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Chief Justice on Trial

Enrile: Corona testifying in impeachment trial would be good for country

February 29, 2012 9:09am
(Updated 12:30 p.m.) Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday said only Chief Justice Renato Corona can explain the supposed irregularities in his bank records, which are being used as evidence in the impeachment case against him.

Enrile, the presiding officer of the Senate impeachment court, said if Corona decides to testify in the impeachment trial, "mas makabubuti sa kaso ni Chief Justice Corona, pati sa proseso, pati sa bansa.

"Maganda diyan kung haharap si Chief Justice Corona sapagkat sa aking paningin, doon natin maririnig kung ano ang katotohanan dito," Enrile said in an interview over radio dzBB.

"Walang ibang makapagpapaliwanag sa mga bank accounts kung hindi si Chief Justice lang sapagkat siya ang nakapangalan doon. Kung hindi sa kanya o bakit hindi niya naisama sa SALN," he added.

In an interview on GMA News TV's "News to Go" on Wednesday, a member of Corona's defense team said they are considering having the Chief Justice testify in the impeachment trial.

"Kung sakali ngang tetestigo siya, kailangang balansehin din. 'Di naman pwedeng araw-araw uupo siya doon sa trial kasi may mga gawain siyang dapat gampanan sa Supreme Court," Corona defense spokesperson Atty. Karen Jimeno told host Howie Severino.

In an interview last Thursday, Enrile said Corona would only need two days to explain his side, specifically Article II and VII.

Article II discusses Corona's non-disclosure of properties in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) while Article VII discusses irregularities in the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November.

"Who can explain those bank accounts except him.  He's the one who's supposed to have opened them," said Enrile.

Sen. Sergio Osmena, in a separate interview last Wednesday, likeiwse said that Corona is the "best person" to explain the entries and the "leaving out" of certain items in his SALN.

Still, Jimeno on "News To Go" said the whole defense panel has yet to decide on whether Corona would testify.

"This is a litigation not a show. Kasi nga, we have that constitutional right against self-incrimination. Hindi siya puwedeng puwersahin ng Senate impeachment court na paupuin dito kung ayaw niya," she said.

Also in the same news program, House prosecutor Neri Colmenares said they expect Corona to testify.

"Kasi sinabi na dati ni Chief Justice na 'punto por punto kong sasagutin'...kasi siya ang makakapagpaliwanag dito," said Colmenares, adding that under Senate rules, senators can summon the resource persons or witnesses.

Enrile, however, said that they will respect the rights of Corona.

"Hindi naman natin babastusin siya.  Hindi naman pwede papayagan na babastusin mo yung pinakamataas na mahistrado ng Pilipinas.  Maski sinong mahistrado na pupunta dito," he said.
"Gagalangin natin sapagkat sila ay mahistrado ng bansa natin kung babastusin natin ang ating mga mahistrado sino ang mga banyaga na rerespeto sa kanila," he added.

Jimeno, however, pointed out that Corona is not the only person with personal knowledge of the circumstances. "Kunwari, sa mga property, marami rito public record, and then, kung sino yung nag-execute ng contract of sale with him, madali nang patunayan yung mga yan. And yung mga ibang bagay naman, yung decisions ng Korte Suprema, merong ibang justices dito.

Osmena said that if Corona can't come to the trial, he can send his accountant or any other person who can explain his side.

"The burden of truth of his guilt is on the prosecution and the defense just has to cast some kind of reasonable doubt on the quantum of evidence that is presented during the trial," he said.

Articles of impeachment
The prosecution earlier presented eight articles of impeachment against Corona: 
  1. partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration;
  2. failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN);
  3. his role in the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases, the appointment of his wife to a public office, and discussing pending cases in the SC with litigants;
  4. his role in the issuance of the “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
  5. his vote in the decision in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province;
  6. improper creation of the SC ethics committee;
  7. granting a temporary restraining order in favor of former President Arroyo; and 
  8. failure and refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund and special allowance for the judiciary collections.
However, on Tuesday, after 25 days of trial, the House prosecution team decided to rest its impeachment case against Corona.

Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr. said the panel will no longer present evidence on the five other articles of impeachment against the chief justice

The prosecution has so far presented evidence on the following articles of impeachment:
  • Article II (non-disclosure of properties in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth or SALN),
  • Article III (lack of probity, integrity and independence), and
  • Article VI (irregularities in the issuance of a temporary restraining order for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November).

Tupas said the prosecution has presented 25 witnesses and marked 395 documents as evidence in support of these three impeachment articles.

Defense team's turn to present evidence

Meanwhile, in the radio dzBB interview on Wednesday, Enrile also said the defense panel may start presenting its case by Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution rested its case after presenting evidence on three of eight articles of impeachment against Corona.

The prosecutors claimed that the evidence they presented are sufficient to convict Corona for betrayal of public trust.

However, Enrile explained that until the defense presents its side, there is no clear basis for the senator-judges to decide on Corona's case.

"Sa asunto, batay sa karanasan ko bilang abogado, e walang sigurado. Ang asunto hanggang 'di mo narinig ang istorya ng magkatunggaling [panig], walang nakakasiguro," Enrile said.

Once the court hears the defense's side, both sides will get a chance to rebut each other's evidence. After that, the senators can put the matter to a vote, Enrile explained.

He also reiterated  that 16 votes are needed to secure a conviction, even if there are only 23 senators.

"Kahit may bakante (sa Senate), 16 ang kailangan," Enrile said.

with Carmela Lapeña and Kimberly Jane Tan /LBG/VVP/KG/HS/RSJ, GMA News
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