Miriam warns prosecution liable for disbarment
MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Senate President and Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile has taken full responsibility for issuing a subpoena for a bank document related to one of Chief Justice Renato Corona's alleged dollar accounts, which a Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) branch manager believes is fake.
"I assume full responsibility for issuing that subpoena and is ready to defend his position if there is a need for that. I will not pass the buck to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court," he said on Tuesday. "I am personally bound to assume the consequences of my action as presiding officer."
Enrile said he is ready in case the defense takes him to any court of law.
Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson testified on Monday that the document provided by the prosecution is fake.
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).
A subpoena was issued in connection with this. However, it became a 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.
Corona has promised to reveal information about his dollar accounts. His defense lawyers have said it is not a crime to own a dollar account, and that the cash in these accounts are allegedly savings of the Chief Justice before he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002.
‘SC has authority’
Enrile said he does not want to delve further into the matter, since it is already a subject of a case before the SC.
“It is my duty as presiding officer of this impeachment court to respect the authority and power of the SC to review acts of this impeachment court in interlocutory matters, meaning matters bearing on the manner on which this court will conduct the trial of this particular impeachment case,” he said.
He agreed that an accused has a right to due process. “The Senate as an impeachment court must at all times observe the rule of law. It cannot transgress any of the applicable provisions of the Bill of Rights. It must be guided by the presumption of innocence before the pronouncement of guilt. It must at all times observe the principle of procedural and substantial due process.”
He noted, however, that even if the SC has the power of judicial review, it can’t step on the impeachment court’s role to try impeachment cases.
“It is in my humble view that the SC, in spite of the fact that it has the power of judicial review, cannot assume jurisdiction over the sole power of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, to try and decide this impeachment case,” he said.
Miriam twits prosecution
The senator-judges had asked the defense and prosecution teams to explain if there is a thin line between a warrant of arrest and a subpoena and their effects on the right of a person to due process.
Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago said, however, that the issue was started by the prosecution by attaching a supposed fake document in their request for a subpoena.
“It’s just a scrap of paper, ano’ng pinagsasabi nyo? Why go to court?” she asked, fuming.
She said a lawyer is liable, up to the extent of disbarment, if he brings to court a false document that he did not know of or if he willfully brings to court a fake document.
“It came from an anonymous source, pwede na ba yun…My goodness, if you bring this to trial, you will be cited for contempt,” she said.
She called the document “strange and bizarre.”
She also took note of the prosecution’s statement that the media has also such kind of information. “Kailangan nyo bang hikayatin ang court on the basis of a media account? Is this a government by the media?”
Santiago also lambasted the prosecution’s claim that it was their duty to bring to court such kind of information. “Duty my foot! It’s not your duty, but your liability!”
Santiago later went out of the session hall. She said she was “hyperventilating.”