#CoronaTrial: Day 12

KD Suarez

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Day 12: Defense grills BIR chief Henares; Session suspended for nearly 2 hours to tackle motion for subpoena of Corona accounts, which they granted

MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 12 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

2:11 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 21 senators present. Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago still absent.

2:14 pm: Defense starts cross-examination of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares.

Private prosecutor Arthur Lim asks permission to ask a few questions more to Henares, saying they were not able to close their direct examination of the BIR chief. Defense objects, says it is against orderly presentation of witness. Enrile eventually relents.

2:23 pm: Prosecution, through private prosecutor Arthur Lim, continues direct examination of Henares. His first question dwells on the income tax returns of Constantino Castillo III, son-in-law of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Prosecution says they would like to show Castillo and his wife Carla, the daughter of the CJ, do not have enough income to buy the P18-M La Vista property, and that it is the elder Corona himself who bought it.

Constantino is a urologist who practices at the Medical City and Asian Hospital; he is also a member of the Philippine College of Surgeons.

Lim also asks to mark certificates authorizing registration of Corona’s shares of stock at the Palms Country Club.

2:49 pm: Lim ends direct examination. Cuevas commences cross examination. He asks if Henares can examine ITRs, and if they have jurisdiction over SALNs. Defense also asks about the BIR’s investigation on the Coronas. Henares reveals the BIR is probing the Coronas’ taxes from 1992 to 2010, a net worth investigation.

Cuevas questions the propriety of the BIR investigating Corona while the impeachment is ongoing. She tells court, she sees nothing wrong with the probe. “The alternative is we will be told we are sleeping on our job.”

3:07 pm: Cross examination ends. Lim conducts redirect examination. He asks about the SALNs. Enrile says Henares wasn’t qualified as an expert witness, but Lim argues it was the defense who asked first about SALN discrepancies. Enrile allows Henares to answer.

She says Corona understated net worth and failed to report several properties in his SALNs.

3:25 pm: Redirect ends. Enrile asks why she is citing discrepancies. She says they do a preliminary study on tax records, and that they saw the need to issue a letter of authority and to investigate the matter.

3:26 pm: Henares is discharged. Session suspended for “15 minutes.”

Defense, then prosecution, hold press briefings, as senator-judges hold a caucus to discuss the request for subpoena for Corona’s bank accounts.

5:23 pm: Session resumes. Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III reads impeachment court resolution on the request for issuance of subpoena for the Corona bank accounts.

The resolution allows the subpoena for bank documents and records of the Coronas, but sets specific limits on why they should be subpoenaed. The court says it should be relevant to the case, and should be closely related to the filing of SALNs. The Senate impeachment court ruling says law allows disclosure of bank accounts in local currency in cases of impeachment, while they cited several Supreme Court rulings that allow the disclosure of foreign currency deposit accounts.

The majority of the senator-judges, as the resolution stated, views the impeachment trial provides a valid exemption to confidentiality, even for foreign currency accounts. The request includes the subpoena of BPI, PSBank executives, documents.

5:35 pm: Defense seeks reconsideration of the impeachment court ruling, but Senator-judge Francis Escudero says only senator-judges can request for a reconsideration. He also says that the resolution was read in full to avoid causing panic in the banking sector.

He then asks the prosecution where they got some of the bank documents related to the Corona accounts, saying these violated the law. Prosecution’s Rep. Reynaldo Umali says it was given to him by a “small lady,” an anonymous source.

Umali recounts that last Thursday, February 2, he went to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to follow up on his district’s projects. And then he returned to the Senate, where he was given the document, among others. He can’t recall the exact instance when the documents were given to him. He later handed the document to Tupas.

Escudero reminds both sides that the court won’t tolerate violations of law to obtain details of evidence. Enrile, meanwhile, clarifies they are not pre-judging the admissibility or non-admissibility of evidence. The Foreign Currency Deposit Act, he says, imposes strict penalties, and the court will determine if it will impair admissibility. Sotto then asks the sergeant-at-arms to look into the identity of the lady-informant of Umali by checking Senate CCTVs.

5:53 pm: The request to add more private prosecutors for the prosecution is tackled, and Cuevas, in behalf of defense, objects. Deputy chief prosecutor Rodolfo Fariñas says that their lawyers appear pro bono. He questions defense lawyers for working for free for the Chief Justice, saying it violates the law, arguing it is a form of receiving gifts. Enrile says it’s a different issue, and let both sides be. “Palagay na natin na ito ay para sa bayan,” he says.

5:56 pm: Session adjourned. Trial to resume Tuesday, February 7, 2012, at 2 pm. – Rappler.com

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