MANILA, Philippines – Did defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas commit a mistake during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Thursday, February 9?
Or did he not know about Corona’s existing accounts with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Ayala Avenue branch?
These questions surfaced Thursday after defense counsel Ramon Esguerra said they will be filing a manifestation asking the impeachment court to disallow the prosecution from seeing Corona’s bank statements with BPI.
This, after presiding officer Juan Ponce-Enrile earlier directed both the defense and the prosecution to go straight to BPI Ayala on Friday, February 10, to secure the statements of account.
Earlier in the day, during the cross examination of BPI Ayala branch manager Leonora Dizon, Cuevas himself asked for a subpoena of Corona’s statements of account from 2005-2010.
Presiding officer Juan Ponce-Enrile allowed his request. To shorten the proceedings, he also directed an excited prosecution, who likewise wanted to see the bank account statements, to go to the same BPI branch as well.
Upon the request of Sen Serge Osmeña, Enrile also asked that the statements be submitted to the court. In allowing the exposure of these documents, Enrile cited Corona’s consent in revealing his bank information through his defense lawyers, who asked for the statements in the first place.
The defense quickly backtracked on Cuevas’ subpoena request.
Cuevas said they had received a call from the Chief Justice saying he had the bank statements for their perusal. He thus moved to withdraw their motion to see the statements.
Prosecutor Arthur Lim quickly argued against the withdrawal, however, and after some debate, Enrile ruled to allow the prosecution to visit the Makati branch not on Friday, but on Monday instead.
The defense acknowledged that the transactions between the yearend balances did not matter, arguing that neither the prosecution nor the Senate needed to see them.
Asked why Cuevas asked for them in the first place, defense counsel Jose Judd Roy III replied, “There seemed to be some question how all these funds came about. I think he wanted to inspect also for himself.” Roy added, “Justice Cuevas himself also wasn’t exactly sure what it is the prosecution was driving at.”
Asked if the lead counsel had seen the bank statements earlier, Roy replied, “I guess what he wants to know is what the bank has.”
“Then we, in fact, received a call from the Chief Justice saying, ‘I have some of the statements so it might not be necessary [to subpoena them or go to the branch],’” Roy continued.
Before they could explain Corona’s call to the court, Roy said, “everyone want[ed] to go on a picnic to the bank.”
Roy also said the subpoena should not have been allowed in the first place since it appeared that the senators were going on a fishing expedition.
This did not fall under the scope of the original subpoena, and runs counter to the ruling that subpoenas must be stated with specificity in terms of accounts and transactions.
Earlier in the afternoon, the defense had things going for them when the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the subpoena of Corona’s foreign currency accounts at PSBank Katipunan.
PSBank president Pascual Garcia III also stood his ground and refused to reveal any information about Corona’s 5 foreign currency deposit accounts subpoenaed by the court. He cited the Foreign Currency Deposit Act as basis for his refusal.
The defense has been adamantly opposing the subpoena of Corona’s bank accounts, citing his constitutional rights and bank secrecy laws. – Rappler.com