MANILA, Philippines – A small lady leaking bank documents is one thing, but government involvement changes the picture entirely.
Lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona said the possible leak of their client’s bank documents from an audit of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will have huge implications on the case. If proven true, this would make evidence related to Corona’s bank accounts inadmissible in court.
On Day 20 of the Corona trial, Philippine Savings Bank president Pascual Garcia III said that the BSP, along with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), conducted a regular audit of his bank from September to November 2010.
The audit became the focus of the day, with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile hinting that Corona’s bank documents may have been leaked by those who did the audit. The BSP, however, denied leaking the records.
Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III said a leak from the audit destroys the argument of the prosecution that the bank documents it attached to its supplemental request for a subpoena do not fall under the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule states that evidence gathered by any agency of the state in violation of a respondent’s rights is inadmissible in court.
“If it’s proven that there’s a hand of government, this will clearly fall under the exclusionary rule,” Salvador said in a press conference. “If it’s proven that AMLC has an involvement here, the prosecution’s theory will collapse because it’s very clear that if you use the arm of the state in conducting searches and seizures, all evidence obtained will be excluded.”
Salvador said in case of a leak from the BSP-led audit, the exclusionary rule will apply — whether the documents were leaked, fake, came from a small lady, or were left at the gate of Rep Jorge Banal.
Salvador also reiterated the argument of the defense team that even if the documents came from a private person, these should still be inadmissible because this violates Corona’s right to privacy.
Corona’s lawyers have repeatedly invoked the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine in arguing against the documents from the prosecution. This doctrine states that once the primary source of evidence is shown to have been illegally obtained, secondary evidence derived from it is also inadmissible.
“Burden on the prosecution”
Defense counsels also cited statements Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago made during the trial regarding rules of evidence, particularly the rule on “disputable presumptions.”
Santiago cited the law, saying a person found in possession of a thing taken while committing a wrongful act is presumed to be the taker or the doer of that act.
“The law raises the disputable presumption that he (Banal) was the thief of that signature card,” said Santiago. “The law says ‘pag hindi mo maipaliwanag iyan, ibig sabihin ikaw ang nagnakaw niyan.” (If you can’t explain how you got the document, the presumption is that you were the one who stole it.)
Defense counsel and spokesperson Rico Quicho said the defense team has not yet arrived at a conclusion and want to hear out Banal and Rep Reynaldo Umali first. Still, the team agreed with the disputable presumption argument that Santiago cited.
“When we told you last Friday we are really seriously considering the filing of criminal and all other charges against the perpetrators, we are really in that direction,” said Quicho.
Salvador also said, “This means the burden is on the prosecution to explain, and dispute this presumption. If they don’t do that, the disputable presumption sticks.”
Inquiring on foreign deposits illegal
Quicho also agreed with the statement of Santiago that the mere act of inquiring on a foreign deposit of another person is already a violation of the law.
During the trial, Santiago said, “The prohibition on inquiring about foreign deposits is absolute. Even asking is prohibited….The lawmaker (Banal) is already a lawbreaker.”
Quicho echoed the senator, saying that inquiring on an account without a written permission of the depositor is a violation of the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.
“It’s up to us now how we understand the situation. When all this is done, we will reach a conclusion if there was a violation or not.” – Rappler.com