MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Savings Bank officials on Wednesday, February 15, failed to convince the impeachment court that a bank document submitted by the prosecution is fake.
This prompted Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to order the bank to bring to the court on Thursday, February 16, original copies of the bank records of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Two PSBank officials who returned to the witness stand on Wednesday – PSBank president Pascual Garcia III and Annabelle Tiongson, manager of PSBank-Katipunan branch – insisted to the court that what the prosecution attached in its request to subpoena the bank is “fake.” Their lawyer Regis Puno also described it as “spurious.”
Garcia tried to evade the questions of senator-jurors on the supposedly fake bank documents, particularly a Customer Identification and Specimen Signature Card that Corona supposedly opened in October 2008.
But when Enrile threatened to cite him for contempt, he relented.
“They appear to be similar… There are highlights here on the document that are not present. There’s [an] underline. Even this particular document is not clear, the date…,” Garcia explained.
Enrile concluded: “There are similarities and there are basic differences.”
Garcia replied: “That is what we have been saying, your honor.”
“Obviously these documents are highlighted. There are signatures that are not present here that are present in the original,” Garcia added.
Enrile went on to read details of the document. Garcia confirmed that many of the details are the same.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, on the other hand, asked Tiongson how a fake document could yield account numbers that were confirmed by PSBank to be indeed under Corona’s names.
Tiongson suggested that the prosecution probably got the other account numbers from other sources.
Estrada expressed disbelief, saying he remained convinced that what the prosecution submitted was a “faithful reproduction of the original.”
Garcia maintained they are “fake” because of the “discrepancies.”
The subject of much debate is a single-page document attached by the prosecution in its subpoena request, which the impeachment court had granted. It’s a supposed PSBank “Customer Identification and Specimen Signature Card” that Corona reportedly opened with “US$700K” in October 2008.
The document marked Chief Justice Renato Corona as a PEP client, meaning a Politically Exposed Person who has a prominent public function. (There are two PEP markings in the document. One PEP marking was confirmed by Garcia.)
The same Customer Identification and Specimen Signature Card was the source for the other account numbers – peso and dollar accounts – that Corona maintains with the bank. (Garcia previously confirmed to the court that in his peso accounts, Corona had close to P20-M by the end of 2010; Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for the same year only showed a total of P3.5-M in cash and investments.)
Garcia initially refused to present the original copy to the court, saying this would expose dollar accounts that are already covered by a Supreme Court TRO (temporary restraining order).
Enrile however said the bank officials could just cover the portion on the dollar accounts to avoid their exposure. (It appears, based on Rappler’s observation of the attached document, that the approving officers for some of the dollar and peso accounts are the same.)
The defense panel protested, but Enrile stood firm. “The conclusion that this is a fake document comes from the witness. That’s why I made it very, very clear by a leading question whether ito ay imbento (this is fake). Now a member of this court asked a question to test the credibility of the witness. To find out whether indeed the document in question is an imbento (fake) is to make a comparison with the original to see where the imbento (falsity) has arisen,” he said.
Sen. Joker Arroyo also questioned the wisdom of the decision to bring the original copies of Corona’s records. “If this is found to be false document, what happens? We spend so much time explaining what?”
Enrile explained: “If this document is found to be falsified in some respect, then we will determine whether the falsification is substantial enough to exclude this evidence as an evidence in this case at the proper time. And second, to make those responsible for that alterations responsible for it and to answer for it. And it will be the burden of the prosecution to explain why they requested for a subpoena duces tecum in the face of an altered document.”
Tupas and Tiongson
The prosecution has claimed receiving the bank document from an anonymous source. When they attached the document in their subpoena request, they said they could not vouch for its authenticity.
This prompted a public scolding from Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who said that as lawyers, the prosecution should have not submitted documents that come from an anonymous source and not validated.
Also on Day 18, Estrada sought to establish the link between Tiongson and Chief Prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas. Both are from Iloilo, and Estrada said that the relatives of Tiongson are known political allies of the Tupas clan.
But Tiongson and Tupas have said they don’t know each other. And Estrada also didn’t categorically say whether or not he suspected Tiongson to be the anonymous source of the prosecution. – with reports from Ayee Macaraig/ Rappler.com