Tells supporters Calvary has started
CHIEF Justice Renato Corona will appear before the Senate in two weeks’ time to answer the Articles of Impeachment lodged against him as well as recent allegations he owns dollar deposits amounting to some $10 million.
Dean Tranquil Salvador III, one of Corona’s lawyers and spokesmen, said Corona the chief magistrate will not back out on his commitment to appear before the Senate which is sitting as an impeachment court.
“Expect him (Corona) to face his accusers in two weeks or after the complainants in the Ombudsman case have declared their basis on the alleged $10-million deposit,” Salvador said.
Asked if Corona’s testimony will be no-holds-barred, he said, “He will answer all the questions for as long as it does not violate his constitutional rights.”
Another defense lawyer and spokesman, Ramon Esguerra, said Corona will appear before the Senate possibly next Monday, May 21, “time and schedule permitting.”
He also said for those doubting if Corona will testify, “they can continue to doubt.”
“I don’t think we can change that mindset or attitude especially if they come from the ranks of CJ’s detractors,” he added.
Salvador said the trial today will open with the testimony of hostile witnesses who may have knowledge about Corona’s purported dollar deposits.
The existence of the deposits is being investigated by Corona’s former colleague in the Supreme Court, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who is among five persons subpoenaed by the Senate on the request of Corona’s camp.
Morales will be asked to disclose her findings on Corona’s alleged dollar accounts which were allegedly not declared in Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The defense wants to know from Morales where she obtained information that Corona supposedly has $10 million in his bank accounts.
Aside from Morales, the Senate also sent subpoenas to Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, Akbayan spokeswoman Risa Hontiveros, Kaya Natin! lead convenor Harvey Keh, and Emmanuel Tiu Santos who filed the third of three complaints of unexplained wealth against Corona before the Ombudsman. Bello and Hontiveros are co-complainants in one of the cases.
Corona, in a speech delivered before court employees last Friday in Puerto Princesa, said his decision to appear and testify in his defense before the impeachment court will signal the start of his “Calvary.”
“Harinawa’y matapos na po ang kalbaryo ng mga naaaping magsasaka. Ngunit nag-umpisa naman po ang kalbaryo ng Punong Mahistrado. Inaasahan ko na hindi sila titigil hangga’t hindi nila ako nadudurog at hindi nila napapasakamay ang buong Korte Suprema. Yan lang po ang tanging paraan upang maipabaliktad nila ang desisyon o dili kaya’y mapabayaran sila ng bilyon-bilyong pisong kanilang hinihingi para sa lupang hindi naman sa kanila,” he said alluding to the Hacienda Luisita issue.
The Supreme Court, in a final decision last month, ruled that the 1989 valuation of the land should be used to compute the just compensation to be paid to Hacienda Luisita Inc., and not the much higher 2006 market rate that the company wanted.
The land is owned by the family of President Aquino.
Corona voted in favor of distributing the hacienda land to farmers. He has been saying the impeachment move is Aquino’s way of getting back at him.
Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte dismissed the observation aired over the weekend by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that Aquino never gave Corona a chance to do his job.
“He gave Chief Justice Corona a chance, several, in fact. But mukhang nakita naman po natin kung ano iyung mga nangyari,” Valte said without elaborating.
Corona is an appointee of Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Arroyo. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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Prosecution: Corona Lawyers Could Exploit Morales’ Testimony
BY CHARISSA M. LUCI, LEONARD D. POSTRADO and GENALYN D. KABILING
MANILA, Philippines – The House prosecution panel is anticipating that the lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s will use the testimony of the Ombudsman to extract information that would bar any investigation into Corona’s supposed dollar bank account.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara agreed with Jose Manuel Diokno, dean of the De La Salle College of Law that Corona’s camp might use the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court to stop the presentation of evidence on the alleged dollar deposits and prevent the anti-graft court to use it as evidence when it pursues its investigation on the House-impeached Chief Magistrate.
“We would face the ugly spectacle of the Chief Justice refusing to accept not only the jurisdiction of the impeachment court but also that of the Ombudsman. We hope the SC justices do not buy into this desperate ploy which would make a mockery of our institutions,” Angara said.
Diokno, a veteran trial lawyer, has said when the defense asked the Senate impeachment court to summon Carpio-Morales to appear before the trial today, it put the legal experts in “quandary.” But he did not rule out the fact that the Ombudsman’s appearance would also strengthen the prosecution’s case.
“It is really possible and it would not surprise our side. The Chief Justice has done it in the past with the issue of the dollar accounts when he filed a petition for TRO with the SC,” he said.
Last February, the Supreme Court issued a TRO against the disclosure of Corona’s foreign currency deposits.
Angara said the defense panel has a habit of always running to the SC for relief, even as he expressed hope that other SC Justices would remain independent-minded and fair.
Angara’s prosecution spokesman, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, said they find it irrelevant for Carpio-Morales to testify since Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, one of the complainants on Corona’s alleged $10-million bank accounts clarified that what they wanted to look into was the Chief Justice’s dollar accounts in the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank).
As disclosed in the impeachment trial, Corona has supposedly dollar deposits in five accounts at the PSBank-Katipunan branch in Quezon City.
Quimbo was quick to remind the defense that there can’t be a “home run” on their part if they fail to present Corona to personally answer the charges against him.
In a speech at the 15th National Convention of the Philippine Association of Court Employees in Puerto Princesa City last Friday, Corona reiterated that the Aquino administration is preparing to launch a counter-attack against him after the Supreme Court thumbed down the attempt of President Benigno Aquino III’s family to secure a higher valuation for the Hacienda Luisita.
“The viciousness and brutality of the attacks on the person, honor and family of no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and head of one of the three co-equal and coordinate branches of government, came on the heels of the decision on Hacienda Luisita,” Corona said.
He also said he was unaffected by the vicious political and media attacks against him and kept his silence for a long time because he believed the judiciary was never based on popularity and electoral mandate.
Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Malacanang hopes Corona will keep his word about telling the truth about his alleged ill-gotten wealth during the trial.
“We expect that he will keep his word. We also hope that his testimony will contain only the truth,” Valte said in Filipino during an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
The Palace has welcomed Corona’s decision to appear before the Senate court, saying he is the only person who can finally address the charges against him.
Corona has declared that he will only testify if the Ombudsman and other complainants would testify on his alleged $10-million bank deposits. The camp of Corona has denied the existence of the deposits.
Valte said the Palace also looks forward to the testimony of Morales.
She said at this point, they don’t know the meat of the Ombudsman’s forthcoming testimony but expects her to divulge the results of the investigation into Corona’s dollar deposits.
“Given the reputation of the Ombudsman even before she was appointed to this post, you can already tell that she has done her work thoroughly and she will be telling us I hope what the results of her investigation are,” she said.