Day 19 Highlights: They come in twos!

by Wilfred Avila
Originally posted at the Noisy Minority Facebook page

It is obvious that the Administration has not changed its tact regarding The Chief Justice. Daily, the Senator-Judges hold court at the senate hall while Sec. Lacierda holds court at the Malacanang Press Office. The subject of both courts — Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. They really come in twos! Both courts hold their hearings everyday!

The statement that the Chief Justice is fighting in two battlefronts should not be taken lightly. Lacierda continues to comment on the trial and supplies the ammunition to the badly depleted of brains and legalese Prosecution Team.

Now we are regaled by two surprise sources of the bank documents of the Chief Justice, Prosecutor-Cong. Umali and Cong. Banal (both in the Justice Committee of the House). That both got it by spurious means is of no moment to anyone. It just came to them conveniently.

Not satisfied with that, the President kicked off his EDSA 1 celebrations with the “Pulong Bayan ng Pangulo at La Consolacion College. That it was staged primarily to attack the CJ was obvious enough. Videos and a slide presentation were prepared to underline his statements. Only the opening part of the speech reflected on the role his mother had with EDSA 1. (Did she really have any role? A lot of people involved in the said revolution question her participation to this day and that includes the major players!)

The Prosecution Spokesmen hold two press conferences everyday! They started the first at about 1:20 pm and talked about the documents being fake or not! Guess what they said?

22 Senator-Judges were present as the hearing started close to thirty minutes late. Yes, our favorite Senator-Judge was present, Miriam Defensor Santiago.

She questioned the Prosecution whether the PSBank witnesses present were their Hostile witnesses? Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr, on the other hand, refused to treat them as hostile witnesses.

Santiago then proceeded to give a free lecture to Tupas about hearsay. “Let me bring to you our happy memories of UP Law. What did you learn about hearsay?” Without waiting for a reply, she then went on with her lecture to the great merriment of the court.

PSBank President Pascual Garcia III was scheduled to return to the witness stand but Senator-Judge Sergio Osmeña III requested that the court call PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson first.

When asked, Tiongson said that she brought the documents that Osmena requested. Tiongson enumerated details of Corona’s PSBank. Osmena asked if Corona had other accounts aside from those that Tiongson enumerated. Tiongson said that she didn’t have any knowledge of that.

Senator-Judge Santiago rose again to say that Tiongson’s testimony was hearsay because she wasn’t the one who entered in the money. But the senator said that she could help “lay the foundation.” Santiago then proceeded to do so.

Tiongson said that she didn’t know who produced the documents involved. “Perhaps prosecution should know,” Santiago said and laughed.

After having questioned and basically qualifying Tiongson as a witness she quipped, “Counsel, take note,” she said. The general public laughed.

The good Senator did say that the Prosecution was on her good side that day. I wouldn’t take that lightly Niel Tupaz! On her good or bad side, you still look like a lost child in the world of men and law! In fact, on her good side, you looked worse.

A short recess was called and PSBank President Pascual Garcia III was asked to take the witness stand.

Lead Defense Lawyer Serafin Cuevas informs Presiding Judge Enrile that they still intend to cross-examine Tiongson. Enrile reassured Cuevas that they may still do so even if the witness was already discharged.

On questioning, Garcia said that CJ Corona had other peso accounts that were not in the original subpoena, a peso time deposit account that was opened on July 23, 2010, with P7-M. It was closed on September 1, 2010.

Corona had another peso time deposit account that was opened June 29, 2011, added Garcia. It had a P17-M and was closed on Dec 12, 2011, Garcia says.

Garcia said that Corona had 2 other accounts but that he didn’t have the details then. Osmena asked Garcia if it didn’t seem strange that account was closed less than 6 months after it was opened. Garcia replied that depositors have “different” reasons.

Tupas jumped up and eagerly stated that Corona was impeached on December 12, 2011. Corona closed the 3 accounts on the same date as stated by Garcia.

Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada questioned Garcia about Corona’s other bank accounts. “Ayoko mag-isip ng malisya pero nagsusupetsa talaga ako,” he says. (I don’t want to think maliciously but I’m becoming suspicious.)

Senator-Judge Francis Pangilinan wanted the bank official to produce documents related to the closing of the accounts. This was approved by JPE!

Tiongson was asked to return to the witness stand. Defense negan to cross examine her.

Cuevas asked Tiongson about her knowledge of who assisted in the opening of Corona’s accounts. She said that she didn’t know who they were. Cuevas underlined that if Tiongson did not know the people who made the entries in the documents, she would not know the accuracy of the entries since, even she, wasn’t there. Her testimony was therefore based on “hearsay” he concluded.

Seeming to asisst the Prosecution further, Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago asked Tiongson some questions about the documents, and said there is an exemption to the hearsay rule.

“All you know is this person must have followed regular procedure,” Santiago asked. Tiongson agreed and said the people concerned might not be connected to the bank any longer. Santiago concluded that Tiongson’s testimony was now prima facie accepted. She then allowed the prosecution to go ahead and do a redirect examination.

Enrile allowed private Prosecutor Demetrio Custodio to ask redirect. Custodio asked about the closing balances of the accounts earlier in question. Tiongson claimed that says she didn’t know. Senator-Judge Lacson emphasized that the witness didn’t know because PSBank president Garcia already said he had the documents at the main branch.

Senator-Judge Sotto, through Senator-Judge Loren Legarda, asked for the relevance of the SALN closing balance on December 12, 2011. Prosecutor Custodio answered that it hads no diect relevance to the SALN but that it showed an attempt to conceal the amount.

Legarda then proceeded to ask Tiongson a “simple question…..” Have you given information – in any form – to any person in the past?” She replied that she never did.

“Did anyone who had access to the vault leak info?” No, Tiongson retorted. When did you have knowledge of a leak, Legarda asked. Tiongson said that she only knew of it when the petition for the TRO was made and when she was advised by bank officials.

Asked about an internal investigation in PSBank, Tiongson said that Garcia ordered it.

Then a bombshell exploded in the Senate Hall. The second source of the bank documents was revealed! Tiongson informed the court that Quezon City Representative and member of the Justice Committee Jorge Banal went to their branch to “ask for help” about a photocopy of a document “similar to Annex A.”

She continued saying that Cong. Banal asked her about a marking on a photocopy of the document. She said he was holding something similar to their bank’s signature card, which apparently was under the name of the Chief Justice.

Banal asked if a marking was a dollar sign. When she said she could not help him, he just left. Banal’s visit was in January 31 or before the Senate impeachment court issued the subpoena for the bank documents.

Presiding Judge Enrile asked if Banal approached Tiongson before or after the records were requested by Garcia as per subpoena. Tiongson says it was BEFORE Garcia’s request.

Senator-Judge Santiago asks how Tiongson knew Banal. She replied that she met him before during the inauguration of a covered court in Xavierville I. Santiago further asked about the circumstances about the Banal visit. Tiongson also mentioned that the QC representative introduced himself as part of the “secretariat,” but refused to divulge other information apart from the document he was trying to verify.

Santiago asked that Congressman Banal be subpoenaed. Enrile immediately approved the motion for subpoena. Sotto said that some members of the court would like to invite Banal to court, instead of issuing subpoena for him, since he is a member of the House of Representatives. Senator-judge Joker Arroyo agreed, as part of interparliamentary courtesy. Enrile approved the motion, Banal was finally invited and not subpoenaed to explain the PSBank incident Tiongson spoke on.

Senator-Judge Arroyo queried on whether Banal was a member of the House Committee of Justice? Lead Prosecutor Niel Tupas replied that Banal was an ex-officio member, due to his post as house majority leader.

Estrada pointedly asked Tupas as to which came first, the Banal incident or the “small lady” incident? Tupas, obviously not liking where this was going, replied that he knew of the bank account only starting February 2, and the document they attached to the subpoena request came from Prosecutor-Congressman Reynaldo Umali.

Tiongson then retells how the Corona accounts were closed back in December 12, 2011. She says that manager’s checks were issued, and were released to Mrs. Cristina Corona upon certification of the Chief Justice.

Senator-Judge Drilon requested that subpoenas be issued of records of bank accounts, if any, under the Chief Justice’s wife. Enrile asks PSBank officers in court if they would bring it without subpoena, and Garcia says they will bring them in next hearing, without need for subpoena.

Drilon furhter stated that the documents which showed where the money from the closed accounts went should be included. Garcia said he wasn’t sure, and will have to verify.

Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano then asked the court, what the relevance of the bank accounts to Article II were and added that it was beyond its scope. Enrile clarified that whatever assets of a person should be in SALN, including cash, property, investsments.

Lead Defense Counsel Cuevas then stated that the witness is being “bulldozed” to produce accounts even if not specific, says its a fishing expedition. Enrile clarified that the information came from the witness herself.

Tiongson submitted the logbooks earlier asked by court. PSBank counsel also tells court, other documents requested are with them in court. She was then excused!

Garcia was recalled to the stand, and Enrile asked him about the transfer of the Corona bank documents to the PSBank main office on January 31, 2012. They later debate on the differences, similarities between annexed documents and originals.

Majority Floor leader Sotto informed the court that the SC Clerk of Court Deputy has been ordered to bring logbook of raffle for FASAP case, as well as the documents on the petition for TRO of former president. Sotto also announcedt that there would be a caucus for the senator-judges on Monday, February 20, at 11 am.

The Prosecution then requested for a deposition to be undertaken of a witness. Enrile denies it and said, “The court wants to hear the witnesses.”

Lead Prosecutor Tupas said that Banal is in court and ready to make an explanation. Sotto commented that the consensus of Senator-Judges is to let Banal explain, but questions would be posed to him on Monday.

Congressman Banal admitted that he went to PSBank Katipunan on Jan 31. He said that the document was left at the letter slot at the gate of his house. He continued that he went to the bank and asked for help from Tiongson, but that she was firm but polite in turning him down. He further said that he did not tell his peers in the prosecution about visiting PSBank. “Wala po akong sinabihan kaya di nila alam,” he tells the court.

It is at this point we question the veracity of what Banal has said so far. Congressman Banal, failed to state that he is the brother of Inquirer columnist Conrado Banal lll, and who had written a column that appeared in the Inquirer on Feb. 2, 2012, on the very same theme of the alleged “$700,000” deposit amounting to P30 million which Banal claimed was the talk of the town.” – The Daily Tribune. Amado Macasaet of Malaya and Abante, also wrote about the same bank records on or about that time.

For the column to come out on Feb.2, this had to be written on Feb. 1, or a day after Banal’s Congressman-brother showed the branch manager the photocopy of the bank record and deposits of the CJ.

This day has been a double whammy for everyone. Banal and Umali. The Senate Court and the Media Court. The President and the Chief Justice. Malacanang and the Supreme Court. The Impeachment hearing and the Filipino People! They certainly come in twos!