Corona gamble: ‘Legal suicide’ or ploy?

The defense could use the Ombudsman's testimony in seeking another TRO from the Supreme Court, says lawyer

BOON OR BANE. Diokno says the testimony of Ombudsman Carpio-Morales against Corona could either destroy or strengthen the strategy of the defense.

MANILA, Philippines – Having the Ombudsman testify against Chief Justice Renato Corona on his alleged multimillion-dollar deposits is “legal suicide,” lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno said. But he warned that it could also be a “ploy” on the part of the defense to extract information it needs to seek another relief from the Supreme Court.

Diokno, dean of the De La Salle College of Law, said in Rappler’s #TalkThursday on May 10 that the decision of the defense to present Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and 10 other hostile witnesses in Corona’s impeachment trial has put legal experts in a “quandary.”

Carpio-Morales has been subpoenaed to testify on Monday, May 14, about Corona’s reported $10-million bank deposits which the Chief Justice has denied.

Other witnesses are former Akbayan partylist Rep Risa Hontiveros, Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, Harvey Keh of the Kaya Natin Movement and Emmanuel Santos, who all filed separate complaints against Corona with the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged unexplained wealth. They used as basis for their complaint the revelations made during the trial.

By asking them to testify, Diokno said the defense has taken a huge risk because hostile witnesses could just strengthen the case of the prosecution. “The prosecution could have a field day,” the veteran trial lawyer said.

But the defense could have another trick up its sleeves. Diokno said it could use the Ombudsman’s testimony to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the SC that could achieve for Corona two things:

1.) stop the impeachment court from allowing the presentation of evidence on foreign currency deposits

2.) stop the Ombudsman from using it as evidence in her own probe on Corona

Last February, the SC issued a TRO barring the impeachment court from compelling the disclosure of Corona’s dollar accounts in the Philippine Savings Bank. Diokno said the defense can file a supplemental petition and ask the SC to expand the coverage of its TRO to include the Ombudsman’s evidence.

Diokno said that part of the strategy of the defense could also be to extend the TRO to the Ombudsman’s ongoing investigation. 

But if the SC does issue another TRO, Diokno said the High Court is headed for a collision course with the Senate – a scenario that also emerged when the SC first issued a TRO.

The Senate respected the Court’s ruling then, but if the SC stops the Senate once again, what will happen? “There could be a clash between the two,” Diokno said. –

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