Corona's counsels not privy to his testimony
MANILA, Philippines - Preparations are in full force for the defense counsels of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as he is scheduled to take the witness stand in the impeachment trial against him Tuesday, May 22.
But his lawyers said they don't know what he intends to talk about.
What they have done so far is to put together for Corona all possible issues, questions and topics that they believe will be raised by senator-judges.
However, with the exception of lead counsel Serafin Cuevas, Corona refused to "answer questions in our presence," defense counsel and spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III admitted to reporters.
"Hindi rin namin alam kung ano ang magiging laman ng testimonya niya (We also don't know what the contents of his testimony will be)," said defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno. It was earlier reported that the Chief Justice skipped a key meeting with his counsels last Sunday, May 20.
The lawyers said their primarily role will be to make sure Corona's constitutional rights are not violated, although the impeachment court disallows lawyers from objecting to senator-judges.
"The very moment he sits on the stand, the range of questions, we cannot control," Salvador said.
On his own
The questions compiled by Corona's counsels to allow him to frame his answers are what everyone would like to know.
They are working hard, Salvador said, to make the Chief Justice as least surprised as possible with the questions thrown his way, and to help him understand why certain issues are important for the lawyers.
Salvador admitted that having the Chief Justice as a witness has its challenges.
Unlike in the case of other witnesses, the defense team ultimately entrusts the final decisions -- including preparations -- to him.
"Ang mahirap syempre hindi katulad ng ibang testigo na pwede mong, 'O, ganito,' kasi abogado rin siya eh… Syempre hindi pwede mo sabihan ng ganun ang chief justice (The hard part is, of course he's unlike other witnesses who can say, 'This is what you do,' because he's a lawyer too... Of course you can't talk to the chief justice like that)," said Salvador. "Dapat sabihin mo (Instead, you say), 'CJ you might want to look into this matter, you might want to explore this, you might want to anticipate question on this, they might develop issues on this particular topic…. you have to understand we still have to respect his stature."
"We always defer to his final decision in these cases," he added.
While defense counsels refuse to speculate on the possible focus of the testimony given the unpredictability of the course of questioning, they expect most questions to revolve around Corona's dollar accounts.
Whether he will answer these questions or not ultimately depends on him.
"Siya lang and makapagsasabi kung anong gagawin niya. Kasi kami naman basta and mahalaga, binigyan na naming siya ng inputs namin… at bahala na siguro siya mag desisyon para sa sarili niya kung paano niya sasagutin at haharapin ang mga pwede mangyari habang nagtatanong and prosekusyon pati narin and mga senator-judges (He is the only one who can say what he will do. What's important is we have given him our inputs, and it is up to him to decide for himself how he will answer it and how he will face the possible questions from the prosecution and the senator-judges)," said Jimeno.
Not the first time
Over the course of the trial, Corona has made decisions relating to the case without consulting his lawyers.
Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra told Rappler that Corona dealt with the order from the Office of the Ombudsman -- asking him to explain his assets including at least US $10-million in dollar deposits -- on his own.
Corona also appeared to have not disclosed the contents of his bank accounts from the BPI Ayala branch to his lawyers, which led counsel Serafin Cuevas to stumble on Day 15 of the trial. Neither did he tell lawyers of his plans to go on a media blitz until the day before he hopped from station to station to voice his opinions on the trial.
His counsels are thus left with nothing else but a prayer.
"We're prepared. As far as the senator-judges we have started praying," said defense cousel and spokesperson Rico Quicho. "Hopefully they will be kinder, they will be gentler to us." - Rappler.com
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