Corona to testify, confront charges

Rappler.com
(UPDATED) The defense team of Chief Justice Renato Corona asks the court to subpoena the Ombudsman and promises to present Corona himself

CORONA'S INSTRUCTION. Defense counsel Judd Roy (center) says Corona's instruction was that he will respond to allegations against him under oath. Photo by Emil Sarmiento

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Saying they are ready to meet this issue head-on, the defense lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona asked the impeachment court to subpoena Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and 5 other people.

In turn, Corona will testify before the impeachment court, defense counsel Judd Roy told presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Roy said the team’s request for a subpoena stems from earlier reports saying that the Ombudsman has ordered Chief Justice Renato Corona to explain his alleged US$10-M deposits in various accounts.

Roy said the others who should be called to testify are the complainants in the forfeiture case filed against Corona with the Ombudsman. They are Harvey Keh, Ruperto Alerosa, former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros, Albert Concepcion, and Akbayan Rep Walden Bello.

He said Corona expressed willingness to testify after the appearance of Carpio-Morales and the 5 other complainants. The defense team will consider them “hostile witnesses.”

Ang instruction sa akin…ang pambabatikos na ginawa sa kanya sa labas, gusto na niyang harapin under oath,” Roy told the court. (The instruction for me was…he wants to confront, under oath, all the allegations him.)

Corona skipped most of today’s en banc session, which heard oral arguments on a case against the Commission on Elections. Sources said he was only there for 15 minutes.

His team’s announcement came as a surprise and happened a day after Sen Jinggoy Estrada appealed to the defense panel to convince Corona to testify. On Tuesday morning, Sen Panfilo Lacson reiterated this call, saying that many senator-judges want to hear what Corona has to say.

“The Chief Justice instructed us to open the [dollar] accounts,” Roy told the impeachment court. Upon the request of the defense panel, the impeachment court will resume the trial on Monday, May 14.

On April 29, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Ombudsman sent an April 20 letter to Corona ordering him to explain “within 72 hours” his alleged $10-M dollar accounts which are “grossly disproportionate” to his income.

Carpio-Morales is a former Supreme Court justice. She is related to SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Corona’s perceived nemesis in the High Tribunal.

The Supreme Court has stopped the Philippine Savings Bank from disclosing the dollar accounts of Corona. The impeachment court decided to heed this verdict.

Before the trial resumed last May 7, Enrile said he will do “everything possible” to end it on May 31. The defense team was also castigated for presenting witnesses whose testimonies are “peripheral” and did not address the core issues raised against Corona.

Corona has always maintained that his trial is politically motivated, adding that President Benigno Aquino III wanted to control the judiciary. – Rappler.com