Congressmen twit Corona for refusing to testify

March 3, 2012 1:56 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, March 2 — Lawmakers, who signed the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, on Friday said that the chief magistrate is "chickening out" of the proposal by Senate President presiding judge Juan Ponce Enrile for him to testify before the Impeachment Court.

Movement 188 said Corona's refusal to testify in the trial was "the best proof yet that he has something to hide on every illegal act that the prosecution has raised against him that warrant his immediate eviction from the Supreme Court."

"It is clear as day that the CJ has chickened out on fears that, once on the witness stand, he would be caught with his pants down —on live television at that — on charges that he had repetitively falsified his annual SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) reports; indecently received favors from a litigant — Philippine Airlines (PAL) — that had a P2.3-billion case pending before the Supreme Court; and shown partiality and subservience to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in using his powers to have the SC hastily issue a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order), lifting her travel ban so she could flee the country and escape prosecution," the group said in a statement.

The lawmakers said that if Corona really had nothing to hide as what he publicly claims, "he would have gamely accepted the Senate President’s proposal because — as what Enrile himself had said — his personal appearance would be his best defense as he is in the best position to rebut all impeachable offenses in the Articles of Impeachment that had been filed against him by the House of Representatives."

For one thing, the Movement 188 said, Corona’s personal appearance at the trial "would have been the best opportunity for him to make good his promise to reveal details on his five dollar deposits at the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), given the earlier assurance by one of his lawyers, Jose Roy III, that the CJ himself would do so in due course."

"He (Corona) could have told the Impeachment Court himself whether he really had the reported US$ 700,000 and US$ 300,000 deposits in two of his five PSBank dollar accounts alone," they said.

The group said that had Corona not chickened out, the prosecution would have probably asked him too to explain the following:

— the P81 million discrepancy between his estimated real worth of P104 million and the P22.93 million in assets that he had declared in his 2010 SALN;

— his failure to declare five properties in his SALNs that he had purchased between 2003 and 2009;

— his failure to declare in his SALNs that his wife Maria Cristina was also a government official, having been appointed by former president Arroyo as director of the John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC) in 2002 and then promoted as JHMC chairperson-president-CEO-COO in 2006;

— his withdrawal of P37.66 million from three of his nine PSBank accounts last Dec. 12, or the day that he was impeached in the House;

— his acceptance from the litigant PAL of elite Platinum Cards for him and his wife in violation of three laws: Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, RA 6713 or The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees, and the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary;

— his use of powers as chief justice to maneuver the SC’s issuance of a TRO despite discrepancies in the TRO petition filed by the former president and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo pertaining to her actual medical condition;

— the exclusion in the TRO-related SC resolutions, which he had approved for release, of matters pertaining to the justices’ consensus that the freeze order was suspended owing to the petitioners’ non-compliance with the SC conditions; and

— his issuance of a Clarificatory Resolution, stating an alleged SC agreement that the TRO was never deemed suspended because the petitioners had "substantially complied" with the SC conditions.

The 188 congressmen said that like most Filipinos monitoring the seven-week-old court proceeding, its members would have wanted to hear the Chief Justice rebut the charges against him, most especially the one pertaining to his fudged asset declarations and his dollar accounts at the PSBank Katipunan branch in Quezon City.

"It would certainly be more interesting if the Chief Justice himself, rather than his hotshot lawyers, answer our charges in Articles 2, 3 and 7 that weave the narrative of his lack of integrity, probity and independence — qualities required of the head of the Judiciary — that warrant his immediate eviction from the Supreme Court," they said.

"But then he (Corona) chickened out, so we are stuck with his defense lawyers who have made it their mission in life to use dilatory and diversionary tactics every step of the way in this trial to suppress the presentation of every damning evidence against their client," they said. (PNA) RMA/LGI

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