MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 20 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Around 11 am: Senator-judges convene in a caucus to discuss whether to accept as evidence the bank records of the Chief Justice, which were subpoenaed through a document which was allegedly fake.
2:17 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 21 senator-judges present.
First order of business: prosecution’s redirect examination of PSBank President Pascual Garcia III and Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson.
2:22 pm: Trial suspended as court waits for witnesses.
2:25 pm: Trial resumes as Tiongson, Garcia arrive in hall. First up is Tiongson, to whom Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile directs a few clarificatory questions.
Enrile goes first. He asks about the steel cabinet containing bank records, the 2 officers in charge of it. She explains the method how the documents are accessed.
Later, she tells court that she consulted Garcia on the day Rep. Jorge Banal visited PSBank Katipunan branch, which was January 31, 2012. She then recounts what she told her superiors on what happened during Banal’s visit.
Tiongson said Banal came to the branch on that date and asked for help from her about the document. She said she was “shocked” to see the photocopy of a specimen card that appeared to be a PSBank document. She then asked if the document is in their bank, and then proceeded to report the incident to her superiors. The documents were then transfered to the PSBank main office in Makati on February 1.
He also asks about the PSBank audit, and who could have had access to the accounts at that time.
3:09 pm: Enrile finishes his examination of Tiongson. Session suspended. Some senator-judges lined up for clarificatory questions for Tiongson after suspension.
3:13 pm: Session resumes. Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago asks clarificatory questions to Tiongson. “Please do not be nervous. I am very practiced with witnesses who come to court for the first time,” Santiago, who was a former trial court judge, tells the PSBank branch manager.
Santiago says bank secrecy law prohibits people from even asking about any foreign currency deposit account. She assures Tiongson that what she did (reporting the incident to superiors) is correct. She also says, the “lawmaker is already a lawbreaker,” referring to Banal.
Santiago then says that the law raises disputable presumption that he was the thief of that signature card. She also says politicians don’t just accept pieces of paper without identifying who is giving it. “The law says ‘pag hindi mo maipaliwanag iyan, ibig sabihin ikaw ang nagnakaw niyan.”
She then tells witness, her actions were “exemplary.”
3:24 pm: Enrile asks a few more questions to Tiongson, followed by Sen. Lapid. “Pagod ka na ba?” Lapid asks.
3:29 pm: Garcia called to witness stand. Enrile asking clarificatory questions.
Garcia’s testimony mostly covered the events around the transfer of the Corona documents from the Katipunan branch to head office, as well as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) joiont audit. He said some of the accounts targeted by the AMLAC was the Chief Justice’s. The PSBank head also says they classify accounts held by “Politically Exposed Persons,” such as the Chief Justice.
4:02 pm: Enrile orders the bank to produce the Chief Justice’s signature card from 2010, which was submitted to the BSP-AMLAC audit team for comparison to leaked document. PSBank counsel Regis Puno says they have Corona’s signature card now, but might be different from the one submitted to the AMLAC.
4:07 pm: Trial suspended to let Puno, Garcia confer.
4:35 pm: Trial resumes. Enrile orders Garcia to have an inventory of records of the Corona bank accounts submitted and shown to the BSP-AMLC audit team. He says the bank should block out details of foreign accounts.
Sotto then informs court that the bank has submitted documents the court has requested, including the logbook that records access to the bank records.
4:45 pm: Senator-judge Joker Arroyo asks clarificatory questions. He also discusses about the past proposals to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Law, and what he says are the 3 probes versus the Chief Justice.
4:53 pm: Clarificatory questions from Senator-judge Franklin Drilon. He asks about the two other peso accounts under the Chief Justice’s name, which Garcia mentioned in Day 19. He tells court of two accounts, one peso time deposit and one peso checking account.
He then testifies that there were 6 accounts that were jointly under the names of spouses Renato and Cristina Corona.
5:06 pm: Garcia presents original signature card of the Chief Justice.
5:14 pm: Garcia describes the “significant differences” of the photocopied document from the original. He says there are a total of 42 points of differences.
5:28 pm: Senator-judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr asks clarificatory questions to Garcia, specifically the access of audit personnel from BSP, AMLC.
Further questions from Senator-judges Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III, and Loren Legarda.
5:58 pm: Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan also asks clarificatory questions.
6:01 pm: Cross examination by defense, but not before lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas manifests, comments on a newspaper article saying defense “has established guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
Cuevas says there should be a court order to allow the AMLC to conduct an investigation. Garcia concurs. The defense counsel also says he would not know whether the entries on the documents in the audit are accurate or not.
6:15 pm: Guingona asks questions to Garcia. He tells bank official, AMLC does not conduct regular audits. The senator-judge says Garcia might be confused, saying there are AMLC representatives during regular BSP checks.
Guingona says he called the AMLC and the council said they “categorically deny” they conducted an audit.
6:20 pm: Arroyo again manifests, raises his fear that the law is being used for political vendetta.
6:21 pm: Clarificatory questions from Senator-judge Marcos, after being confused again on the audits.
6:37 pm: Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson suggests handwriting analysis to compare the Chief Justice’s signature to those in the PSBank documents. Enrile says the prosecution should do it. Lacson says he suggested it to end the speculations over the signatures. “I’m not partial, I just want to get to the bottom of the issue.” Enrile says the senator-judges discuss it in caucus.
Garcia is also ordered to bring the second signature card of CJ Corona, as per Pimentel’s request.
6:39 pm: Prosecution moves to adopt Garcia as their witness as far as the additional bank accounts are concerned. They argue, since the witness was recalled by the tribunal after he was discharged, the witness was neither theirs or for the defense. Discussion on whose witness Garcia is now ensues.
6:48 pm: Garcia is excused. Sotto reads letter from subpoenaed Supreme Court officers, asking for a specific date for them to appear.
6:50 pm: Session adjourned. Trial to resume on Tuesday, February 21, 2012, at 2 pm.