MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 21 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
2:12 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 18 senator-judges present.
2:16 pm: Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago manifests. She first explains she always takes the floor at the start of the trial because of chronic fatigue and a “lazy bone marrow.”
She then proceeds to discuss the leaked documents presented by the prosecution as part of their subpoena.
2:23 pm: Defense appeals for reexamination of Rule 17 of the impeachment court rules, which covers the power of senator-judges to ask questions. Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas argues the rules could lead to a mistrial, since both sides cannot challenge or argue with the senator-judges’ questions. Enrile says they will have to discuss the issue in caucus, and assures the Chief Justice will be accorded a fair trial.
2:35 pm: Prosecution makes counter-manifestation, says rules are already “perfect.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” deputy lead prosecutor, Rep Rodolfo Fariñas, tells court.
Discussion on the rule of prohibiting counsel to object to questions by senator-judges. Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III reveals it is not in the impeachment court rules, but is done in practice. Angara suggests to let counsel to make exceptions instead, not objections. He also appeals to not think of a “mistrial” this time, to avoid prolonging the “political agony” of the nation.
2:48 pm: Fariñas says prosecution panel has decided to adapt PSBank President Pascual Garcia III as their witness, and the documents Garcia presented to be marked as evidence for their side. In particular, they are referring to the 8 bank accounts the bank official presented. Cuevas however objects.
2:56 pm: Prosecution’s first witness is up: a representative from the BPI, subbing for BPI Ayala branch manager Leonora Dizon, who recently gave birth. Defense objects, says it should be Dizon, since the matter needs personal knowledge. Prosecution says the representative will merely verify the documents to be presented. Enrile lets representative, BPI Ayala branch assistant manager Mara Arcilla, testify.
2:56 pm: Prosecution’s first witness is up: a representative from the BPI, subbing for BPI Ayala branch manager Leonora Dizon, who recently gave birth. Defense objects, says it should be Dizon, since the matter needs personal knowledge. Prosecution says the representative will merely verify the documents to be presented. Enrile lets representative, BPI Ayala branch assistant manager Mara Arcilla, testify. Private prosecutor Arthur Lim to conduct direct examination.
3:00 pm: Enrile tells prosecution to qualify competency of witness. Lim says Arcilla is on the stand to present the documents. Cuevas objects, says she can’t testify on the accounts. Drilon argues the court requested for the documents, asks court stenographer to look for the transcript of the discussion.
3:05 pm: Trial suspended for “one minute” to let court staff locate the transcript on the discussion on the BPI bank statements.
3:07 pm: Trial resumes. Enrile says Drilon did make the request for a BPI representative to bring the bank statements, back in February 9, but said the witness can’t be for the prosecution since a senator-judge made the request.
Drilon suggests Arcilla to produce the documents, no more testimony, to cut proceedings short. Arcilla hands documents to clerk of court.
Lim moves to make Arcilla their witness, docs as part of their evidence; Enrile tells them to wait until defense presents her in court. Lim insists, and Enrile admonishes prosecution. “You are fishing for evidence! …The fact that you tried to adapt her as your own is a misrepresentation.”
3:19 pm: Prosecution, defense look at documents. Senator-judges request for copies of the just-submitted documents. Cuevas requests the documents be securely kept, since these are private bank records.
3:21 pm: Trial suspended.
3:31 pm: Trial resumes.
3:33 pm: Prosecution moves back to Article III of the Articles of Impeachment, which refers to the flip-flopping of decisions of the SC allegedly due to the influence on the Chief Justice.
However, they manifest their reservations in moving on from Article II, specifically on the foreign currency accounts subject to the Supreme Court temporary restraining order, as well as the 8 bank accounts from the PSBank presented by Garcia earlier.
Prosecution’s Rep Sherwin Tugna re-opens Article III (it was first discussed by Rep Kaka Bag-ao back in Day 13 of the trial, February 7). Tugna then gives floor to private prosecutor Marlon Manuel, who then starts direct examination of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Vice President for Sales Enrique Javier.
3:39 pm: Defense objects to the presentation of Javier as witness, questions its materiality to Article III. Cuevas says the supposed free tickets for the Coronas are not part of the issue on Article III. Enrile agrees, then tells prosecution that they are expanding the coverage of the Article, but prosecution tries to argue their position. Enrile finally rules to not allow the expansion of Article III unless the prosecution amends it.
Prosecution tries to explain, but Enrile says ruling stands. He also tells prosecution, “I warned you… there is a limit to the patience of this court.”
Javier is discharged as witness, and prosecution is asked to present their next witness.
3:46 pm: Session suspended for “10 minutes.”
4:36 pm: Session resumes. Tupas manifests, says they take exception to the earlier ruling on Article III. He explains they are not expanding it. Enrile then says that if the prosecution insists on their position, he won’t change their ruling.
4:40 pm: Proffer of excluded evidence by Manuel, enumerating evidence they could have presented if the testimony by PAL VP was accepted. Cuevas interrupts, says it is not proper to do so. Enrile rules to allow prosecution to continue.
Manuel then itemizes evidence subpoenaed, which includes certification on the PAL platinum card issued to the Chief Justice, travel records. Cuevas maintains objection, but Enrile lets manifestation remain in record, says the evidence enumerated is “nothing” because it assumes something not yet established.
Enrile then proceeds to tell prosecution that even if he tried to be liberal and help them, there is a “limit” to what he, as presiding officer, can do. “If your articles of impeachment are defective, that’s your responsibility.”
The presiding officer then orders prosecution to present next witness.
4:52 pm: Session suspended, as per prosecution’s request.
4:57 pm: Session resumes. Prosecution says they are constrained by the discharge of the PAL witness, and asks for the continuance of the hearing on Wednesday instead. Enrile approves.
4:58 pm: Session adjourned. Trial to resume on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, at 2 pm.