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MANILA, Philippines – The impeachment court will be liberal no more.
Senators explained their Friday ultimatum for Chief Justice Renato Corona to return to the witness stand.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile did not change the decision that senators reached in a caucus on Wednesday, May 23. Enrile was firm despite a manifestation of lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas that Corona will only be fit to testify on Monday, May 28.
Since Corona’s supposed walkout on Tuesday, Enrile has refused to grant interviews. His deputy, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada explained to reporters the sentiment of the court. “We have been liberal. We have given them all the opportunity to present their side.”
Corona is now at the intensive care unit of the Medical City where doctors are monitoring his heart condition. Despite this, senators said they have granted Corona’s team all the leeway and can wait no longer.
Senator-judges ruled in favor of the defense in the following occasions:
- Request to summon Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and the complainants
- Request for a 2- day continuance to prepare for Morales’ testimony
- Request for a 2-day continuance to prepare for Corona’s testimony
- Corona’s request to deliver a three-hour narrative opening statement
- Allowing Corona’s opening statement to stay on the record even if he did not return to the witness stand on Wednesday, May 23
The decision to wait for Corona until Friday is the last consideration the Senate is giving Corona, especially after Enrile said he felt disrespected by Corona’s supposed walkout.
Estrada said, “[Corona] knows what is right and what is wrong. He should know, being the highest lawyer, the chief magistrate of the land. He knows if he should ask permission from the court. When he testified there, he was not a chief justice. He was an ordinary witness. He should have shown respect to the court.”
‘We would have wanted more evidence’
Sen Alan Peter Cayetano said that while Corona’s opening statement remains on record, the weight of his narration is another matter.
“The weight of the evidence and the admissibility are two different things. So we accept his story or narration but the question is what is the weight of that?”
Cayetano, however, said the defense can still present other pieces of evidence to back up Corona’s narration.
“He (Corona) said he has had dollar accounts since the 1960s. If that’s true, then maybe he can show a passbook with all of his dollars. That would be more believable,” said Cayetano.
Cuevas though already told the court that the team will just rely on Corona’s credibility.
Minds made up?
Estrada said it will be easy for senator-judges to reach a verdict at this point.
“I think majority of the senators have already made up their minds …. We have been conducting this trial for how many months and more or less the senators already know what their decision will be.
Cayetano contradicted this. “There are still a lot, including myself, who not only want to go over all the evidence over the weekend but hear the closing arguments.”
Senators have mixed views on how Corona’s opening statement would affect their judgment. Sen Franklin Drilon said it did not help Corona’s defense.
“To me, the opening statement proved that he had 4 dollar accounts, he admitted it. …. He also admitted there were 82 [dollar accounts], only that in the course of the years, the others were closed. The issue is was it reported in his SALN?”
For Sen Bongbong Marcos, Corona’s narration is useful for senator-judges.
“The numbers, bank accounts, the balances, he was able to put forward his explanation. It is extremely helpful to the senators who were sitting in this case simply because it clarified some of the things we weren’t sure about.”
The impeachment court will decide Corona’s fate via nominal voting. Each senator will announce his or her vote, and will be given 2 minutes to explain.
The verdict will be out as early as Monday or Tuesday, after the closing arguments of the prosecution and the defense. – Rappler.com
Click on the links below for more of Rappler’s special coverage of CJ Corona’s trial.