#CoronaTrial: Day 15

KD Suarez

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Day 15: PSBank president back on witness stand, and grilled by senator-judges. Pascual Garcia III stands firm in not disclosing info related to foreign currency deposits, allegedly owned by Chief Justice Corona. BPI Ayala branch manager testifies.

MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of day 15 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Between 10am-2 pm: Pro- and anti-Corona supporters hold demonstrations outside the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, Manila, as the SC meets en banc to decide on the motions for TRO to stop the impeachment trial.

2:06 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 17 senators present.

2:10 pm: Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III says PSBank president Pascual Garcia III has submitted his explanation for not bringing the documents related to CJ Corona’s foreign currency deposits. The court will tackle it in caucus on Monday.

2:11 pm: Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas says they take exception to the statement made by Senator-judge TG Guingona, who said impeachment court is higher than the Supreme Court. Senator-judge Franklin Drilon suggests they file a memorandum on the issue.

2:16 pm: Presiding officer, Senator-judge Juan Ponce Enrile, explains that the decisions by the impeachment court are rendered by the entire body, not by individual senator-judges.

Cuevas says Guingona cited no jurisprudence in saying impeachment court is higher than the SC. Guingona responds, says he did not say the impeachment court is above the Supreme Court; he only said, according to him, the 2 bodies are not coequal. He reiterates his view that the impeachment court is “supreme.”

Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan meanwhile argues, no SC ruling will be foursquare applicable. “We are treading on virgin terrain,” he says. He also reminds everyone in court that what they say in court will be quoted in the future, and that their rulings will serve as precedent.

2:24 pm: Prosecutor and Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas is recognized. He talks about Article 4 on the SC status quo ante order vs the impeachment case against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. He argues that the framers of the Constitution removed the power of impeachment from the judiciary. He also argues, the SC is trying to meddle in matters given to the legislative branch by the Constitution. He says the defense is trying the case in 2 courts (SC, impeachment court).

He also says, “ang SC ay hindi puwedeng mag-decide sa impeachment kasi sila mismo ay impeachable officers.”

2:27 pm: Light moment, as Fariñas apologizes for his Tagalog, says he is more comfortable in English and Ilocano.

Enrile assures everyone, the court will decide on the case as a whole.

2:33 pm: Sotto: I move we terminate the privilege hour and proceed with the trial. Enrile: Privilege hour terminated! Prosecution asks to terminate testimony of PSBank president Pascual Garcia III and resume asking questions on Monday, but Senator-judge Franklin Drilon wants to ask him clarificatory questions. Prosecution calls back Garcia.

2:34 pm: Trial suspended to wait for witness.

2:35 pm: Trial resumes. Garcia at witness stand. Drilon asks questions.

Garcia asked by Enrile why PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabel Tiongson, who was the one subpoenaed by court, was not present. He says, branch manager was “stressed” over potential criminal liability of testiying on bank documents.

2:42 pm: Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada asks: Is the PSBank Katipunan branch manager a “little lady?” Garcia answers, “from my perspective, she’s not little, she’s tall.” (Estrada was alluding to the “little lady” that a prosecutor said was the source of the alleged PSBank documents it received.)

Drilon asks about one of the accounts presented by Garcia on Day 14. Garcia refuses to answer how much is the opening balance of the 3rd account under CJ Corona’s name, so Drilon asks that subpoena be issued for more information on the Corona accounts. Estrada moves to subpoena instead the bank manager, since Garcia won’t answer the questions.

Senator-judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr takes the floor, says impeachment court agreed in a caucus that they will only ask for year-end balances, so court subpoena covered only year-end balances. He asks, is the court now expanding the scope of the subpoena? Enrile concurs. Drilon then asks for subpoena for the opening balance of Corona accounts.

2:57 pm: Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano says the subpoena also asks for the opening documents. He argues, it should include the opening balance. Court subpoenas PSBank branch manager, Corona bank accounts, including records of initial balance.

3:02 pm: Drilon then asks about the dollar accounts of the Coronas. Garcia says, he cannot disclose anything on the said dollar accounts.

3:04 pm: Garcia confers with his counsel. He then tells court that he won’t disclose any information about the dollar accounts “of anyone.”

3:07 pm: Osmeña asks questions to Garcia. He says, the subpoena is lacking because funds could have been shifted, and moves to subpoena information, documents on movements in all types of accounts.

3:12 pm: Cuevas asks court if senator-judges are allowed to exceed 2-minute rule in questioning, and asks if senator-judges can “cross-examine” witness. Enrile says that based on precedence, the presiding officer cannot control how the senator-judges should ask questions.

3:13 pm: Senator-judge Alan Cayetano asks clarificatory questions. He cites the Salvacion rape case, which provides an exception to law on confidentiality of foreign deposits. He argues, “hindi ba ang mga korap ginagahasa ang bayan? ‘Di ba applicable din iyun dito?” Garcia however says that in his honest belief, he would be breaking the law if he talks about the dollar accounts.

3:25 pm: Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan asks clarificatory questions. If a depositor gives consent, will you disclose? Garcia says yes, they will. Pangilinan then asks defense: Could you ask for CJ Corona’s consent? Cuevas says they will confer with CJ Corona.

3:31 pm: Estrada then asks about the “leaked’ bank documents allegedly pertaining to CJ’s dollar accounts. Garcia says they believe the document attached by the prosecution to request for subpoena did not come from their bank. Court asks who can verify the document.

Enrile presses Garcia on the source of the copies of the alleged bank documents. Garcia maintains, the documents did not come from PSBank. Enrile then asks if accounts named by prosecution exist in PSBank records. Garcia first hesitates to answer but eventually relents. To all questions, Garcia says yes.

Enrile then asks Garcia to explain how prosecution got the account numbers, if not from the bank. He says, information did not come from them. Enrile says, it can only be concluded that the leak came from Katipunan branch. Garcia however insists it did not.

3:54 pm: Estrada continues clarificatory questions. Garcia explains the note “PEP” in the document in question, which means “politically exposed person.” Garcia says it refers to elected officials, or those in significant positions in government. Estrada presses on, asks about details of the document in question. Garcia later says, he can only comment on original documents, and what was presented was a photocopy of the alleged document.

4:06 pm: Trial suspended for “15 Senate minutes.” Sotto says 2 more senator-judges are lined up to ask clarificatory questions.

4:45 pm: Trial resumes. Senator-judge Pia Cayetano asking clarificatory questions to Garcia.

4:52 pm: Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson tells impeachment court that he has received information that the Supreme Court has just issued a temporary restraining order on the release of information of foreign currency accounts being subpoenaed by the impeachment court. Enrile then rules that in deference to the SC, the court will heed. Witness is temporarily discharged.

Meanwhile, across town, at Padre Faura, Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez announces the SC has voted 8-5 (with 2 inhibitions) to issue a temporary restraining order on the PSBank petition, which now prevents the foreign currency accounts’ details from being presented to court. On the Chief Justice’s petition, meanwhile, the court has deferred judgment, and has asked parties to submit their comments within 10 days. The court, Marquez says, is also formulating rules on justices being subpoenaed to the impeachment court.

4:55 pm: Session suspended for a minute.

4:57 pm: Session resumes, and prosecution calls on second witness for the day, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Ayala Avenue branch manager Leonora Dizon. Private prosecutor Arthur Lim conducts direct examination.

5:06 pm: Dizon presents documents subpoenaed for Corona’s BPI bank accounts. She testifies about a checking account under the name of “Renato Corona” in their branch. She testifies that from 2005 to 2010, the said bank account’s balance fluctuated, from Php 678,000to more than Php 12 million as of 2010. She also says the account is still active.

5:33 pm: Direct examination ends. Cross examination starts, with Cuevas conducting cross. Cuevas asks if the ending balances are result of different transactions, Dizon says it is possible. Defense asks for subpoena for the statements of account from 2005 to 2010 of the Corona account. Enrile grants Cuevas request, and then orders both sides to go together to the bank to get the statements.

5:43 pm: Senator-judges ask clarificatory questions. Osmeña asks to subpoena other accounts under the name of the Chief Justice that are in BPI, but Enrile says account numbers should be specified. Osmeña explains the need to subpoena, and Enrile relents, since the accounts are peso accounts. Drilon asks for the copies of the statements from opening of account to end-2010, Enrile approves request for subpoena.

5:47 pm: Senator-judges then debate on the subpoena request. Senator-judge P. Cayetano asks about the request for the documents, saying it is still up for discussion in caucus, as per understanding. Enrile says that in this case, depositor gave permission to examine the details of the BPI accounts. Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan says that senator-judges should be given more leeway to seek info, thus the request will be granted.

Cayetano says with the request, court might go into the issue of ill-gotten wealth, which was already removed by the court in the discussion of the impeachment case. Osmeña clarifies that he requested for the balance of any other deposit or deposits in BPI as of December 31, 2010, and that they might be able to ask for monthly balances in PSBank peso accounts.

Senator-judge A. Cayetano then says there’s a fine line between a fishing expedition and searching for the truth. He also tells witnesses that they can testify further on the accounts and are still protected by the court. He says that as long as the court is inquiring, the witness is not limited to the subpoena.

Drilon manifests, says Osmeña is only asking if there are other bank instruments to show the difference in SALN and the known assets of the Chief Justice.

6:10 pm: Lacson asks clarificatory questions, specifically about check numbers used to pay the Bellagio condominium. Dizon says she cannot identify if the checks are issued by the branch based only on the serial numbers.

6:13 pm: Senator-judge Joker Arroyo says current discussion can affect the discussion in caucus. He says the issue should be discussed in caucus, not argued in public. Enrile asks that when the senator-judges go to caucus, those who have special concerns should submit in writing their suggestions. Enrile also clarifies, after Sen. Pia Cayetano asks further clarification, that when they decided in caucus, they tackled the prosecution’s request for subpoena, and not the senators’ and defense’s requests.

6:20 pm: Pangilinan manifests, asks clarificatory questions to prosecution and Dizon.

6:21 pm: Cuevas tells court that the Chief Justice has several statements of account with him, and that the court might not need to ask the bank. Prosecution, however, insists both sides to go to the bank to get the statements. In the end, Lim agrees to visit with the defense the BPI-Ayalabranch on Monday, February 13 instead of Friday, February 10.

6:28 pm: Sotto reminds senator-judges of caucus on Monday, February 13, at 11 am.

6:29 pm: Trial adjourned, and will resume on Monday, February 13, at 2 pm. – Rappler.com

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