No ‘small lady’ in Senate CCTV

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Feb 13 2012 08:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 14 2012 05:05 AM

MANILA, Philippines - There is no "small lady" who supposedly gave the prosecution a copy of alleged bank documents under the name of Chief Justice Renato Corona to a member of the House prosecution, according to the Senate's Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) recordings.
Senate President and Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile said: “We have records of the CCTV of this building regarding the movements of [Rep. Rey Umali] and it doesn’t show any [small lady].”

Senator-judges are trying to see how the prosecution got hold of supposed evidence, a specimen card under the name of Corona, which Umali had said he got from a “small lady.” Umali had claimed the small lady approached him within the premises of the Senate on February 2.

“If you said it’s [document] fake, it’s proper to cancel the subpoena,” Enrile said.

The subpoena has been the subject of a dispute among senator-judges since the accounts contain information on foreign currency deposits which are absolutely confidential unless the depositor agrees to disclose the information.

On Monday, the Senate decided to obey the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court with a caveat that they will “vigorously” explain before the high court their right to open the bank accounts.

The prosecution had claimed the account had an initial deposit of “$700K”, which it interpreted to be $700,000 (around P38 million in October 2008). The prosecution alleged this was not declared in Corona’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson testified the document provided by the prosecution seemed to be a fake.

“They’re not the replica of the original documents,” she said.

Upon prompting from Senator-judge Francis Escudero, however, Enrile ordered Tiongson to bring the original document from which the supposed specimen cards were obtained.

Tiongson nervously said, however, that bringing the original document is already within the bounds of the TRO issued by the Supreme Court.

Escudero later said, “hindi namin kayo inaakusahan. Hindi namin bubulatlatin ang account.”

He said he wants Tiongson to testify “under oath” that the documents presented by the prosecution are fakes and are substantially different from the original ones with PSBank.

Who leaked document?

Tiongson was earlier asked by senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada if the branch leaked the document to the prosecution. She denied the documents came from the branch.

She explained that the documents are kept in a vault, which can only be opened by 2 representatives.

She also said copies are given to the head office. PSBank President Pascual Garcia earlier said such kinds of documents are in the domicile of the bank branch.

Tiongson also said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) made an audit of the records of the branch in November 2010, which means it also had access to the branch's bank records.

She said the BSP is allowed to go to any bank and do a special audit. She said the audit could be due to actions taken by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

The AMLC probes suspicious movements of funds over P500,000.

Estrada told lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr., “Mahirap yata panindigan ang script nyo…Assuming genuine ito, it was still illegally obtained, it’s still a violation [of the law on secrecy of bank deposits]. If that document was illegally obtained, why attach it to [supplemental motion for subpoena].”

Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, early in the proceeding, also cross-examined Tiongson to determine if she was biased for any party in the trial.

He asked if Tupas himself is a valued client of the branch. Tiongson refused to answer the question. 

Cuevas also asked the court to subpoena Tupas’ accounts in the branch. This was denied by Enrile since Tupas’ accounts are not the subject of the trial.