Prosecution doubts PSBank's 'fake' claim

MANILA, Philippines - The prosecution panel doubts the testimony of PSBank Katipunan branch manager Anabelle Tiongson that the photocopies of the bank documents they submitted to the Senate impeachment court are “fake” or “forged.”

“The Honorable Impeachment Court cannot just rely on statements by PSBank officers about the authenticity of the Annexes A to A-4, without actual documents to back up those statements. PSBank officers have a natural motive to deny the authenticity of [the annexes] because they would want to avoid potential liability for the possible leakage of their bank records,” reads the legal memorandum— titled Compliance—submitted by the prosecution panel Tuesday night, February 14.

The prosecution panel wants PSBank to submit the original bank records so the court could compare them with the submitted photocopies.

“It would be difficult, if not impossible, to verify the authenticity” of the photocopied documents “unless PSBank will be ordered to produce for inspection all the opening documents” for all peso and dollar accounts, the Compliance adds.

On Monday, Tiongson testified on the supposedly “fake” bank documents—Annexes A to A-4—that the prosecution panel attached to its supplemental request to subpoena Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank records.

A flustered presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered the prosecution panel to submit within 24 hours a legal memorandum to explain why it submitted “fake” documents.

The prosecution panel said the testimony of Tiongson was even “unclear.”

“As things now stand, it is far from clear whether Ms Tiongson actually meant to say that Annexes A to A-4 are “fake” or “forged” documents. It now appears that she merely refuses to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents because of her belief that to do so would lead to the disclosure of information on dollar accounts,” the legal memo adds.

“Even the defense effectively admitted the existence of the dollar accounts by undertaking to open them in 'due time,'” it adds.

The Compliance bears the signatures of lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr., lead prosecution manager Joseph Emilio Abaya, and Prosecutor Reynaldo Umali.

Correct account numbers

In interviews after Tuesday’s trial, members of the prosecution panel expressed confidence that their documents are not fake.

“We have reasons to believe that the documents are authentic,” said Prosecutor Reynaldo Umali, who supposedly received the documents from an anonymous source.

He also suggested that the wrong signature cards may have been compared.

His colleagues in the prosecution panel are backing him.

“I don’t think it’s fake because the president of PSBank testified that these accounts are existing in their records,” said prosecution spokesperson Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.

“I don’t believe that the documents are fake. I think that the documents are genuine. Look, every information there is genuine. So what is fake?,” said prosecutor Giorgidi Aggabao.

PSBank president Pascual Garcia III confirmed last week that all 10 account numbers specified in the supplemental request of the prosecution were existing accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Garcia submitted records of 5 peso bank accounts, which showed a total balance of about P20-million as of December 31, 2010. The prosecution has claimed strong evidence against Corona because of the huge discrepancy between this amount and what he declared in his 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. He only declared P3.5 million in “cash and investments.”

Garcia and Tiongson refused to discuss the other 5 accounts, although Garcia confirmed that they are dollar accounts. The Supreme Court favored PSBank’s motion to issue temporary restraining order on the release of Corona’s dollar accounts. The Senate decided to respect the SC order.

Based on information that Corona won a P1-million raffle in PSBank Katipunan, the prosecution panel originally submitted a blanket request for the accounts of Corona in the said branch. The supplemental request that attached the problematic documents were filed after Enrile ordered the prosecution to specify the bank accounts.

Senator Francis Escudero asked Tiongson on Monday to compare the photocopied documents with the originals and report to the Senate impeachment court if they are really fake.

But prosecutor Aggabao said it is not enough that Tiongson merely reports to the court her observations.

“How do we know? Ipakita nila sa amin ang original. Let us decide kung peke nga,” Aggabao said.

Inadmissible?

The defense panel argued that the bank records may be inadmissible evidence because it was acquired illegally.

But the prosecution panel disagreed.

Even supposing that the documents are fake or illegally obtained, Angara said there are Supreme Court rulings that allow their admission as evidence.

One of them is the November 2006 ruling in Ejercito v. Sandiganbayan, which reads: “Republic Act 1405, it bears noting, nowhere provides that an unlawful examination of bank accounts shall render the evidence obtained therefrom inadmissible in evidence.” – Rappler.com