But defense insists Corona does not have $10M; CJ, wife still not likely to testify
MANILA, Philippines – The prosecution panel on Saturday reiterated its call to put Chief Justice Renato Corona on the witness stand and testify in his impeachment trial, which is scheduled to resume on Monday (May 7).
Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, spokesperson for the prosecution team, said Corona himself should testify to explain how he amassed the $10 million allegedly deposited in his bank accounts.
“Ang pinakamagandang paraan diyan ay buksan na po natin. Anyway, sinabi naman ni Chief Justice na sasagutin niya ang mga alegasyon at bubuksan in due time. So tingin namin, kahit mga senador, mga huwes na ang nagsabi, pinakamaganda talaga ay magpakita na siya at magsalita,” Quimbo told dzMM.
Quimbo said Corona should take the witness stand to defend himself instead of giving speeches at the Supreme Court and in other venues outside of the impeachment court.
“Mabuti sana kung naging tahimik siya all throughout. In this case, he has not only spoken before the media, but he has extolled and many times spoken before the steps of the Supreme Court. Ipaliwanag niya sa tamang forum, which is the Senate impeachment court,” he said.
“From a personal standpoint, he’s a very intelligent witness at pwedeng ikatalo namin ang pag-upo niya dahil masasagot niya, matalino siya. Siya ang pinakamataas natin na mahistrado, hindi natin siya basta-basta pwedeng mabaliktad. Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit hindi nila ipe-presenta,” he added.
Corona was earlier asked by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to explain in writing how he acquired money in his peso and dollar accounts that are disproportionate to his official income. The Ombudsman's move was in response to several complaints from citizens and civil society groups.
CJ does not have $10M: defense
Defense spokesperson Atty. Tranquil Salvador III, however, denied that Corona has $10 million in his bank accounts, adding that the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.
Salvador also questioned the timing of the Ombudsman’s order, saying it was issued merely to pique the interest of the public, with just over a week before the resumption of the trial.
He said the defense panel believes that Corona’s testimony is not necessary.
“Ang pagpapaliwanag ng akusado ay hindi kailangan siya mismo, kaya nga nagpe-presenta ng iba’t-ibang witnesses eh, para sila ang magpatotoo ng mga sinasabi ni Chief Justice. Mabuti na ang 3rd person ang magpatotoo,” Salvador told dzMM on Saturday.
Salvador also said Corona’s wife Cristina will likewise not be called to the witness stand.
“Walang dahilan para i-upo namin siya. Napapatunayan naman namin kahit wala sila doon,” he said.
Trial may end by May 31
The defense spokesman said they will present at least 10 witnesses when the trial resumes.
“Asahan niyo po na ang mga testigo namin ay mga 10, hindi bababa sa 10 pero depende po ‘yan sa takbo. Pwedeng bawasan pa namin ng kaunti depende kung mapatunayan namin sa mga ibang testigo, ‘yung susunod ay pwedeng ibawas na namin. Huwag kayo magtataka kung matapos kami sa higit na bilis na inaasahan niyo,” said Salvador.
Salvador said the defense panel is amenable to a speedy trial “so that everyone could move on.”
He said he expects the defense to be done with the presentation of evidence before June.
“Para kami ay makabalik sa aming mga trabaho. Marami tayong mga gawain at gusto natin makabalik sa normal na buhay,” he said.
Salvador noted that the defense is committed an "expeditious presentation of evidence.”
Prolonged trial bad for CJ?
Quimbo, meanwhile, clarified that the prosecution panel’s request for the Senate court to impose a trial deadline does not only concern the defense but also the prosecution.
“Hindi lang sa defense pero sa buong trial. Huwag natin kalimutan na ayon sa rules, may pagkakataon kami, kung pipiliin namin, na magpresenta ng rebuttal evidence pagkatapos mag-rest ng defense. So sa kabuuan ng trial, humihingi kami ng timeline para sa kabatiran na din ng publiko at ng Senado na talagang naantala ang tarabaho,” he said.
Quimbo also said a longer trial could be detrimental to Corona because his decisions as Supreme Court Chief Justice could be affected.
“It is also for the benefit of the Chief Justice kasi the longer it drags, the more difficult it is for him to govern. Ibig sabihin, ngayon na siya ay nililitis, lahat ng desisyon ng Korte Suprema ay nababahiran, marami doon sigurado ako ay walang kinalaman sa impeachment,” he said.
Quimbo added that as the trial continues, the “public’s interest wanes.”
“The longer it takes, we are at a disadvantage because ang publiko, kahit sa telenovela, pag dating sa dulo nagsasawa na ‘yan. The longer it drags, the public’s interest wanes,” he said.
Corona’s approval ratings, trial surveys
Salvador on Saturday also questioned the timing of the release of surveys, which showed a drop in Corona’s trust and approval ratings.
He said the surveys may affect not only the perception of the senator-judges but the voting public as well.
“’Yung mga surveys na ‘yan ay lumalabas para makaapekto, hindi lang sa senator-judges kung hindi sa kabuuan ng ating population. Kaya rin naman ito binabantayan dahil kapag mainit ang usapin ay talagang titignan ito ng senator-judges,” he said.
But Quimbo said surveys will not largely affect the decision of the senator-judges, citing the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2001, wherein 11 senators who voted against opening a controversial envelope received vilification from the public.
“If there was any lesson in 2001, it [senators' decision] has nothing to do with the surveys, but when you vote to prevent the truth from coming out, eh talagang hindi ka makakalimutan ng taongbayan. ‘Yun ang critical sa prosesong ito,” Quimbo said.
“All these surveys, if they want to address the public, it is the Chief Justice showing up in person, opening all his defenses, including the dollar accounts. Tingin ko ‘yun lang ang inaantay ng publiko,” he added.