Trillanes, Cuevas and Corona’s allowances
Senator Trillanes grills defense counsel Serafin Cuevas about the defense panel's witnesses

Photos from the Senate and Sen.Trillanes' website

MANILA, Philippines – Why is the defense panel presenting witnesses who have been explaining Chief Justice Renato Corona’s source of wealth? Sen Antonio Trillanes IV asked the defense panel this question on Day 29 of the trial, saying such presentation alluded to the prosecution’s initial charges of ill-gotten wealth, which the impeachment court had already dropped.

The defense was apparently trying to explain, through its witnesses, that Corona had more than enough money from salaries and allowances to afford his properties and explain his bank accounts.

Trillanes went on to compute the allowances received by Corona and figured that if he had monthly expenses of anywhere between P150,000 to P200,000, he would be left without savings. Lead defense counsel conceded, saying, “ubos din.” (It will all be used up.)

Below is the transcript of the Trillanes-Cuevas exchange last Wednesday, March 14. Trillanes in particular asked Cuevas about the defense panel’s purpose in presenting witness Araceli Bayuga, disbursement officer of the Supreme Court. (The transcript was provided to the media by Trillanes’s office.)

Trillanes: Defense counsel, can you help me understand why you presented this witness?

Cuevas: Well, I have stated the purpose on record, your Honor, to show the compensation, benefits and all the allowances received by the Chief Justice, your Honor… In order to explain the sources of the amounts have gone to his income, your Honor.
Trillanes: So how is this relevant to the case?

Cuevas: Very relevant, your Honor, because if the…compensation whether by means of allowances and so on, goes to the coffers of the Chief Justice, your Honor, then it would explain the other alleged deficiencies brought about by the evidence of the prosecution that he could not have acquired these amount of properties because his income does not justified the acquisition thereof.
Trillanes: So in short, Mr. defense counsel, you’re trying to prove that the bank deposits are not ill-gotten?

Cuevas: No, I have not gone to that… I have not gone that far, your Honor, please.

Trillanes: Well, in effect you’re actually reviving Article 2.4, is that the case, Mr. defense counsel?

Cuevas: 2.4 your Honor is in connection with illegally acquired wealth.

Trillanes: Yes.

Cuevas: And the prosecution has been debarred from presenting any evidence in connection therewith.

Trillanes: But you are actually presenting evidence to explain 2.4 or to disprove that the bank deposits are ill-gotten, that’s the only purpose I can think of [at] this moment.

Cuevas: Well, that is your personal assessment, if your Honor please. But being a defense counsel, we’ll have to do everything for purposes of at least explaining the position of the Chief Justice. It may not jive with what your perception, your Honor, with your postulation and articulation but decidedly we needed it because [the] impeachment court is not made up solely of one judge, it is a collegial court and our appeal is to the entire court, your Honor.
Trillanes: So in short you are conceding the opinion of this judge, it’s the way I understand it, Mr. defense counsel?
Cuevas: Conceding to the opinion as what? I hope you pardon me, Mr…

Trillanes: Okay. Well anyway, does your witness have a personal knowledge as to how the Chief Justice spent the money, the 22 million?

Cuevas: Well, the way the testimony of the witness has gone your Honor, she has nothing to do, neither is she privy to the manner by which this amount reflected in the various documents testified to by him, by her rather, have been spent, your Honor. 

Trillanes: So she has no idea whatsoever as to how much the Chief Justice actually spends every month – for association dues, electric bills, grocery bills, gasoline and car maintenance bills, salaries of household help, if any, and so on and so forth?

Cuevas: That is clear from her testimony…I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  

Trillanes: In short, for all you know the respondent is or probably would be spending so much more than the 21 million stated?

Cuevas: It could be, your Honor, but that has not… Akala ko po tapos na kayo, your Honor, sige po.
Trillanes: Yes please, go ahead.

Cuevas: It could be, your Honor. But in accordance with the purpose of our offer, your Honor, it is limited to the extraction of various amounts appearing in their salary payrolls and all their documentary evidence, lifted from there, this is the synchronized or summarization of what she has done. In other words, she has nothing to do with the grant of these amounts; she has nothing to do with the way they were spent; she has nothing to do with the way of testifying how all these matters came into existence, your Honor.
Trillanes: It is very clear, Mr. defense counsel. Now, let’s just approximate, for somebody with the stature of the Chief Justice who [is] maintaining a penthouse in Bellagio, what’s that other condominium?

Cuevas: No it’s not a penthouse. In fact it’s not occupied up to now, your Honor…Our evidence will show, I’m sorry.

Trillanes: Okay, so with the stature of the Chief Justice who is maintaining a few households, let’s just put a figure that he may be spending around P150,000 to P200,000 per month and with that you multiply it by 12, he’s spending P2 million more or less per year then times P10, P21 to 22 million, so in short…

Cuevas: Ubos din.

Trillanes: Yes.

Cuevas: If your Honor please, if, I do not think I can produce evidence by mere manifestation of argumentation, your Honor, I’m not willing neither I’m in the position legally speaking and physically speaking to deal on the true accuracy of the figures that you have mentioned, your Honor.

Trillanes: So with that I support the position of the Senate President that it’s only the Chief Justice who can actually explain all these things.

Cuevas: Maybe yes, your Honor.

Trillanes: Maybe yes. I would like to take this opportunity also to ask you if you have any plans to divulge the dollar accounts as promised by the Chief Justice himself.

Cuevas: Well I have not yet concretely and positively arrived at the ultimate conclusion that we have to or we do not have to. That will depend on the progress of the proceedings in the nature of our evidence or the stages of our evidence maybe because we are on the defense, your Honor. If the prosecution has not even established a prima facie case against the respondent, I do not think we have to place him on the stand, your Honor.

Trillanes: Yes, I understand. But I’m just holding on to your word and the records would bear us out as well as the word of Chief Justice in his media rounds, that he will divulge. And if you have the Chief Justice talking, then you have to value his word.
Cuevas: Oh yes, I have been informed, your Honor, although I did not hear, maybe I was asleep or elsewhere when these alleged statements were made but I’ll go on record, your Honor, as not having stated that we will present what we call foreign currency deposit, your Honor. In fact, I recall being asked by one of the senator-judges as to whether I can convince him to do this and to do that in connection with his currency deposit, your Honor. And I made the statement that we are still on the verge of fighting this particular issue before the Honorable Supreme Court in a petition of certiorari prohibition that we have filed in the said court.

Trillanes: Well you have to understand and forgive me if I will remind you every now and then of that promise of the Chief Justice to divulge the dollar accounts.

Cuevas: Thank you for the reminder.

Trillanes: Thank you, Mr. President. –