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Lacson to defense: Convince CJ to testify

Many senator-judges think that without the Chief Justice's testimony, it will be hard for them to acquit him, says Sen Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – How do we acquit somebody who does not even bother to explain?

Sen Panfilo Lacson said that this is the question in the minds of many senator-judges who want to see Chief Justice Renato Corona take the witness stand.

Before the start of Day 36 of the impeachment trial, Lacson offered an unsolicited advice to Corona’s lawyers: to convince their client to testify.

Lacson said that the testimonies of the defense’s first 17 or 18 witnesses have so far been insufficient to contradict the allegations of the prosecution. He stressed that only Corona’s testimony might sway senator-judges to render an acquittal.

“It’s this simple. If he does not take the witness stand to explain the discrepancies then we might go to the first situation that it might be hard to justify why you will acquit him when you haven’t heard a plausible defense.” 

Lacson added, “If he satisfactorily explains the discrepancies as alleged in his [Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth] then we have no reason to convict.”

The senator echoed the assessment of Sen Jinggoy Estrada that the “overwhelming sentiment” of the senators is for Corona to testify. He said this was based on discussions they had during breaks in the trial on Monday, May 7.

“If yesterday is the standard that we use for their witnesses, it was really disappointing,” Lacson said in a mix of English and Filipino.  

PING'S ADVICE. Sen Panfilo Lacson tells the defense lawyers that if they want their client acquitted, they should convince Chief Justice Renato Corona to testify.

‘Explain assets, not side issues’

On Monday, May 7, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile cut short the testimonies of many witnesses, questioning their relevance. Enrile said that the Senate wanted to finish the trial by May 31 to attend to legislative work.

Lacson said that the Senate is not interested in the peripheral issues behind the sale of a property of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) in Manila last 2001.

“What we are talking about here is where did the money come from? Why were the assets not declared in the SALN,” said Lacson. “What we want to hear is answers to the allegations, not side issues.”

For example, Lacson said Corona must explain why he did not declare the P9-M he used to purchase his condo unit at the Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig.

Granted that there was a problem that delayed the acceptance of the unit, Lacson said Corona should still have declared the money as an asset.

“These are the things that only the Chief Justice can explain before the senator-judges …. So don’t waste the time of the impeachment court but take the bull by its horn and take the witness stand and answer questions.”

Corona, not market administrator

Corona’s lead defendant, retired Justice Serafin Cuevas though has taken exception to calls for Corona to testify. He said the defense cannot be “bulldozed” into presenting witnesses.

Sen Estrada said Monday that if the defense does not present its client, this would be to his disadvantage.

“We ran out of questions to ask. What do we ask the market administrator?” –