Fariñas steals show on Day 12

Carmela Fonbuena

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The Ilocos Norte solon questions Corona's pro bono counsels

MANILA, Philippines – Senators were about to wrap up Day 12 of the impeachment trial when prosecutor Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas stood up—amid a cheering audience in the gallery—to attack Chief Justice Renato Corona for accepting free legal services from top caliber lawyers.

Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, in a way, asked for it. Fariñas participated for the first time in the impeachment trial only to respond to Cuevas’s attacks against the prosecution’s motion to enter the appearances of new private prosecutors.

Prosecutor Rodolfo Fariñas

Cuevas expressed concern that the “avalanche of private prosecutors” must be costing the government and taxpayers a lot. About 59 private lawyers have offered their free services to the prosecution.

Private prosecutors on the floor couldn’t help but shout, “pro bono.” One even said, “Abonado pa kami.”

Fariñas then told the court: “We are also surprised with the caliber of lawyers they have…. They are giving their services to the Chief Justice for free. They come from big law firms and they have pending cases before the Supreme Court.”

Bawal po sa isang public official na tumanggap ng regalo na nagkakahalaga ng malaki. De Kampanilya ang mga abogado niya. Mahal ang rates. Binibigay nila [serbisyo] nila ng libre,” Fariñas added.

In the end, Cuevas could only say to Fariñas: “Thank you for flattering us.”

In the prosecution press conference that followed, Fariñas said the Chief Justice may have violated Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees, when he tapped the services of lawyers for free. The code stipulates that public officials are not allowed to accept gifts that could affect the performance of their duties.

Tupas’s mansion?

During the prosecution press conference, lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr. was also asked about a supposed mansion that he was building in Xavierville, Quezon City, which a newspaper report said is not justified by his P25,000 monthly salary.

Tupas dismissed the report. “Umpisa pa lang ng trial, I was already warned. I was told, “You will be subject to a demolition job to divert the attention from the real issues,” Tupas said.

Mayroon akong bahay na ipinapatayo sa Xavierville I. Hindi yun P50-million. Yun ay last year na bahay na binili ko. Ang deed of absolute sale noon ay P14-million. Yun ay mare-reflect sa SALN ko ngayong taon,” Tupas added.

Many have been waiting for Fariñas to participate in the trial after his controversial “walkout” on Week 2 of the impeachment trial.

At the time, he expressed his frustration over his colleagues who blocked him from taking the podium. He was later appointed deputy lead prosecutor.

On Monday, February 6, Fariñas made light of his previous outburst.

Noong umpisa, medyo kulang ‘ata sa tiwala sa akin ang mga kasama ko,” Farinas said to laughing members of the media.

Kanina, pinagbigyan nila ako…. Junjun, pangako ko sa ‘yo ‘pag hindi ako makakatulong, hindi ako magsasalita,” he added in jest, addressing Tupas.

Good day

It was a good day for the prosecution panel.

The Senate impeachment court granted its request to subpoena the bank records of Corona, including a dollar account in PSBank.

Based on the request filed by the prosecution panel, the Chief Justice had a US$700,000 account with PSBank. This is about P30-M based on current exchange rates.

The defense panel had opposed the request, saying it was not a part of the impeachment complaint and already touches on ill-gotten wealth, which is an issue that Senate impeachment court had barred the prosecution panel from pursuing.

On Day 12, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares also divulged during the trial that the bureau is investigating the Chief Justice. She said Corona has been informed that BIR officers are already looking into his records.

Based on initial review of the BIR, Henares concluded that the Chief Justice did not correctly declare his assets in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Prosecution spokesperson Rep. Miro Quimbo said Henares’s testimony was a good way to wrap up Article 2, which accuses Corona of failing to disclose his SALN and committing graft and corruption. – Rappler.com


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