MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 18 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
2:06 pm: Session starts. Day 18 begins. Roll call: 19 senator-judges present.
2:12 pm: Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III reports prosecution has submitted the explanation on the “leaked” bank documents pertaining to the Chief Justice’s accounts. The Senate will tackle the matter in caucus on Monday, February 20.
Meanwhile, Presiding Officer, Sen President Juan Ponce Enrile rules to deny the defense’s motion to quash the subpoena for PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson.
2:14 pm: Senator-judge Loren Legarda asks Enrile: How should the impeachment court tackle the alleged leaked documents? She cites statement from Malacañang, which said the documents are authentic. She wants clarification.
Enrile says it is his position to await the Supreme Court ruling on dollar accounts. “Let us wait for offer of evidence,” he says.
Senator-judge Pia Cayetano also manifests, makes some clarifications on the journal of Day 17. She says she has a continuing concern on the treatment of the alleged fake bank documents. She also corrects record: she corrects statement of Rep Rodolfo Fariñas that there was no opposition to subpoena, says Senator-judge Francis Escudero stood up to raise a point.
Enrile says the matter on the documents will be held in abeyance until it is taken up in caucus. He says, prosecution should have scrutinized the documents before presenting it to court. They “can’t pass the buck” to the court, he says, and it is obligation of parties to make sure subpoena requests are valid.
2:28 pm: Rep Niel Tupas, lead prosecutor, manifests, cites court transcipt ordering Tiongson to bring documents for comparision. Enrile however says the documents in question are foreign currency accounts covered by a temporary restraining order. Enrile says the witness confirmed under oath that the document is fake, and it stands. Tupas however argues Tiongson only said it “seems” fake. Enrile says TRO should be respected.
2:33 pm: Lead defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas says it is not true that defense did not object to subpoena for bank documents, as Rep Fariñas said. He also says evidence brought in court isn’t immediately admitted as evidence.
2:35 pm: Enrile: This (discussion on the documents, subpoena) is elementary to any lawyer who has been in a courtroom… I feel ashamed to educate lawyers here.
2:36 pm: Trial proceeds. Prosecution says their first witness for the day, BPI Ayala Avenue branch manager Leonora Dizon, has given birth, and they will present a representative. Cuevas repeats that both sides are through with Dizon, but Enrile says, the witness was recalled because some senator-judges would like to ask questions.
Senator-judge Franklin Drilon says it was Cuevas who asked to see the monthly documents to see the breakdown of the deposits. Enrile reiterates members of the court can ask questions. Cuevas says they already made a motion to withdraw the documents, since their client already has them.
2:44 pm: Enrile then tells prosecution to call witness Dizon, but prosecution reiterates, the witness already gave birth. They will then present a representative.
Enrile: Where’s the witness?
Cuevas: Nanganak na raw.
Laughter in the court.
Drilon says they can accept the representative as witness, as long as the person can testify to the documents. He says anyway, they need the documents, not the witness.
“There’s a force majeure on the appearance of the witness,” Enrile quips.
2:47 pm: Session suspended until the representative who will replace Dizon on the witness stand arrives in court.
2:53 pm: Session resumes. Prosecution recalls PSBank Katipunan branch manager Tiongson back to witness stand for clarificatory questions. Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan also inquires if PSBank president Pascual Garcia III is back, since he was also subpoenaed to testify today. PSBank counsel says they will present their president Pascual Garcia III instead of Tiongson, says he is “more competent” to testify as per subpoena.
2:58 pm: Tiongson is back on the witness stand. Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada asks questions to Tiongson. He asks about her possible connections to Tupas, but Tiongson maintain she doesn’t personally know members of the Tupas family.
Estrada, Enrile then ask Tiongson if she has the logbook that records access to the specimen cards at their branch. Tiongson says she did not, but Enrile insists he remembered she was ordered to do so. He then tells Tiongson to produce it next time.
3:13 pm: Estrada then asks about the “K” in the “700K” inscription. Tiongson says it may mean a lot of things.
He then proceeds to ask if she stands by her statement that the documents are fake. She reiterates her statement. Estrada asks: If the subpoena is based on existing bank accounts, how can these documents be fake? She says the account numbers can have different soures.
Estrada, however, says he believes the documents from the prosecution are a faithful reproduction of the original. Enrile asks, who did the “faking” then? Tiongson says she does not know who faked the document, not her branch. Drilon asks her what the differences were, but she can’t recall exact differences. She only says there were missing/altered entries.
3:30 pm: Cuevas manifests, says he is “worried, apprehensive” that matter refers to foreign currency accounts. Estrada says the questions are regarding peso accounts.
Enrile then tells court, record shows he did not order Tiongson to bring logbook. Estrada moves to order witness to bring logbook. Enrile approves motion.
3:36 pm: Tiongson says, upon advice of counsel, she cannot bring specimen signatures of officers on dates requested because they are in dollar accounts. Drilon reiterates request, says they would like to show this is not a fake document.
Enrile then orders the identification of signatures opposite all the documents related to the peso accounts.
3:48 pm: Cuevas raises point: Who wil offer the evidence requested by Drilon? Enrile says it is for the information of the court.
Discussion on who offers the evidence. Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson asks about regular court proceedings, can a trial court judge ask clarificatory questions, and can it be admitted as evidence by the court?
Enrile says, it is up to the impeachment court, not the Supreme Court, to consider what evidence to admit. Guilt or innocence is beyond appeal, he says. Enrile repeats, interlocutory matters can be decided by the SC, but impeachment trial cannot be questioned in any court. Enrile says, his understanding is Estrada was testing the credibility of the witness.
Cuevas then withdraws observation, says if purpose is to determine the falsity/leak of the document, then they have no objection.
4:00 pm: Lacson to Tiongson: Which one is fake: The form, the entries? Tiongson says “the whole thing.” Drilon now asks, kindly bring the docs on peso accounts to compare with documents from the prosecution, and cover all the data pertaining to dollar accounts. Tiongson says she can’t since the documents are in the possession of their main office already.
Enrile orders Garcia to witness stand.
4:06 pm: Session suspended as court awaits Garcia.
4:39 pm: Session resumes. PSBank president Garcia on stand. Tupas first manifests, tells court he is not acquainted with witness Tiongson.
4:41 pm: Senator-judges now asking questions to Garcia. Drilon asks Garcia to bring original signature cards to compare with those from prosecution.
Garcia however maintains, the documents are also related to dollar accounts (covered by the TRO). Enrile then asks prosecution to identify documents related to peso accounts.
Garcia then says the Annex A attached to the subpoena is about a dollar account. Enrile asks Garcia: Do you have this kind of record? He answers: There are discrepancies, not in any of our records. Enrile quizzes Garcia on the document, but the bank official, as per the presiding officer, is “vague” in his answers.
PSBank’s Garcia, after minutes of questioning by Enrile himself, says the documents are related to dollar accounts, and the document in court is spurious. They again invoke the TRO.
Drilon says it was the previous witness who brought this controversy by saying the documents are fake. He says they are testing the credibility of the witness.
Enrile then tells Garcia, cover up details about the dollar accounts, and show the peso accounts. “Hindi namin kasalanan ito, kasalanan ng bangko. Pinag-halo-halo niyo ang peso at dollar accounts,” Enrile says.
5:18 pm: Senator-judge Joker Arroyo manifests, says that if the document is a forgery, how can the court proceed with the issue? “A forgery is a forgery. It has no value.”
Enrile explains that by establishing the authenticity of the document, it will establish the credibility of the witness.
Arroyo then asks: What happens if the docs are found to be fake? Enrile says the court will determine if falsificaiton is substantial to exclude evidence, and those who faked it will be made responsible. Prosecution will also have to explain. Enrile finally orders the original specimen cards be brought to court, with safeguards for the information related to the dollar accounts.
5:27 pm: Senator-judge Francis Escudero manifests, reminds prosecution that Garcia and Tiongson are their witnesses. He also asks if the court can move on from the said topic and proceed to prosecution presenting next part of their case.
Clarificatory questions from Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan. He asks about who has access to information on time deposit accounts, says aside from bank officers, examiners from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral can see it too during inspections. He also says that documents in their system cannot be reproduced, but have backup for safety in case of emergencies.
5:40 pm: Estrada now asking questions to Garcia. He also makes a statement, referring to earlier statement by Tupas, says he has no intention of maligning the Iloilo representative’s name, saying he just wants to show relationship of Tiongson to the Tupas family. Tupas responds, he made statement just to show they are not related to Tiongson.
5:46 pm: Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano says he sympathizes with Garcia and the banking industry. Then he asks Garcia: What’s your understanding of the secrecy on peso accounts? Garcia says he understands a subpoena is needed to produce the records.
Cayetano then cites the example of Clarissa Ocampo, who presented information to the Estrada impeachment court despite absence of subpoena. He then says that the law says one can present information to the impeach court even if there is no subpoena, based on law.
Cayetano emphasizes, if the impeachment court asks for it, you can’t do anything, and that there will be no criminal liability (as per in the Ocampo precedent). Prosecution agrees with Cayetano position, but defense says the nature of the case does not exempt anyone from criminal liability. He also says Estrada case was plunder.
5:58 pm: Garcia is discharged. Session suspended for “one long minute.”
6:04 pm: Session resumes. Senator-judge Sergio Osmeña III asks clarificatory questions to Tiongson. Tiongson is ordered by the court to procure records asked by court, including the logbook earlier requested by the court. She is then excused from witness stand.
6:10 pm: Session adjourned. Trial to resume on Thursday, 16 February 2012, at 2 pm. – Rappler.com