T HE IMPEACHMENT TRIALS – DAY 38, May 15, 2012
THE DRAMA PLODS ON!
By Wilfred Avila
I must immediately admit that I am not good with numbers and, having said that, found the entire hearing rather boring. Basically, it was a replay of yesterday’s hearing. Ho hum.
From a whopping 23 Senator-Judges present, the number had dwindled back down to 17. Surprisingly though, Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago stayed till the very end.
Scheduled again was the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales who was to continue with the Proscutor’s Cross examination and her testimony on the alleged US Dollar accounts owned by the Chief Justice.
Senator-Judge Kiko Pangilinan led the opening prayer and prayed for almost everyone except his own Shawee. Hahahahaha.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto immediately called on Senator-Judge Miram Defensor Santiago who proposed subpoenaing all 9 bank branch managers where Corona allegedly has accounts. Jut as quick, Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile said that they would tackle this in Monday’s caucus. This statement has a track record. When Senator-Judges don’t want to argue on the floor, they mention this as a mantra of sorts. More often than not, the proposal is declined in the caucus. Mark my words that this will be voted down since the Senator-Judges are in a hurry to get all of this ot of the way!
Sotto raised a concern by Pimentel if the testimony of COA’s Heidi Mendoza should remain on record. (Mendoza testified on Day 37 that the total inflow into Corona dollar accounts is $28M, while total outflow is $30M, recorded from April 2003 to December 2011.) Defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas said he was about to raise the issue. Pimentel takes the floor and formally moves to strike out Mendoza’s statements. Motion is approved.Sotto then asked about the status of COA Mendoza’s manifestations in the previous trial. Was it presented in evidence, he further inquired.
Presiding Judge Enrile said that Heidi Mendoza’s statement was not presented in evidence since she was never presented as a witness by the Defense. Lead Defense Counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, moved to strike it out of the record. It was immediately stricken from the records by Enrile.
The Ombudsman was recalled to the stand and Enrile, ever so sweetly said, “Madame Ombudsman, please bear with us.” Now that brings something to mind. Why can’t they the Senator-Judges apologize to the Filipino people for making them all go through this circus? Just a question albeit a valid one!
Morales then continued with her testimony. Total Summary of inflows: $12M. This is from April 14, 2003 to Dec 2011 (BPI Tandang Sora + Allied Bank Kamias). In December 2011, amount withdrawn from one account was $769,681.71. Morales then presented dates and amounts of withdrawals, deposits made to the mother account, and transfers to new accounts.
Private Prosecutor Mario Bautista asked the Court to have the Powerpoint Presentation of the Ombudsman’s report marked as evidence. Cuevas asked exactly what they were marking since this was never presented by the Defense in the first place. Ever ready Enrile replied that the honorable Ombudsman requested the permission of this court if she could present the documents allegedly from AMLC.
As in the previous hearing, Enrile made the request that the Court be provided a hard copy of the powerpoint presentation. All of us requested a copy, he said. The Ombudsman said she had already given the order to do so to her staff.
Enrile, after saying Powerpresentation 4 times in 1 sentence and to rectify himself said Powerpoint. I’m sorry I’m not literate enough in these things. Obvious ba? Haha.
Upon questioning by Bautista, Morales said that she did not know where the $769,081 went after it was withdrawn in December 2011. There were significant deposit and withdrawals. 2004 elections, 2007 elections and at the start of the impeachment proceedings.
On May 12, 2004, there was a deposit of $500,000 in BPI Acropolis. On May 14, 2004, deposit of $500,000. The date and source no longer indicates where the $769 thousand went in the final transaction. Then, she teasingly said that nothing shows who made the deposits. Maybe the bank can tell, she added.
The Ombudsman enumerated the ‘significant’ dollar account transactions alleged to the Chief Justice. May 3, 2007, there was a deposit made in BPI of $25,039.80 in BPI SF del Monte, she claimed. There was actually a study of peso accounts but since subpoena limited her to dollar accounts, she said that she just brought the dollar documents.
Prosecutor Bautista then asked the Ombudsman why she wrote those letters to the AMLC? Under the constitution, I am authorized, she perfunctorily replied. The Chief Justice authorized the Ombudsman in his SALN, she added.And, as if to prove her point, she continued to say that she is authorized to write letters to AMLC.
The prosecution asked her as to who were the members of AMLC. Cuevas objected to alleged coaching for Morales. Truth to tell, the whole gallery watched her do this several times asking for assistance from the Court whithour a by your leave from the Presiding Judge. Enrile was forced to dress down Prosecutor Bautista.
Bautista proceeded to ask Morales about Corona’s claims that AMLC audit is hoax and was a lantern of lies. Morales quipped that there are just lantern of lies. These documents were delivered to me by Executive Director of AMLC, Vic Aquino.
Bautista said that the best evidence are CJ’s accounts and he refuses to open his accounts. Morales repeated O(like a broken record) that she has the power to probe CJ Corona as he authorized the Ombudsman to check his assets thru his SALN. I am mandated by the constitution to investigate public officials whether they are inefficient, et al, she continued.
Someone couldn’t hold his/her bladder much longer and, therefore, session was suspended for one long minute. I guess the older you get, the harder it is to hold it in. Hehe.
At the resumption of the hearing, Defense Counsel Cuevas said that the nature of bank accounts were not indicated in the AMLC report.
A member of the defense team later whispers to Cuevas, to which Morales quips: “Are you coaching him?” Lead private prosecutor Bautista later on objects to questions in the redirect, saying Corona has not admitted ownership of the account. “You’re confusing the issues here,” Enrile tells prosecution. Bautista withdraws objection. Rule on coaching should apply to all participants in this drama! Finally, someone said the magic word that I was calling this trial all along, one big DRAMA and no less than the Ombudsman did so!
Cuevas responded to Morales as bitingly on whether she would like him to be on the witness stand? Then, he turned to Bautista and pointedly asked on whether he was cross-examining him?
Asked whether she did the Powerpoint presentation herself, Morales replied that she was personally involved in this but she did not do the arrows and the balloons referring to the screen showing the presentation.
Morales then negan to read the March 9, 2012 report from the AMLC. This is what she would refer to as the “report for “intelligent purposes in connection with complaint.”
Cuevas asked on whether this report was supposed to be confidential, Morales agreed with Cuevas. She said that the AMLC report is considered confidential but said she had to ask assistance from other govt agencies.
Asked on whether she could vouch for the veracity and content of the report, Morales said that the presumption is that they (the AMLC) would give to me the correct information. Cuevas countered by asking if it were a presumption arrrived at by the Ombudsman. Quick to answer, Yes. I cannot go to the bank myself to verify, the Ombudsman snapped.
Asked whether she had proof that she asked the AMLC for help. the Ombudsman produced a letter she sent the same.
In a veiled threat to the Chief justice, the Ombudsman mentioned a possible Impeachment Hearing this coming December if the Senator-Judges failed to convict him. Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago asked Morales if she intended to file an impeachment complaint against CJ in December if he gets acquitted? Even if this court acquits the chief justice, let him be warned that he will face another impeachment case.
Ombudsman Morales replied that she must abide by the provision the Ombudsman law abides. Santiago told Morales in no uncertain terms on whether it was the Ombudsman’s opinion that should somebody file a complaint against any public official you can go straight to the AMLC without going through the court?
Morales replied that it depended upon the complaint.
MDS to Morales: Will you file another impeachment complaint? You are fudging with your answer! You are arguing with a Senator-Judge!.
Morales: Mea culpa. (I’m sorry in Latin.)
Santiago: I accept your apology.
The Ombudsman said as a reply that she made sure there was no double counting on the alleged Corona dollar accounts. Yet, it was obvious that the Ombudsman turned docile as Santiago was questiong her. She must have been aware of the sharp mind of the Senator accompanied by her sharper tongue.
Sen. Cayetano then stood up to say that when he was part of the Blue Ribbon Committee, AMLC would tell us they can’t help us. We have to get a court order. Cayetano wanted to clarify if AMLC documents is admissible in the Impeachment trial. He further asked whether the Ombudsman will have protocol where nature of complaint calls for AMLC info, will it be SOP regardless of PNoy, foe or ally?
Enrile was concerned where this line of questioning was going and sid that questions on the Ombudsman’s power may be more apt for hearing in aid of legislation, not the Impeachment hearings. Nevertheless, Morales replied that the question should be to AMLC. If they determine they cannot give data, they can say that. Even without waiver, I would have access to documents but whether or not AMLC would have provided me is a different story, she added.
Senator-Judge Greg Honasan stood up to address the Ombudsman and said that he wanted to have the peace of mind that the CJ was not being singled out here. Morales replied that as far as the case against the CJ is concerned, this is the first she asked AMLC during her incumbency.
Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano expressed her desire to discuss in caucus how to treat Morales’ testimony in the Impeachment hearings.
Enrile said that He who produces a witness must be bound by testimony. Defense called Ombudsman. Cayetano then cited jurisprudence and asked whether the Ombudsman refer administration cases to the Supreme Court? It seemed to her as a circuitous way of going about probes. How will Ombudsman’s evidence be treated?, she followed up.
Senator-Judge Estrada, after praiding the Ombudsman to high heavens, wanted an assurance that the Ombudsman was not being manipulated. Morales replied that she would not allow herself to be used. I assure you of that. Whoever wrote this script must be fed to the wolves.
Asked by Estrada on the cases pertaining to PGMA, Morales saikd that there were no request or transmittal of bank documents from AMLC. estrada reiterated a copy of the AMLC reort and he was told by Morales that she directed submission of same report to the Senate.
Senator-Judge Chiz Escudero clarified the purpose of the Ombudsman investigation. he asked in the vernacular, “Bakit ang sinubmit ng AMLC umabot sa 2011, 2012 kung ang SALN hanggang 2010 lang? Will there be a need for us to call and ask AMLC to testify? I will also ask this in caucus. Morales impatiently commented that it was the Senate’s call! Any tary ni Nanay, di ba? Btw, weren’t you bothere by those eyeliners that went heavenward? It was, to me anyway, annoying.
Senator-Judge Koko Pimentel asked the Ombudsman on what was the margin of error in her report. Morales replied that the estimate for “margin of error” would be that the fresh deposits would be at least $10M.
Morales responded to questions from Senator-Judge Loren Legarda on how much the Chief Justice could have in various account at any given time. She said that Corona could have had $10M in transactions in various accounts. Morales further admitted that she has not been able to determine Corona’s balance in bank accounts at any one time. If we believe charges before us need info from AMLC, we would tap AMLC, she replied to a question o whether she would ask assistance from the AMLC again.
Other senator-judges posed questions to Morales, among them Senator-Judges TG Guingona, Franklin Drilon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson and Pia Cayetano.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also took to the floor and tells the Ombudsman: “Sana you give us the assurance that your office will not be used to get back at the administration’s political opponents.”
“I won’t jeopardize my 40 years of government service — spotless,” Morales replied. “I will not allow myself to be a tool of anyone to get back at certain persons.”
Sen. Francis Escudero takes his turn, points out the waiver in the SALN pertains to past years including the year the person assumed office. “Bakit ang sinubmit ng AMLC umabot sa transactions in 2011, 2012?” he asked. “Will there be a need for us to call AMLC to testify?” Morales says that will be the decision of the Senate.
Session resumes after a brief break. Senators Koko Pimentel and Loren Legarda pose questions to Ombudsman. Morales is discharged as witness. Defense asks impeachment court if they can continue presenting witnesses tomorrow,
Finally, it was over! Ombudsman Morales was discharged from the witness stand.
Meanwhile, Rep. Erin Tañada said the prosecution was pleasantly surprised when defense summoned Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. “Parang sinagot ang aming mga panalangin,” he said. Tañada added that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report that Morales presented at the trial confirms Corona has dollar accounts and that Speaker Sonny Belmonte had a copy of Ombudsman’s documents but didn’t disclose them since he knew Morales was testifying.
“We’re prepared if the defense decides to put the Chief Justice immediately on the stand,” Tañada said. “This will be a welcome development to the public.” Tañada also said Corona has to open his dollar accounts to refute the AMLC report.
When asked about the possibility that the numbers presented yesterday were bloated, Tañada said it would be “very hard” to confirm whether the figures from the AMLC report are bloated or not.
This was clearly like a repetition of Secretary Leila De Lima’s testimony. While the Prosecution was raving, it is also clear that it left more quesions to be answered.
Yet, in the same token, the defense has their work cut out for them. They should not be rushed into terminating their Defense, by ANYONE! It was so obvious that Enrile wanted to end the defense by asking whether there was need to present the other witness. We are pleased to note that Cuevas said that the Defense still had to present complainants to the Ombudman’s Office against the CJ as witnesses.
Let Justice be the winner here and tgether. Let not the blindfold of Lady Justice be blind to the truth. This drama has a long way to go and we will be here until the end. Who’s end, no one can tell. But this I can say, the Fuilipino people will not accept abything less than fair and justice no matter the creams of the multitudes for blood and more blood!