Day 16 Highlights: The longest wait…the longest day

By Wilfred Avila
Originally posted at Noisy Minority Facebook Page

The day started tense,….very tense. Against a backdrop of a Sunday Press Conference held by the Defense Panel at the Club Filipino claiming that P100,000,000.00 was being bandied about for votes to reject the TRO issued by the SC and talks of a walk out by the Defense Panel should this occur and a coup d’etat by the Drilon wing at the senate of Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, there was more than enough to keep everyone at the edge of their seats.

It certainly was the longest wait in the five week history of the trials. Even the media men were unusually silent. They waited patiently for events to unfold. There were even talks that the media would stop covering the events because the Senate was complaining of the high cost of electricity which the media were using tapping to their main line. This really should have been thought of from Day One! The cost is rising!

The Senator-Judges have gotten in the act of being extra nice to the media by sending sandwiches and drinks from the ritziest snack bars. Padalhan mo naman ako Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. Ang tagal ng hearing nyo. Sumakit ang ulo ko!

It was really too long a wait. The Senator-Judges were holed up in the Presiding Officer’s conference room deciding whether to accept the TRO of the Supreme Court on opening the foreign currency deposits in PSBank.

When Presiding-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile sauntered into the hall in his suit, we realized that one of the unanswered question was clarified. All was well in the Senate Hall. There could be no doubt about that with his smile.

A few minutes later, the Senator-Judges filed into the Senate hall. Twenty-two senators were present, including the feisty Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who had been absent in the previous sessions because of some medical reason.

Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada manifested, and proceeded to “denounce” the allegations made on Sunday, February 12, by the defense panel lawyers about the “bribery offers” made by Malacañang to the senator-judges. “I challenge you, the defense panel, to name your source… Magpakalalaki tayo dito.”

Senator-Judge Alan Peter Cayetano asked defense lawyers about the Sunday presscon, says he tried to understand what they did. He excused lawyers Serafin Cuevas and Joel Bodegon for not having been in the Press Conference. As he continued he said that the defense panel put the impeachment court in a tough position. Also denouncing the defense’s conference was sister Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano!

Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon, seeming to have found a loophole, took the floor and asked Roy about their comment that they would present Chief Justice Corona’s dollar bank accounts “in due time.” Roy confirmed this, but says they are not authorized to say when and continued saying it is at the discretion of their client. The time has not arrived for that!

Coup d’etat leader and convict Senator-Judge Antonio Trillanes IV asked the defense as to who the senators referred to? Roy immediately replies that their info had nothing to do with the identity of the senators. Trillanes moved to have the defense explain why they should not be cited for contempt. Presiding-Judge Enrile gave the Defense the end of the week to submit their memorandum.

Presiding Judge and Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile began to read the Senate decision on the Supreme Court TRO. The 13 who voted to abide by the TRO were: Sotto, Legarda, Estrada, Santiago, Revilla, Honasan, Pimentel, Recto, Arroyo, Villar, Enrile, Escudero, Marcos

The 10 who voted to defy the TRO were Osmena, Angara,, Lacson, Cayetano (Pia, Alan) Lapid, Pangilinan, Guingona, Trillanes and Drilon

Immediately after and one-by-one, the Senator-Judges explained their votes: Teofisto Guingona III, followed by Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV, A. Cayetano, P. Cayetano, Santiago, Estrada. Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Manuel Villar. Senator-Judges Pangilinan, P. Cayetano, and Presiding Officer Enrile manifested that they would file written explanations of their votes. As Enrile said: “For those interested and the students of law!”

The irrepressible and sometimes extremely hilarious Senator-Judge Santiago proceeded to face-off against lead prosecutor Niel Tupas with some questions. She grilled Tupas about their knowledge of the alleged dollar accounts, and the relevance of the accounts to their case.

She asked Tupas clarification on what should be the benchmark when declaring an account shows betrayal of public trust; she answered her own question that it should depend on the circumstances of the defendant. She also asks if the Corona accounts have been investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council; Tupas, without realizing where this was leading to replied that he didn’t know.

The legal review continued and she pursued with her questioning Tupas about the prosecution’s arguments on bank secrecy and its relevance to the case. She also manifested about the implications of opening foreign deposits. The lady Senator-Judge gives Tupaz a grade of 3 if he were in her law class! This is the continuing nightmare of Tupaz —- a Santiago!

About 2 hours into the hearing, the Senate impeachment court called on PSBank president Pascual Garcia III to the witness stand. garcia must have breathed a sigh of relief when both the prosecution and the defense declared that they no longer had question of him because of the court’s resolution on the SC TRO earlier.

Not to be brushed aside, Drilon and Osmeña asked clarificatory questions. Osmeña also asked that the court include in the court’s subpoena for bank documents, documents on settlement accounts under investments management, trust accounts, and mutual funds in pesos. The witness was discharged!

PSBank Katipunan branch manager Anabelle Tiongson is called to the stand. She is reminded to speak only of the pesos account and nothing else. Senator-Judge Drilon interrogates Tiongson about the PSBank peso accounts under the name of the Chief Justice.

Lead defense counsel Cuevas asked the court as to Whose witness is currently on the stand? He underlines that the prosecution did not claim her as their witness. Enrile clarifies that she was summoned by Drilon. Drilon said the witness was subpoenaed to bring opening documents of Corona, not for the alleged leakage of the bank documents.

Cuevas argues, they don’t know the value of her testimony. A. Cayetano said that this was a regular procedure for an impeachment court. The precedence, Cayetano said, was the impeachment trial of former President Estrada.

Enrile scolded the prosecution, saying they are just gathering evidence now, and that this would be a “fatal flaw” later on. Enrile, Cuevas, Drilon debated on the subpoena for Tiongson.

Drilon argued that the witness was called to testify on the basis of an earlier subpoena; a subpoena that was issued again because it was Garcia who testified, and the opening documents were not brought to court.

Cuevas, however, maintained that Tiongson was neither a witness for the prosecution, defense, or for Drilon. Custodio then says ruling was already made for the prosecution to adapt her as witness. Enrile then orders Tiongson’s earlier testimony stricken off the record because no one offered her testimony, and orders prosecution to direct examine her.

Reprimanded and humbled, the Prosecution then presented Tiongson as their witness, rather belatedly. She presented a certification of all the account of CJ Coronado related to the 5 peso accounts at PSBank. Enrile grilled Tiongson about the bank records, specifically the generation of the bank certifications.

As cross-examination was about to start, Senator-Judge Estrada, because he had requested Tiongson to appear before the court. Enrile however, wanted cross examination the witness before Estrada manifests.

It was the turn of the Defense to cross examine. Cuevas asked Tiongson about the documents. He asks if Tiongson knew Tupas, saying they have information that the lead prosecutor is a client of the bank. The prosecution vehemently objected and said that it was irrelevant to the case. Tiongson invoked the Bank Secrecy Law.

In a turnabout play, Cuevas demanded to subpoena Tupas’s bank records, but Enrile denied the request and said that the bank accounts of the lead prosecutor has nothing to do with the case.

Finally Estrada was able to manifests and asked clarificatory questions to Tiongson. He asked why she did not appear the first time she was called, and reasons why is it that Garcia offered to take the stand on her behalf.

Estrada asked about the leak of the Corona bank documents to the prosecution. Tiongson says it did not come from their bank or branch. Looking forever perplexed, one wonders how this lady was able to make it as Branch Manager. To make things clearer for the the Presiding-Judge offered his own copy of the records and asked that it be shown to the witness for comparison.

As the hours were getting later in the day, Sotto informed the court that based on CCTV video, there was no “small lady” handing documents to Rep Reynaldo Umali. This would be very telling in a later exchange in the court!

Enrile pressed Tiongson if the documents were a replica or copy of a document from their bank. What seemed like an innocent enough question became the bombshell of the day! The witness said that the DOCUMENTS WERE FAKE and did not come from their bank! All hell broke loose!

All eyes turned on the prosecution panel! Enrile wanted an explanation from the prosecution. Tupas explained that they got it from Cong. Prosecutor Umali and after meeting in a hotel, they decided to include it in their documents. Enrile ordered the prosecution to explain in 24 hours. Suddenly, Tupaz’ voice changed as that of a pubescent voice caught at something wrong!

Senator-Judge Estrada, finally able to speak, asked Tupas as to why, then, did he attach the documents to your subpoena? Tupas replied that they did it in good faith. He also points to the media as having information about it, also mentions two newspaper columns. (This is funny since every lawyer and even non-lawyers would not bank their accusations on these questionable documents.)

Enrile ordered Tiongson to bring the document in question – if it exists – or a similar document so that the court can compare it to the document attached to the prosecution request for subpoena.

It was time for another Bombshell! Tiongson says that the documents were in their mother office and not in the bank where the depositor keeps his account! Tiongson also mentioned that their branch was audited by representatives from the Central Bank and said that the auditors were able to see records. More room for questions at a later date, methinks!

At around a little after 8:00pm, the session was adjourned. WHEW!

What was even more interesting was that Prosecutor and Congressman Umali suddenly ran away from the session hall when the inquisition on the source of the bank accounts began. He could not be found by any network and Tupaz squeaked like a young pubescent boy changing into womanhood! Hahahaha!

My friends, let me very clear on a few things here now. This is not a blog on just the proceedings. I am neither for or against the prosecution or the defense. I am for the truth. If my slip shows, once in a while, I can’t help it because that is how I see it personally. Also, I cannot for the life of me stand by and watch a man bamboozled into kingdom come because of the whims of one man and a bunch of liars and thieves. If you don’t like what I write —- delete it! That so many people follow this only points to the fact that I must be doing something right and shared by a lot of others so I really won’t miss you!

That having been said, what was the longest wait for the trial to begin ended up being the longest day for everyone.

Video Highlights:

Santiago to Tupas: I give you a grade of 3, in UP, that means I pass you but I warn you 1/2

Annabelle Tiongson (PSBank branch manager): These are fake documents… They did not come from our bank

Photo source: Philippine Senate