Day 20 Corona Impeachment highlights: Silence in the court, the monkeys will talk

by Wilfred Avila
Originally posted in the Noisy Minority Facebook Page

In the morning, the Senator-Judges met in a caucus to discuss whether to accept as evidence the bank records of the Chief Justice, which were subpoenaed through a document which was allegedly fake. There was no further news on this though it was awaited the whole day with bated breaths.

With sirens and blinkers blaring, a House of Representative bus arrived carrying a load of Congressmen to boost the morale of the Prosecution panel and Congressman Banal who was suppose to take the stand. He never did!

A Sister Mary John, OSB (the same one who protected Jun Lozada during the ZTE Deal hearings) did an interview on television (Solar) declaring the Chief Justice as guilty of all charges. Without batting an eyelash, she proclaimed that having the accounts themselves should have been enough to judge him guilty. I cringe at the thought of this holier-than-thous casting out judgments as if they were on the top of the Saint’s List. She even refuted the statements of other Archibishops asking for a just and fair hearing. The hell with the truth, let’s throw Chief Justice Corona to the lowest depths of hell. That is what would happen had she been one of the judges. Talk about the Christian spirit she espoused when she accepted her vows!

Interesting enough, when I reported on food being served to the Press, suddenly there is scarcity of it. I should have kept my mouth shut. Hehehehehe.

Now for the hearings: As the session was called to order, there were 21 Senator-Judges present.

The Prosecution called for redirect PSBank President Pascual Garcia III and Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson. Tiongson was first to whom Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile directed a whole series of clarificatory questions. He asked about the steel cabinet containing bank records, the 2 officers in charge of it. She explained the method as to how the documents can be accessed.

She informed the Presiding Judge that she had consulted Garcia on the day Rep. Jorge Banal visited the PSBank Katipunan branch, on January 31, 2012. She recounted that Banal came to the branch on that date and asked for help from her about the document. She said she was “shocked” to see the photocopy of a specimen card that appeared to be a PSBank document. She then asked if the document is in their bank, and then proceeded to report the incident to her superiors. She related that the documents were then transfered to the PSBank main office in Makati on February 1.

JPE also asked about the PSBank audit, and who could have had access to the accounts at that time.

Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago takes the podium to ask questions. She assured the witness by saying, “Please do not be nervous. I am very practiced with witnesses who come to court for the first time.” Senator-Judge Santiago underlined that bank secrecy laws prohibit people from even asking about any foreign currency deposit account. In an aside, she also said, a “lawmaker is already a lawbreaker,” referring to a certain Congressman.

Santiago then stated that the law raises disputable presumption that the Congressman was the thief of that signature card. She also stated the politicians don’t just accept pieces of paper without identifying who is giving it. “The law says ‘pag hindi mo maipaliwanag iyan, ibig sabihin ikaw ang nagnakaw niyan.”

For the second time since the impeachment trial began on Jan. 16, Senator Lito Lapid approached the podium to question a witness about the supposed bank documents of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Lapid asked PSBank Katipunan branch manager Anabelle Tiongson if there were cameras installed inside their bank’s vault.

“Ms. Witness, may camera ba sa loob ng vault?” he asked. Tiongson answered that there was no camera inside the vault but there was a camera installed “outside.” Jokingly, he commented how “haggard” and tired she was.

“Pagod ka na ba? Parang haggard na haggard ka na? Nung [una kang tumestigo] tawa ka nang tawa,” the senator from Pampanga said. Tiongson replied that she was suffering from a sore throat.

Proceeding with this questioning, Lapid asked whether the documents shown by Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali and Quezon City Rep. Jorge “Bolet” Banal were indeed fake. Tiongson noted that the documents were “different,” reiterating that she did not provide the prosecution with the documents. “It is different [from our documents]. I did not give him [the documents] your honor,” came her reply.

PSBank President Garcia was then called to the witness stand. Enrile continued to ask the
questions. Garcia testified on the events concerning the transfer of the Corona documents from the Katipunan branch to head office, as well as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) joint audit undertaken. He said some of the accounts targeted by the AMLAC was the Chief Justice’s. The PSBank head also said that they classify accounts held by “Politically Exposed Persons, (PEP)” such as the Chief Justice.

Enrile immediately ordered the PSBank to produce the Chief Justice’s the exact signature card from 2010, which was submitted to the BSP-AMLAC audit team for comparison to leaked document. PSBank counsel Atty. Regis Puno stated that they already brought Corona’s signature card with them, but that it may be different from the one submitted to the AMLAC. Enrile then ordered Garcia to have an inventory of records of the Corona bank accounts submitted and shown to the BSP-AMLC audit team. He reiterated an earlier order that the bank should block out details of foreign accounts, if any.

Majority Floor leader Vicente Sotto (who is doing a yeoman’s job so far) informed the court that the bank has submitted documents that the court has requested, including the logbook that records people’s access to the bank records.

Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo discussed about the past proposals to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Law, and what he bewailed are the 3 probes versus the Chief Justice. He warned that no Senator-Judge is free from this kind of vindictive action should they vote in the negative or against the Chief Justice.

Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon takes the podium He asks about the two other peso accounts under the Chief Justice’s name, which Garcia mentioned in Day 19. Garcia testified to the court of two accounts, one peso time deposit and one peso checking account. He adds that there were 6 accounts that were jointly under the names of spouses Renato and Cristina Corona. He then presented the original signature card of the Chief Justice. Badgered by the Senator-Judge, Garcia reiterated about the dubious Annex A contents describing the “significant differences” of the photocopied document from the original. He finished by stating that there were a total of 42 points of differences between the two.

Senator-Judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr stood up to ask questions of Garcia, specifically about the access of audit personnel from BSP, AMLC.

Senator-Judge Teofisto Guingona III suggested that the original of Annex A could have been photo-copied and photo-copied again so that there were changes. Garcia stayed with his original statement that Annex A was a fake and while they may have been “similar” they still were far too different. Senator-Judges Sergio Osmena, Loren Legarda and Francis Pangilinan also took turns at the podium to ask more clarificatory questions.

Lead Defense Counsel Serafin Cuevas bewailed a newspaper article saying that the defense “has established guilt beyond reasonable doubt.” He added that there should be a court order to allow the AMLC to conduct an investigation. Garcia concurs. The defense counsel also said that Garcia would not actually know whether the entries on the documents in the audit are accurate or not since he was not privy to them. Garcia repled in the affirmative.

Senator-Judge Guingona told the bank official that AMLC does not actually conduct regular audits. He suggested that Garcia might be confused, saying there are AMLC representatives during regular BSP checks. Guingona further adds that he called the AMLC and the council said that they “categorically denied” they conducted an audit.

Senator-Judge Arroyo again reiterated that he was afraid that the law is being used for political vendetta and that it may just happen to all of them.

Senator-Judge Marcos stood once more to ask further clarificatory questions on the AMLC-BSP Audit. He also showed differences in the entries of the original as against the Annex A submitted by the prosecution.

Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson suggested a handwriting analysis be undertaken to compare the Chief Justice’s signature to those in the PSBank documents. Enrile retorted that the prosecution should do it. Lacson said that he suggested it to end the speculations over the signatures. “I’m not partial, I just want to get to the bottom of the
issue.” Presiding-Judge Enrile ordered that the Senator-Judges discuss it in caucus.

The Prosecution asked to adopt Garcia as their witness as far as the additional bank accounts are concerned. Defense was fast on their feet and objected that since the witness was recalled by the tribunal after he was discharged, the witness was neither the prosecution’s or for the defense’s. The issue is a first in that the Senator-Judges have been asking so many questions and many more evidences without anyone even presenting them that it remains a doubt whether this will hold water in the end.

As of late, the Senator-Judges have been acting more like prosecutors that it has actually brought confusion to the hearings than any sense of lucidity. This issue is to be decided in a caucus since this is another first for the Presiding-Judge.

The hearings today was froth with so many statements and questions from the Senator-Judges that it ceased to be a trial where the Prosecution was suppose to prove the guilt of the Chief Justice and the Defense to refute them. This did not happen!

As we sit back and watch events unfold, we really wonder as to the integrity and fairness of this hearing. The defense is correct in wondering and stating the obvious. The Senator-Judges were acting more and more acting like prosecutors though their often mentioned statement of searching for more clarification. As they go through this, their biases are showing more and more!

Today, all were silent! That is the prosecution and the defense panels. The monkeys talked. Yes, Silence in the court, the monkeys will talk!

Photo via Philippine Senate website