Impeachment trial nears final homestretch as Corona prepares to testify next week

May 16, 2012 9:45 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, May 16 -– The historic impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona approached the final homestretch as the defense panel prepares for the much-awaited appearance of the chief magistrate in his own trial next week.

The Senate, sitting as impeachment court, decided on Wednesday to grant the request of the defense panel to suspend the impeachment proceedings until May 22 to give Corona enough time to prepare and study the testimonies given by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

”To allow the Chief Justice enough time to examine the accuracy and veracity of the documents submitted by the Ombudsman, please allow us to present the Chief Justice on Tuesday,” defense lead counsel former Justice Serafin Cuevas appealed to the court.

Senate President and president officer Juan Ponce Enrile was at first hesitant to grant the request of the defense but defense lawyer Jose Roy III explained the documents submitted by Morales as well as three other witnesses who testified on Wednesday “are quite voluminous.”

”So that we will not be accused of bias, request granted,” Enrile ruled, but warned the defense panel: “But after this, there will be no more request for postponement. Is that clear?”

”Very clear, your honor. We are very grateful to the impeachment court for this,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said the defense has foregone to utilize other witnesses and “the only sole and remaining witness is the Chief Justice himself.”

The House prosecution welcomed the announcement of the defense about the appearance of the Chief Justice on Tuesday.

”If they will present the Chief Justice, we have no objection (on suspension of trial),” chief prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas of Iloilo said.

With the help of powerpoint presentation, Morales testified on the mind-boggling US$ 10 million transactional balances in 82 dollar accounts of Corona in five banks.

Morales said the powerpoint presentation was her own analysis with the help of the Commission on Audit (CoA) based on the report given to her by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) executive director Vicente Aquino.

The Ombudsman said she used the constitutional powers of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate all government officials and employees and a waiver attached to Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) to get access of Corona’s dollar accounts through the AMLC.

Aside from Morales, the three others who testified as ‘hostile’ witnesses of the defense are former Akbayan representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Harvey Keh and Emmanuel Santos who are all among the complainants in the complaints filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against Corona.

Baraquel admitted that the documents they attached to their complaints were sourced from the documents submitted to the impeachment court.

Corona was impeached at the House of Representatives on December 12 last year for failure to honestly disclose his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Tupas said the testimonies of the Ombudsman has “strengthened further their case” against Corona, expressing optimism that the chief magistrate will be convicted for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Senate Majority Leader-judge Vicente Sotto expressed optimism that the impeachment court will be able to give its verdict before May 31.

”We are in the final homestretch. We can finish it before May 31,” Sotto said. (PNA) DCT/jfm

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