esguerra said former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza will again take the witness stand when trial resumes on May 7. He said prosecutors have have yet to finish their cross-examination.

“The rest of the witnesses [from the original list] are merely corroborative, so we may let go of them,” Esguerra said.

Atienza's testimony

Before the trial went on recess in March, the defense had presented Atienza to explain the purchase by the city government of a property of Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc., owned by the family of Corona’s wife, Cristina. He also explained that city hall paid Mrs. Corona P34 million for the property.

Atienza, who was the mayor of Manila when the city bought the property in 2001, testified they needed a lot 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.

Esguerra said the issue of whether Corona and his wife will take the witness stand will still have to be discussed by the defense lawyers.

He said the whole team has yet to meet “because some are still abroad, or out of town.” He said, however, that they have all been keeping in touch.

“Hopefully, we’ll be complete by tomorrow or Friday,” he said.

In the meantime, Corona and his wife are technically still on the witness list, he said.

No compelling reason for CJ to testify

Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador earlier said there is a “continuing study” to thresh out whether there is a need to present the chief magistrate in court. At that time, he had said that it was not needed.

“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, Salvador said.

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.