MANILA, Philippines – They’re back.
After a long ceasefire, the media war between the prosecution and defense panel spokespersons resumed last week in time for the resumption of the impeachment trial on Monday, May 7.
In separate press conferences, both camps said they’re raring to go back and finish the trial—equally confident that they will come out of it victorious.
The defense panel will resume its presentation of evidence to counter allegations in Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, the failure of Chief Justice Renato Corona to accurately declare his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilites and Net Worth (SALN).
Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza will return to the witness stand so the prosecution panel can continue his cross-examination, said defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra.
Atienza testified that the Manila City government in 2001 paid Mrs. Corona P34-million for the purchase of the property of Basa Guidote Enterprise Inc. (BGEI) in Sampaloc, Manila. It served as the relocation area for the market vendors displaced by the construction of the LRT-Legarda station.
The defense is using the BGEI money to justify the peso-deposits of the Chief Justice with Philippine Savings Bank.
After Atienza, Esguerra said the market administrator of Sampaloc may testify to confirm that the lot is being used by the city government of Manila.
A Bureau of Internal Revenue representative will also speak about tax exemptions of the BGEI deal, Esguerra added.
Prosecution ready for cross
On the other hand, the prosecution panel said they have prepared for the cross-examination of Atienza and the other witnesses that the defense panel will present.
“That’s our focus. Naka-assign na which teams will cross examine particular witnesses,” said prosecution spokesperson Juan Edgardo Angara.
Angara said they are also ready to cross examine the Chief Justice and his wife in case the defense presents them as witnesses. “We anticipate it. Baka gulatin kami at ilabas si Chief Justice at si Mrs. Corona,” he added.
Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, also a prosecution spokesperson, said they’ve studied the “story the defense is trying to paint…. More or less, we’ve identified where they want to bring the public.”
Esguerra said the Chief Justice and his wife remain in the list of their witnesses, although the counsels have yet to decide whether or not they will put either of them to the stand.
The decision, they said, will depend on how the testimonies of other witnesses will go.
“There used to be a need for Mrs. Corona to testify on check issued to Basa-Guidote…. But because Mayor Atienza agreed to testify, it is now clear that Mrs. Corona received a check for P34.7 million,” said defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno to the media Friday, May 4.
Esguerra said they’ve already narrowed down their list of witnesses from 12 to 9, in an attempt to hasten the proceedings. He said the team will be done with their presentation within the month.
The prosecution has called on the court to impose a deadline. They hope to finish the trial before Congress adjourns sine die on June 7. Congress will again take a long break and won’t resume session until the State of the Nation Address.
The same sentiments were expressed by several senators.
Subpoena for de Lima
The defense panel seeks to call back to the witness stand prosecution witness Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima.
De Lima previously told the court that it was Corona who pushed for the temporary restraining order allowing former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to travel despite her facing criminal investigation.
DOJ had defied the order and prohibited Arroyo from traveling.
The prosecution panel on Friday filed a motion to quash the subpoena for de Lima, saying the defense had already asked her the questions they needed during their cross-examination.
The defense panel argued that there are issues they still want to raise that were not brought up. It denied accusations that they are trying to delay the trial.
“They should not preempt us. The reason we want Secretary de Lima to testify is different from that of the prosecution,” said defense spokesperson Rico Quicho.
Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador said they are still within schedule. He reminded the media that they initially said they would finish in 5 weeks. He said they have finished presenting 16 witnesses already and have 3 more weeks left, which he said would be more than enough. – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena