MANILA, Philippines - It's final.
After much speculation, leaders and prosecutors of the House of Representatives decided Monday to designate private prosecutor Mario Bautista, assisted by Jose Justiniano and Arthur Lim, to cross-examine Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial.
Chief prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr said it was the group's consensus, adding that it was also his personal preference.
"We decided we will not do the cross. We will give it to the private prosecutors. That is the decision of the prosecutors, including myself, to give it to the private lawyers because we hired them to do that. We hired them to do the cross."
Tupas said they will ask Corona to waive his privacy on his alleged bank accounts.
"We will ask him to sign a waiver or written consent on the bank accts to see if he is really serious to his commitment on opening his bank accounts," he said.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales explained that private prosecutors willl do better at the cross-examination, considering the congressmen-prosecutors have not practiced law for quite a while now.
"I myself [was] a practitioner for 15 years. Modesty aside, I can say I was a good cross-examiner at the peak of my practice. I will not dare venture on volunteering to be the one to cross-examine. I'd rather one of private prosecutors engaged in art of cross-examination. I'd rather iyung mga congressman, this is one time your personal interest should give way to the interest of the prosecution and the interests of the 188," he said.
Political analyst Prospero de Vera lauded the move.
"In this make-or-break portion of the political telenovela, the prosecution has learned its lesson from its disastrous performance early in the trial and deferred to the private prosecutors in cross examining Chief Justice Corona. Good move. One must use its best artillery at this time and not experiment with weekend shooters," he said.
Tupas said he and deputy lead prosecutor Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas will instead deliver the closing arguments.
"We decided 2 persons on each side. One of the speakers is the chief prosecutor and the other is the deputy chief prosecutor, though there's a suggestion if we can make 3 speakers on our side. I won't mention it yet because it is not yet sure," he said.
He said the prosecutors will focus on Article 2 of the impeachment complaint. He maintained that the cross-examination will be thorough on other matters should these be raised by the direct examination.
Tupas could not give a time table yet on Corona's cross-examination. "It depends on the direct that question was discussed (on) how long will cross. If defense will touch on all issues, we will have a long cross-examination.
He urged the chief justice to be truthful. "From the very beginning, the House prosecution came to the Senate to seek for the truth. I hope the chief justice will tell the truth tomorrow when he testifies."
Tupas said Corona must squarely address the matters of his assets and alleged discrepancies in his sworn statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Gonzales expects the cross-examination to begin a day after the direct examination. He said it will focus on his assets, as well as dollar accounts.
Unless the accounts are explained, Corona should brace for a conviction, he said.
"These are part of the records. It will influence the mind of any sitting senator. Kung 'di niya ma-explain ito, kailangan explain niya to deny or admit and explain saan galing. 'Di pwede sabihin na I opt to take defense of right to remain silent. This is beyond legal issues. "