MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Senate has sent subpoenas to people Chief Justice Renato Corona wants to appear in the impeachment court before he himself testifies.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday morning signed the subpoenas for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who ordered Corona to explain his alleged possession of $10 million in various bank accounts, and some of those who complained against him before the Ombudsman: Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Harvey Keh of the Kaya Natin Movement, and Emmanuel Santos.
Aside from testifying in the impeachment trial, the subpoena orders them to bring the original and certified true copies of the complaints against Corona, and of the documents where they based the allegation that Corona keeps $10 million in different bank accounts.
In asking them to testify, Enrile said the impeachment court’s concern is not to find out if the $10 million is ill-gotten. The impeachment court earlier prohibited the presentation of any evidence concerning the allegation of unexplained wealth.
“If there is a $10 million, the characterization of that amount regarding its source is immaterial. We only characterize it as asset,” he said. “Was it included in the SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) or not?”
Not all summoned will take witness stand
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said not all of those who were summoned will be called to the witness stand.
“If most of the testimonies that will be given are corroborative, then we need not call all of them,” he told reporters.
Enrile, the impeachment court’s presiding officer, said he trusts in the defense’s word that Corona will “bare all out” once it is his turn to testify.
He added that the impeachment court cannot force Corona to answer all questions thrown at him.
“Nasa kanya ‘yon if he will answer or not,” Enrile said. “We are not going to be abrasive or disrespectful. We’ll grant him all the courtesies due him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”
Drilon: Don't count on CJ answering all questions
Meantime, Senator-judge Franklin Drilon said Corona's appearance in his trial does not mean he will answer all questions thrown at him, and even senators cannot force him to say everything.
Drilon on Wednesday said it is Corona's constitutional privilege to remain silent if he wishes even while he's already at the witness stand.
"The Chief Justice can invoke his right to refuse to answer a question on the ground that it could incriminate him," he said.
If Corona does so, however, Drilon said the evidence presented against him would remain unrebutted.
"Hindi po namin siya puwedeng pilitin na sumagot. Ngunit kung ano man ang ebidensya na iharap sa impeachment court tungkol sa bagay na ito will stand unchallenged," he told reporters.
Corona may even choose not to disclose his dollar accounts.
But Drilon said he hopes Corona would remain true to his pubic statements that he will open his accounts for scrutiny.
During Tuesday's hearing, Corona's lawyers said there is a big possibility that Corona will disclose everything.