Day 21 Highlights of the Corona Impeachment Trial: Sadly they all fell short

by Wilfred Avila

The Articles were many, eight in all. If you fail in one, you get him with the other. That was the genral plan. The way it’s been going, They all fell short of their target!

Dean Amado Valdez really strikes me as a man who wants so bad to be a Supreme Court Justice himself. Since day one of the trial, he has not said a good word for anybody in the Defense. He has even attacked Former Justice Serafin Cuevas in most of his interviews.

He seems to have conveniently forgotten that he stepped down as the Head of the Government GOCC due to some “undisclosed” reasons. This was during the time Of CGMA. He was then a strong supporter of the former president. How can he claim to be impartial when he is so tainted with hate and venom against CGMA and anyone now seemingly connected to her.

If he really thinks that this road he is taking is the easy way for him, he is sadly mistaken for he has already shown his inability to judge anything justly and fairly. Your being a Dean alone at a University is now being questioned!

The hearings today was the shortest ever recorded in its 21 days. The trial today was called to order at 2:13 pm and lasted until 4:50 pm. Eighteen Senator-Judges were present.

Senator-Judge Trillanes led the prayers and I squirmed in my seat. It didn’t sit well with me that a man full of venom can mouth such holy words. True enough, at the end of the trial, he started mouthing his usual negative words against the Chief Justice. His vote is very obvious. Well, he never hid it, did he? This guy may not seem short at all since he was always upfront with his plans but he falls short of moral fiber.

Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago explained why she always took the floor first at every trial. She claimed that it was because of chronic fatigue and a “lazy bone marrow.” She continued to state that the leaked documents were presented by the prosecution to warrant their request for subpoenas.

The Defense panel, through its lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas, appealed for a second day in a row for a re-examination of Rule 17 of the Impeachment Court rules, that covers the power of the Senator-Judges to ask questions of any sort from witness, the prosecution and the panel. He argued further that the rules could lead to a mistrial, bearing in mind that both sides could not challenge or argue with the Senator-Judges’ questions. Enrile sensing the sentiment of the defense said that they will have to discuss the issue in caucus, and assured them that the Chief Justice would be given a fair trial.

Prosecution, through Cong. Rodolfo Farinas countered the defense by stating that the rules were already “perfect.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he added. now, how cliche-ish can we get?

Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III (the person responsible for formulating the Rules) admitted that it was not in the Impeachment Court rules, but is done in practice in all trials. Asking both defense and prosecution to imagine attorneys arguing with trial court judges, he stressed further. Senator-Judge Angara suggested that it might be best to allow counsel to make exceptions instead rather than objections. He also appealed to not think of a “mistrial” this time, to avoid prolonging the “political agony” of the nation. Hmmm, are they afraid of the fallout if a mistrual does indeed happen? Just a question.

Prosecutor Fariñas said that the prosecution panel has decided to adapt PSBank President Pascual Garcia III as their witness, and the documents Garcia presented to be marked as evidence for their side. In particular, he was speaking of the 8 bank accounts the bank official presented the previous day. Cuevas objected and reiterated his earlier statement.

The first witness for the prosecution was called, a representative from the BPI, subbing for BPI Ayala branch manager Leonora Dizon, who recently gave birth. Cuevas objected and said that Dizon should sit as the witness since the matter needs personal knowledge. Prosecution rebutts that the representative will merely verify the documents to be presented. Enrile lets representative, BPI Ayala branch assistant manager Mara Arcilla, testify since what she was to testify on had already been marked as evidence.

Private Prosecutor Lim took the podium but, in a short while, Enrile reprimanded the prosecution to qualify competency of the witness. Lim said that Arcilla was on the stand to present the documents. Cuevas objected again and said that she could not possibly testify on the accounts since she knew nothing of it. Senator-Judge Drilon stood up and argued that the court requested for the documents. The Presiding Judge recalled differently and asked the court stenographer to look for the transcript of the discussion.

Enrile admitted that Drilon did make the request for a BPI representative to bring the bank statements back in February 9 but clarified that Arcilla still couldn’t be made a witness be for the prosecution since a Senator-Judge made the request.

Drilon suggested that Arcilla now produce the documents and that there was no longer any need for her testimony. The documents were turned over to the Clerk of Court.

Prosecutor Lim insisted in making Arcilla their witness and the documents be marked for prosecution as part of their evidence; Enrile reminded them to wait until defense presents her in court. Lim insisted, and Enrile admonished the prosecution in no uncertain terms. “You are fishing for evidence! …The fact that you tried to adapt her as your own is a misrepresentation.”

Like bees in a beehive, both prosecution and Sentaor-Judges trooped to the Witness table to see the documents. The Senator-Judges, led by Drilon, requested for copies of the just-submitted documents. Cuevas quietly asked the court that the documents be securely kept since these were private bank records. Now, how long do you guys think it will take to keep in secret? Just another question.

The Prosecution announced that they were moving on to Article III of the Articles of Impeachment. Yet, they stipulated that they had reservations in moving on from Article II, specifically on the matter of the foreign currency accounts which was still subject to the Supreme Court’s TRO, as well as the 8 bank accounts from the PSBank presented by Garcia the previous day.

Prosecution’s Representative Sherwin Tugna re-opens Article III. this was previously discussed by Prosecutor Representative Kaka Bag-ao on Day 13 of the trial. Tugna then turned over to Private prosecutor Marlon Manuel who then started his direct examination of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Vice President for Sales Enrique Javier.

Lead Counsel for Defense Cuevas objected to the presentation of Javier as a witness questioning its materiality to Article III. Cuevas underlined that the supposed free tickets for the Coronas are not part of the issue on Article III. Enrile emphatically agreed and told the prosecution panel that they were expanding the coverage of the Article but prosecution tried to argue their case. After a lenghty exchange, the seemingly angrier Enrile finally ruled not to allow the expansion of Article III unless the prosecution amends it.

Prosecution persisted to explain, but Enrile slammed them and stated that his ruling stands. He also testily told the prosecution, “I warned you… there is a limit to the patience of this court.”

The hanging threat of sending back to the House of Representatives the entire case must have struck a bell for the prosecution finally submitted. Enrile said that if the Prosecution wanted to amend the Complaints, they may and bring it back to the House.

Javier is finally discharged as witness and the prosecution was asked to present their next witness. Lead Prosecutor Tupas said that they took exception to the earlier ruling on Article III made by the Presiding Judge. He explained that they were not expanding it. Enrile cut him short by stating that if the prosecution insisted on their position, he would change the ruling.

Proffer of excluded evidence by enumerated by private prosecutor Manuel reciting evidence they could have presented if the testimony by PAL VP was accepted. Cuevas interrupted and said taht it was not proper since the witness was not there to verify it. Enrile ruled to allow prosecution to continue.

Manuel continued to recite the evidence subpoenaed, which included certification on the PAL platinum card issued to the Chief Justice and his and family’s travel records. Cuevas maintained his objection, but Enrile allowed the mainfestation to remain in the record. he furhter underlined that the evidence enumerated is “nothing” because it assumed something that was not established.

Enrile then berated the prosecution that even if he tried to be liberal with the proceedings and help them, there is a “limit” to what he, as presiding officer, can do. “If your articles of impeachment are defective, that’s your responsibility.” This man is never short of his law!

Presiding Judge Enrile then ordered prosecution to present next witness. Lead prosecution Counsel Niel Tupaz admitted that they had no other witnesses for the day since the prosecution wtiness was denied to testify! They pleaded for a continuance tomorrow. It would seem that this was the longest day for the prosecution panel and still they were found short of legalese and had the bad luck to meet up with a short-tempered Presiding Judge!

It is now obvious that this whole complaint was concocted by the prosecution too fast without the benefit of real background investigation. Two of them have already said this in different venues, Prosecutor Congressman Farinas at the trial and Prosecutor Umali at a Press Conference at Annabelles! Both admitted to the lack of quality to the complaint!

Only three people, as far as I am concerned, have so far been able to hit the mark in their desire to keep the trial on fair and just grounds, Senator-Judges, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Bongbong Marcos and the Presiding Judge Juan ponce Enrile. Senator-Judge Kiko Pimentel is still trying to catch up.

The others who are busy asking their clarificatory questions and helping the Prosecution to fish for more evidences are sadly lacking in finesse and probity themselves. They don’t even bother to pretend any longer!

Sadly, they all fell short!

Photo via Philippine Senate