Defense wants Corona to keep 2011 SALN secret

by Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2012 09:41 PM | Updated as of Apr 27 2012 05:43 AM

Lawyers yet to decide if Coronas will take witness stand

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona's defense team on Thursday said he should not publicly disclose his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) for 2011. 

They believe that doing so will go against a Supreme Court resolution that disallows justices from disclosing their SALNs.

Lawyers Tranquil Salvador, Rico Quicho, and Karen Jimeno said Corona is not consulting them on what he should put in his new SALN.

All government officials and employees are required to submit their 2011 SALN on or before April 30.

Meanwhile, Corona's lawyers said they intend to finish with their presentation of evidence within 12 days to 3 weeks after trial resumes on May 7.

However, they believe this may not be possible because some factors -- such as the interrogation of the prosecution and senator-judges' grilling - are beyond their control. 

Corona's defense team said they have at least 10 remaining witnesses. 

But until now, they still haven't decided if they will put either the Chief Justice or his wife on the witness stand. 

They said they still don't see any need to do so, claiming the prosecution has failed to present strong evidence to prove that Corona has committed an impeachable offense and should therefore be convicted.

Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza will go back to the witness stand on May 7, the first day of the second round of the impeachment trial.

Hacienda Luisita decision

Members of Corona's defense team also said the Chief Justice's statement that he expects retaliation from the Palace because of the Hacienda Luisita decision doesn't necessarily mean that he's referring to a conviction from the senator judges as a retaliation from government. 

They claimed that there are several ways retaliation can be done, such as using the media to attack Corona and his family.

Although the defense team said the Hacienda Luisita decision is a collegial move and not Corona's individual decision, they believe the decision enhanced the Chief Justice's public image since it showed his independence and probity. 

"Kahit alam niyang mabigat ang daan na kanyang tatahakin at puwede siyang balikan dahil dito, hindi siya natakot at patuloy siyang nanindigan.  Napatunayan niyang karapat-dapat talaga siyang maging punong mahistrado," Quicho said.

Although Corona has been saying that the impeachment case was motivated by the Hacienda Luisita case, his defense team said it should not have any effect on the merits of his impeachment case. 

They also denied that the timing of the Supreme Court decision is connected with the impeachment case since the Hacienda Luisita issue had been long calendared.

Salvador said the Supreme Court has its own timeline, and its decision on cases is not based on political events.

Corona's lawyers also defended him against criticisms that he did not inhibit himself from the Hacienda Luisita case. 

They said there's no need for him to inhibit as he has no interest in the case and he has no relationship with any of the parties involved, which are the only grounds for inhibition.