Corona may not return to witness stand

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at May 23 2012 08:06 AM | Updated as of May 23 2012 06:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – Chief Justice Renato Corona may not be able to testify in his impeachment trial Wednesday after he was confined in the intensive care unit (ICU) of The Medical City in Pasig City.

A radio dzMM report said patients confined in the ICU are not allowed to leave within 24 hours. Only Corona's wife, Cristina, has been allowed to stay with the chief magistrate.

Corona went to the hospital Tuesday night after he allegedly suffered hypoglycemia during his testimony at the Senate.

Supreme Court spokesman and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said Corona was brought to the ICU after a blood test showed he had elevated Troponin T levels. He said the diagnosis is a possible heart attack.

Hospital officials did not immediately confirm the report.

Corona's lawyers said the latest development could jeopardize their client's defense after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile warned that Corona's testimony will be struck out if he fails to return to the impeachment court Wednesday to undergo cross-examination.

Defense spokesperson Atty. Karen Jimeno said she is aware of the implications if Corona is not able to complete his testimony in the Senate.

"Bilang abugado, mas gugustuhin ko na humarap na siya ngayon para matapos na and of course dahil meron tayo yung sinabi ng ating Senate President na mastrike off the record ang sinabi niya. Pero ayaw ko din magmarunong dito dahil hindi ko alam ang medical condition niya,” Jimeno told dzMM.

“Palagay ko po, but this is my personal view, [kailangan niyang makabalik] siyempre para matapos na ito. Pangalawa para din hindi masayang ang sinabi niya kahapon,” she added.


Jimeno denied that Corona planned to walk out of the Senate yesterday after his opening statement to avoid being grilled by the prosecution.

“[Kapag hindi siya dumaan sa cross-examination] hindi masasama ang sinabi niya sa official record kasi kailangan matest ang statements niya based sa pagtatanong ng kabilang panig,” Jimeno said.

“Sa akin, hindi natin pwede sabihin humina automatically [ang kaso ng depensa] kasi those statements were made under oath. Ang problema nga lang, hindi magiging ganoong kalakas kung gagamitin na siya sa pagdedesiyson dahil hindi na-test sa cross examination.”

Another defense lawywer, Atty. Tranquil Salvador III, shared Jimeno’s view and said he would like to see Corona conclude his testimony.

“Worried kami para sa kanya, worried din kami na sayang ang testimonya. Ang judge hindi nagbibiro yan eh, kapag ang testimonya hindi na cross examine, pwedeng mastrike out iyan,” Salvador told dzMM.

“We would like him to come back, dahil maganda ang response at maraming gustong makita ang kabuuan ng testimonya,” he added.

Conditional waiver

Corona took the witness stand on Tuesday, the 40th day of his trial, and said he is innocent of all the charges against him.

He signed a waiver opening all his bank accounts and assets to scrutiny but said he will only submit the waiver if Sen. Franklin Drilon and the 188 impeachment complainants in the House of Representatives sign a similar document.

He then stood up and walked out of the Senate session hall without being properly discharged by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The incident angered Enrile who ordered the entire Senate building to be locked down to prevent Corona from leaving. Corona's lawyers apologized for the incident and said their client was suffering hypoglycemia.

Enrile warned that Corona’s testimony will be stricken off the record and the case submitted for resolution if the chief justice does not come back to the witness stand today.

‘Impeach trial can wind up’

For University of the East College of Law Dean Amado Valdez, the impeachment court and both the defense and prosecution panels can come up with a compromise so the court can render a decision, putting into consideration Corona’s condition, before the Senate adjourns this June.

Valdez said given Corona’s condition, the court can already consider the chief justice’s testimony in rendering their final decision.

“Health reason is under the rules, pero mayroong time frame na dapat mag decide sila (impeachment court). Kaya win-win para sa taumbayan ay mag-stipulate na sila on some facts na inaamin ni chief justice... And they can go on to the procedure of mag-sabi na ang defense na ‘we are resting our case,’” Valdez told Umagang Kay Ganda.

“Wala talagang real conflict of facts on the issues, kaya maski hindi na nila i-force si chief justice na mag punta sa impeachment court, basta nag-agree sila on some material points, pwede na sigurong desisyunan na ng senado… In this particular case, sa tingin ko ung mga facts na sinabi niya, there are admissions already.”

Valdez added the impeachment court should be objective enough not to look at Corona’s supposed walkout as damaging to his case.

“Yung objectivity naman ng mga decision, pag lumipas ang panahon, gaya niyan nasa ICU [si chief justice], mae-erase na ang whatever impression na nakuha ng mga judges diyan,” he said.