#CoronaTrial: Day 3

KD Suarez

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Highlights of day 3 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 3 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

2:05 pm: Session begins. Roll call: 21 senators present during roll call. (Absent were Senators Loren Legarda and Miriam Defensor-Santiago)

2:12 pm: Rep. Niel Tupas, on behalf of the prosecution, presents their proposed order of presentation of the Articles of Impeachment – Article 2 (failure to disclose SALN), followed by Articles 1 (bias for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and 7 (the TRO issued on the travel ban on the Arroyos). After that, they will again present the order of the remaining articles. He says determining sequence beforehand is “quite restrictive,” but they complied nonetheless. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile approves, saying the impeachment court will be “very lenient on this.”

2:18 pm: Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas says they don’t understand the reason behind the rearranging of the sequence of the Articles of Impeachment. He says it violates their client’s right to due process. Enrile orders to proceed with presentation, and prosecution starts with Article 2.

2:26 pm: Prosecution calls first witness: Supreme Court (SC) Clerk of Court Enriquetta Esguerra-Vidal. She takes oath.

2:28 pm: Lead private prosecutor Mario Bautista starts questioning Vidal. However, Cuevas interrupts, says prosecution should explain why they called Vidal to the witness stand. Bautista says he forgot to, then proceeds to explain why Vidal was there – it’s for the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of the CJ.

2:31 pm: Upon questioning, Vidal says she has been SC Clerk of Court since September 24, 2010, but has been employed by the Court for 36 years.

She also details the process in which a SALN is submitted and filed. She explains that the SALNs of the justices are submitted to her office, and that these are kept in a locked file cabinet. Vidal says SALNs are “unilaterally submitted” by the justices, and that currently, they are received by her office through a certain Juliet Acia. The SALNs are then received and then kept by a certain Verna Albano.

Vidal say the SALN is first given to her (by Acia), then it is given to Albano. The cabinet holding the SALNs is locked, she states, but there is no logbook where records of who and when it is accessed is kept.

2:47 pm: Vidal says she directly reports to the 15 justices of the SC, but says the Chief Justice gives orders on administrative matters.

2:50 pm: The discussion turns to the SALN. Bautista asks, is Vidal aware of the May 1989 resolution on the restrictions on the release of SALNs? She says, yes.

2:51 pm: Enrile reminds the prosecution that Vidal is not a hostile witness; Bautista says he was just asking her about her job as Clerk of Court.

2:52 pm: Vidal then explains she received a subpoena from the impeachment court at past 2 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, and she has asked permission from the court if she could present the SALNs to the Senate.

Cuevas manifests, says there is no sufficient time for witness to study the subpoena and prepare for the trial today.

2:54 pm: Vidal then tells the impeachment court, she did not bring the SALNs, citing the May 1989 court guideline. “I do not have any discretion to decide for myself,” saying she would heed the Supreme Court’s directive.

2:56 pm: Bautista now asks Vidal: Which prevails, the subpoena of the impeachment court, or the SC en banc resolution of May 1989? Vidal answers, “It is not within my competence. It is within the competence of the Supreme Court.”

2:58 pm: Enrile calls the attention of prosecution, and tells them that the tendency of their questioning is to cross-examine their own witness. He tells the prosecution, that they should classify her as a hostile witness so that they may cross-examine her.

Bautista concedes to Enrile, rephrases his questions. But Enrile is not satisfied; he bangs gavel, reprimands prosecution.

3:04 pm: Questioning resumes. Bautista asks, “how many requests for SALNs have been received by your office so far?” Vidal says, less than 10 since May, 1989. Bautista then asks Vidal about the process of requesting for the SALNs; Cuevas objects, says its immaterial; Enrile, however, says let Vidal speak.

Cuevas pleads on behalf of defense to be given time to study subpoenas. Enrile then asks prosecution to specify requests for subpoenas, so that court can do it properly.

3:09 pm: Session suspended for “one minute.”

3:18 pm: Session resumes.

3:20 pm: Session suspended, as Vidal is still out of the session hall. Then she arrives, session resumes again.

3:26 pm: Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon questions Vidal. He asks if she will present the SALNs even without SC  authorization, but she says she will just await SC en banc’s decision. Enrile then enters discussion, says they are expecting the judicial branch to respect the legislative branch.

A back-and-forth ensues, with Vidal hesitating to give the SALNs – which she later reveals she brought to the trial – and Enrile, and Senators Drilon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Jinggoy Estrada, Koko Pimentel, Edgardo Angara, and TG Guingona urging her to give it.

Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo, meanwhile, opposes the move, saying it could trigger a crisis between the Senate and the Supreme Court.

Lacson suggests the senator-judges put this to a vote.

4:04 pm: Enrile orders Vidal to surrender SALNs. He then tells defense to tell their client (Corona) not to punish Vidal. “We are bound to enforce our orders, the same way they are bound to enforce theirs,” he said.

4:14 pm: Enrile orders surrender and marking of SALNs. Trial suspended as court marks SALNs.

4:28 pm: Defense panel spokespersons Karen Jimeno and Tranquil Salvador III hold a press conference room. They say Corona sent word that it’s OK to give the SALNs to impeachment court. They also said they don’t object to the submission of the SALNs, but worry for Vidal because other justices are not in Corona’s control, and they might reprimand her for violating the court guidelines.

4:38 pm: Session resumes. Evidence entered into impeachment court’s records. Then court suspends session again at 4:41 pm, as the documents are being photocopied so all parties may have a copy.

4:48 pm: Meanwhile, on Padre Faura, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez tells reporters that Corona had authorized the release of the SALNs. He also said Vidal has nothing to worry about, saying there is every intention to comply with the subpoena.

Meanwhile, over at the Senate session hall, a minor face-off ensues. Defense calls the attention of Tupas for talking to Vidal. Tupas responds, saying they have no right to tell him that. Moments later, Vidal is left alone at witness stand.

5:16 pm: Session resumes after the SALNs are photocopied, and copies distributed. Prosecution enters documents into court records. A total of 15 exhibits included: SALNs from 2002-2010.

5:25 pm: Defense now enters the same SALNs as part of their evidence. The SALNs are now evidence of both prosecution and defense.

5:50 pm: Cuevas and Bautista spar over question to Vidal on Corona’s compliance on SALNs. Enrile interrupts, and tells them to let her answer. She affirms the compliance of Corona on the SALNs, and confirms authenticity of the marked documets as copies of the Chief Justice’s SALNs submitted to her office.

5:53 pm: Pangilinan questions Vidal: Was there a public disclosure of the SALNs? Vidal answers, “None, your honor.” Escudero then asks if there have been requests for copies of Corona’s SALNs, and if any requests were granted. Vidal says there were requests, but none granted. She also added, justices can choose to disclose SALNs without being reprimanded.

Drilon then asks about differences between mechanically (typewritten) and manually (handwritten) filled-up SALNs. He asks if it is possible that data manually entered would not be the true data; Vidal says yes, it is possible.

6:02 pm: Vidal is discharged, and prosecution says they will recall her in the future for the other Articles of Impeachment.

6:03 pm: Prosecution calls on second witness: Marianito Dimaandal, head of the Malacañang Records Office. He takes oath. Then trial is suspended again.

6:19 pm: Session resumes, Senator-judge Estrada notes differences between modes of receipt of the SALNs. JPE then says Vidal can go home now.

6:20 pm: Cuevas then manifests, asks Enrile on rules about panel members talking to witness on the stand. Enrile says they can’t and reminds counsels to refrain from doing so unless given permission by the impeachment court.

6:23 pm: Prosecution starts questioning Dimaandal. Jose Justiniano does the questioning, but defense questions relevancy of second witness to trial. Enrile allows testimony, but defense enters standing objection.

6:36 pm: Dimaandal states his job at the Records Office, and presents Corona’s SALNs, during the years he worked at the Palace. Justiniano moves to make it evidence of prosecution. Evidence is marked and recorded, but Escudero moves that the marking be done outside trial.

6:48 pm: Justiniano resumes questioning Dimaandal. Cuevas repeatedly objects to mode by which prosecution is asking questions to the witness. Enrile again interrupts, and asks witness a handful of questions clarifying if the SALNs are certified. He testifies that the SALNs are “duplicate originals.”

6:55 pm: Cuevas now cross-examining witnss, and asks Dimaandal about the correctness and veracity of the documents. He responds, saying he is not in position to say such. Drilon also asks witness.

7:02 pm: Dimaandal is discharged as witness. Next witness is called: Elbert Quilala, Register of Deeds of Marikina City.

7:08 pm: Enrile notes suggestion the trial be adjourned for the day. Prosecution, meanwhile, moves to have the marking of the documents be done at 10 am Thursday, January 19, before start of trial. Enrile agrees, and says witnesses should also be present during the 10 am session.

7:09 pm: Session is adjourned. Trial to resume 2 pm Thursday, January 19. – Rappler.com

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