Senate inclined to accept Corona’s bank records
Senator-judges will decide on the Corona bank records on Tuesday

MANILA, Philippines – Will the impeachment court accept as evidence a contested document that led to the disclosure of bank details of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona? Most likely.

Sen Panfilo Lacson told reporters that this is the general sentiment among senator-judges, who are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, March 6, to discuss Corona’s motion for the court to exclude evidence related to his signature card in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank).

Lacson said that majority of the senator-judges are inclined to accept all evidence that’s been marked during the trial. “And we will leave it to the defense panel to answer point by point all issues and pieces of evidence presented so far,” he added.

Sen Aquilino Pimentel III said that the impeachment court should admit Corona’s bank records as evidence, noting that ordinary courts are liberal in admitting evidence. “There is no reason an impeachment court, which is after the truth, should follow a different standard,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel is convinced that while Corona’s bank document may have been illegally obtained, it seems authentic.

On February 28, the defense asked the impeachment court to disregard evidence related to Corona’s PSBank records.

In a 33-page motion to “suppress illegally obtained evidence,” defense lawyers said: “Chief Justice Renato C. Corona respectfully prays that the Honorable Impeachment Court suppress, exclude and expunge from the record all evidence thus far offered, received, marked and proposed in relation to the Subpoena dated February 2012 and 9 February 2012 addressed to Ms. Anabelle Tiongson, Branch Manager, PSBank Katipunan Branch, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.”

This covers PSBank accounts which showed that Corona had about P36-M in PSBank as of Dec 12, 2011, or the day he was impeached.

But the prosecution considers Corona’s PSBank accounts as strong evidence to prove Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, or the alleged failure of Corona to declare his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). His combined PSBank accounts show that he had about P20-M as of Dec 31, 2010, but he declared only P3.5-M in his 2010 SALN.

Poisonous tree

The defense panel is invoking the constitutional guarantee against unlawful searches and seizure. “The exclusion of evidence is the only manner by which the illegal introduction of evidence can be stopped from being used against the individual,” the motion added.

But Pimentel said that not all evidence on Corona’s bank records that the prosecution presented was acquired through the questionable signature card.

Citing the legal doctrine of the “fruit of the poisonous tree,” the defense panel argued that Corona’s bank records indicated in the signature card are inadmissible as evidence.

Lacson said senators will discuss during their caucus if the principle applies in Corona’s case.

He explained that it will only apply if the source of the document is a government agent or official, not a private individual. The prosecution claimed that an anonymous small lady gave them the document. –

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