Iglesia Ni Cristo

Expunge Annex A? It’s not our evidence, says prosecution

Inadmissible or not, Annex A was never presented as evidence

Annex A vs. the original bank records. There were differences and similarities.

Source: Prib Senado 

MANILA, Philippines –  The document used by the prosecution to ferret out the bank records of Chief Justice Renato Corona may have been illegally obtained, but this should not be a game changer. After all, it was not presented as “evidence” in the first place.

To the prosecution, its evidence against Corona comes from the bank officials themselves.

In a comment it submitted to the impeachment court on Monday, March 5, the prosecution explained that the bank document it attached to its request to subpoena Corona’s bank records – or Annex A – was not marked as evidence.

The prosecution pointed out that it has treated such document “with extreme caution” because it came from an unkown source and “could have been fictitious.” 

What the prosecution presented as evidence to the court, it stressed, were the bank records presented by officials of the Philippine Savings Bank in February.

The prosecution filed the comment in response to a motion made by the defense for the impeachment court to disregard Corona’s bank records.

The bank records produced by PSbank president Pascual Garcia III and bank manager Annabelle Tiongson showed that Corona had 5 peso bank accounts containing over P31 million (3 of these bank accounts were closed on Dec. 12, 2011, the day Corona was impeached). 

Prosecutor Rep Reynato Umali had said that a “small lady” handed him an envelope containing the documents in February.

However, Tiongson told the impeachment court that it was Rep. Jorge “Bolet” Banal of the prosecution who approached her in January and asked for her help in verifying a list of Corona’s supposed bank accounts. 

The defense said the photocopies of Corona’s specimen signature cards, which were attached by the prosecution to the subpoena, contained discrepancies.

Garcia himself testified in February that the specimen cards submitted by the prosecution to the court contained 42 differences from the original bank records.

The defense added that Tiongson herself described the prosecution’s copies as fake.

Not fake

The prosecution disagreed that Annex A is fake.

It said that while Tiongson and Pascual pointed out the differences, they also confirmed that there were similarities in form and entry. Furthermore, the bank accounts in Annex A were proven to exist in the Katipunan branch of PSbank. 

The prosecution noted that both bank officials agreed that Annex A is a leaked document.  “Needless to say, if it was a ‘leaked’ document originating from PSBank, how can it be fake?” the prosecution asked. 

The prosecutors added that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also believed Annex A is a genuine document. “Mr. President, I just would like to put on record my own personal opinion that this particular document that was allegedly leaked from the PSBank is, I think, a faithful reproduction of the original, ” Estrada said on February 15.

The prosecution also stressed that there are only 2 original copies of the specimen signature card.

Garcia only showed one original copy to the impeachment court. Thus, the prosecution said, there is a possibility that Annex A could be a photocopy of the second original copy of the specimen signature card.

Fruit of the poisonous tree

Corona’s camp has also argued that if the photocopies of the chief justice’s specimen signature cards were illegally obtained, the impeachment court should expunge all other pieces of evidence related to it.  

The defense cited the principle of the fruit of the poisonous tree, where evidence secured in an illegal arrest or unreasonable search should not be admitted in court.

If the Senate grants the motion of the defense, such decision could demolish the prosecution’s argument that Corona failed to truthfully disclose all his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth. This allegation falls under Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, which analysts said is the strongest case of the prosecution.

The Senate is due to decide on the matter on Tuesday, March 6.

The prosecution said the defense erred in invoking the principle of the fruit of the poisonous tree.

It said this is only applicable in a search warrant, not a subpoena. When a search warrant is quashed for being defective, the exclusionary rule – which excludes illegally-obtained evidence –  could be invoked, it argued.

A subpoena, on the other hand, does not result in search or seizure, according to the prosecution.

The exclusionary rule could also only be applied when the evidence was obtained by government agents. The prosecution insisted that it got the document from anonymous sources.

It cited a Supreme Court ruling in Ejercito v. Sandiganbayan, which said that “nowhere” in  RA 1405 or the Bank Secrecy Act does it say that “an unlawful examination of bank accounts shall render the evidence obtained therefrom inadmissible in evidence.” – Rappler.com