MANILA, Philippines - Quezon City 3rd District Rep. Jorge "Bolet" Banal admitted Thursday that he approached Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Katipunan branch manager Annabel Tiongson last January 31 to verify details of a bank document purportedly showing details of the accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
"It's true I went to her bank. I went there January 31, 2012 because the following day was the birthday of my son, Kiko. I went there to get some help. Nagbabakasakali ako," he told the Senate impeachment court.
Banal, who is part of the secretariat of the House prosecution team, said he first received the document on January 30, 2012.
On that day, he said he and 4 members of the secretariat went to SM Mall of Asia to unwind right after attending the impeachment proceedings at the Senate.
He said he went home to his house at St. Ignatius Subdivision and saw a folded piece of paper stuck in a slot in his gate.
He said he inspected the document and immediately thought of verifying it especially after seeing a handwritten annotation on a document that read "$700k."
"Gusto ko pong i-verify talaga. Totoo po hindi ko sinabihan si Jun Abaya, yung aming impeachment manager. Kanina po magkatabi kami nanghihingi ako ng paumanhin sa kanya. Hindi ko siya sinabihan. Ang instruction sa team kung meron anything, idadaan sa impeachment manager....I didn't want to say anything. The only reason I wanted to verify it is that I don't want to give wrong information to my colleagues," he said.
Banal said he went to PSBank Katipunan branch the following day and asked Tiongson about the document. He said he was covering the document when he showed it to the bank manager.
"My only fear there was baka 700 dollars lang," he said.
He said Tiongson "was very firm but she was very polite" about refusing to help him. He also said he met Tiongson once or twice before during community gatherings at Xavierville subdivision.
He said he left his calling card with his cell phone number with Tiongson.
The congressman said he did not pass on the information to the prosecution team. A few days later, however, the same document was attached by House prosecutors to their request for subpoena for Corona's bank records.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali has said he received the document from a "small lady" who approached him in the Senate building.
On Thursday, PSBank president Pascual Garcia said the bank launched an investigation about Corona's documents after he was informed by Tiongson that Banal had approached her.
He said he ordered all of Corona's bank document brought to the PSBank main branch for safekeeping.
During his testimony, Garcia admitted that most of the details on the allegedly leaked bank document were authentic but said there were also discrepancies. He said some of the details on the document such as account numbers could have been sourced from bank cheques.
'Corona has $300,000?'
Banal, meanwhile, confirmed telling Tiongson that the House prosecution panel was getting help from some quarters.
In one instance, he said one source even revealed that Corona allegedly had a bank account with $300,000.
"Sa kasamaang palad at hindi ko siya mapilit, ang instruction po sa akin ni Jun Abaya at that time na proteksyunnan siya kasi nga po natatakot po silang mag-reveal. Nagbibigay lamang po sila ng lead. Ang totoo pa nga po nun, nung nag meet kami ng taong yun sa bahay pa ng tatay ko sa St. Ignatius kasi apparently, she knows my father," he said.
He said the source gave him an anonymous letter addressed to the House of Representatives justice committee.
Banal said the meeting occurred 1-2 weeks before he got the allegedly leaked document on Corona's accounts.
He again apologized to his colleagues, saying he did not reveal the document because he did not know if it was genuine. "In hindsight, baka nakasama pa ako," he said.
The Senate impeachment court has invited Banal to attend the next hearing of the impeachment trial on Monday.