Kiefer Ravena

Defense team in disarray?

Natashya Gutierrez
Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra admits some lawyers may have thought of resigning because of surprising events from Chief Justice Renato Corona's appearance at his impeachment trial, Tuesday, May 22

MANILA, Philippines – After Tuesday’s walkout by Chief Justice Renato Corona, the defense team appears to be in disarray.

Defense lawyers had no idea about what was supposed to happen during Corona’s own testimony – from his opening statement to his sudden walkout from the Senate session hall.

They were as astonished by events as the court and the nation that was watching on televion. Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra said the circumstances of Corona leaving the stand were unclear to them at first.

The lawyers said they never read the final draft of Corona’s 3-hour statement wherein he bashed President Benigno Aquino III, signed a conditional waiver that allowed the court to look into his peso and foreign accounts, and at times, even teared up as he recounted personal stories.

Rumors of defense counsels thinking of resigning spread soon after the surprising twist.

To this, Esguerra said, “Maybe some of us [thought about it]. We were all surprised,” he said. “But we slept on it.” Defense counsel Judd Roy, however, denied the rumors.

Confusion and misunderstanding

Corona’s lawyers met at the Golden Bay restaurant after the proceedings at the Senate supposedly for a post-mortem.

Text messages spread like wildfire after Corona was taken to the Medical City hospital in Pasig City. The defense lawyers were described in text messages as being “bewildered and depressed” during the meeting.

Esguerra confirmed the defense indeed met at Golden Bay, but denied he was there. He said he begged off from the discussion to focus on work for his law firm.

Text messages also claimed that lead counsel Serafin Cuevas scolded Roy “for talking too much on television.” Roy denied this, saying there was a mere misunderstanding.

He said that when Corona returned to the Senate hall in a wheelchair, he was ready to apologize to the court for leaving abruptly.

Earlier, as Corona ended the statement that the presiding officer allowed him to deliver, he declared, “I am the chief justice. I want to be excused.” He walked out without being formally discharged by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

He eventually returned to the session hall in a wheelchair after being given Coke to ease his supposed hypoglycema attack.

According to Roy, he reached out for the microphone to hand to Corona, but was disallowed by Cuevas who thought he wanted to make a manifestation of his own.

“When he [Corona] went to the Senate Hall, he wanted to address the Senate and to apologize,” explained Roy.

“[Later on], Cuevas told me, ‘Kala ko magma-manifest ka! Bakit hindi mo sinabi sa akin?’ (I thought you wanted to make a manifestation! Why didn’t you tell me?)”

Added stress

In addition to dealing with the case and facing the Senate, Corona’s lawyers are extremely ‘concerned’ about the chief justice and his health.

Corona will be unable to attend his impeachment trial today, May 23, for his direct and cross-examination. His condition was leading to a “possible heart attack,” which doctors wanted to prevent, and for which he was considered a “very high risk patient.” He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital early Wednesday.

Enrile told the defense Tuesday that a non-appearance by Corona today, Wednesday, would force the court to strike from the record his opening statement. They would then decide on Corona’s impeachment based on the evidence at hand.

Esguerra said they may ask the court for a day or two to allow Corona to recover, but final decisions will be made as a group in a meeting this morning when they will be plotting their next moves.

The senator-judges, meanwhile, will be holding a caucus this morning to discuss scenarios, Senator-judge and Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto said. –

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