Day 24: Highlights of the Corona Impeachment trial- “The day we all watched re-runs”

by Wilfred Avila

In the early morning, The PALEA held an instant rally at the airport. There were so many of them. There were less than 100 people still denouncing the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court. They seemed not to have heard that their case against PAL was still on going in the Second Division of the Supreme Court. Oh well.

Yes, it is getting more difficult to come and see the Impeachment Trials everyday. Mondays are the worst. You think of the four-day week at the senate hall and already you are tired. This is the general feeling of almost everyone at the media briefing room.

Former Speaker Jose de Venecia was seen at the ANC studios for a short interview and he totally refused any interviews after. He must have been given a “good time” at the ANC Booth. He proceeded to the Senate Hall, way ahead of everyone else accompanied by his bubbly wife, Manang Gina, who seemed to be campaigning for some position. She was seen shaking the hands of everyone she met.

A funny thing happened on the way up to the second floor where the Senate Hall was located. CORE head, Jim Sarthou was climbing the stairs when he met Camille amora of UGAt/Rallyista. She stared him down. If looks could kill, Sarthou would have fallen of the stairs. I couldn’t help but laugh.

A picture is being viralled since last night on the web showing both PSBank Tiongson and Prosecution lead Counsel Tupas attending a wedding together! This is contrary to their common statements that they never met before and did not know each other. There seems to be some explaining required here or a charge of perjury could be slapped on the two.

February 27, Day 24 opened at about 2:18 pm with ony 17 Senator-Judges present in the Impeachment Trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo led the prayers that lasted not even a minute. It could even be the prayer that holds the record for being the shortest ever in all of the 24 hearings so far.

Major announcements were introduced by Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III. Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile announced that Senator Antonio Trillanes III already withdrew his motion to send written questions to Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of the Supreme Court, saying that it is the prosecution’s responsibility to bring the justice to the impeachment court, if they so desired. Looking over at Trillanes revealed nothing. It was as if he was in a different world all together.

In a later statement, Senator-Judge Trillanes explained his change of heart in a statement. “I agreed to withdraw my motion to serve written interrogatories so as not to prejudice the intention of the prosecution to invite Justice Sereno to physically appear before the impeachment court.”

Prosecutor and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares stood up to plead that the employees of the Supreme Court be subpoeoned to include the persons who delivered the TRO to the DOJ on the Watch list order against the former president Gloria Arroyo and the First gentleman.

Colmenares continued to ask for all this despite the explicit Resolution of the Supreme Court issued on February 14 prohibiting the Justices and employees to attend the Impeachment Trials.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier testified (last Wednesday and Thursday) that Sereno’s dissenting opinion allegedly revealed the irregularities committed by the SC, particularly by Corona, on the issuance of a TRO. The court, however, ruled De Lima’s testimonies were mere hearsay.

Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile advised the prosecution to talk to Sereno first instead of using the compulsory process which is available to the impeachment court.

“Bakit hindi niyo muna imbitahin si Justice Sereno? Kayong prosecution, dapat kinausap niyo yung gusto niyong testigo at dalhin dito,” Enrile emphatically said. A testy Enrile even challenged the Prosecution to sue him and bring up the matter to the Supreme Court if they felt he was going over the boundaries of fair play. He added that the Prosecution seemed hell bent in making the Impeachment Court go on a collision Court with the SC. This is exactly what the Impeachment Court was careful of, having one branch of government – the Judiciary go against another branch – the Legislative, he added.

Prosecutor Colmenares continued to argue with the Presiding Judge. He recalled the case of the ZTE Deal Hearings of the Senate where the Senate pushed for the appearance of Cabinet members who, then, claimed Executive Privilege. The Presiding Judge firmly reminded the prosecution that the Supreme Court itself decided the issue then.

Senator-Judge Francis Escudero likewise told the prosecution that, “Nalalagay po kami sa alanganin. Tuwing may gusto kayong tumestigo, hinihingan niyo kami ng subpoena.” He added that the Prosecution have announced to all media that they had over 100 witnesses and to this day have had only less than 15.

Senator Panfilo Lacson added, “Bakit niyo kami isinusubo sa hindi niyo kayang gawin?”

But Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares countered that the SC resolution, which prohibits justices from testifying in the trial, prevented them from getting witnesses. “Reluctant ang witnesses namin kasi siguro si Chief Justice ang kalaban,” Colmenares added.

“Kung isusubpoena ba namin si Sereno at hindi siya pumayag, inaasahan niyo ba na ico-contempt namin siya?” Enrile asked pointedly to Colmenares. “Kaya nagdadahan-dahan ang korteng ito dahil may iniiwasan tayong mangyari.”

In introducing the feisty MDS, Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III announced that, “Senator Lacson and I are preventing Senator Honasan to from standing up.” Why, the audience wondered? Was that some ominous warning to the statement!

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, obviously geared for battle once more, noted that the prosecution was putting the Senate in direct collision with the SC. She was obviously angered by the continued arguments of Colmenares with the presiding Judge.

“Pagisipan muna natin ito! Hindi ito pataasan ng ihi! (This really brought indecent visions to my mind.) You are asking us to overturn the Supreme Court. What if she doesn’t follow? Malaking kahihiyan iyon sa impeachment court!” an irked Santiago said.

As expected, Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago was not to be stopped. She almost seemed as if she were to have an attack of sorts. She was adamant that Colmenares kept repeating his plea and manifestations. Santiago further hit the prosecution for declaring earlier that they will present more than a hundred witnesses then later trim them down to 15.

“What on earth were you thinking? Were you playing games with us when you were asked how many witnesses you will present? Were you aiming for trial by publicity? Huwag ninyo kaming lokohin dito!” she almost screamed at the prosecution.

Santiago also scored the House panel for personally attacking Senator-Judges for their alleged bias in the trial. She was referring to the Media Spokesmen of the Prosecution.

“Are you trying to intimidate the Impeachment Court into doing what you want? Irespeto niyo ang impeachment court! Huwag kayong umatake ng personal!” she said.

“I think to myself, ‘What will lawyers outside our country think when they read the transcript?’ You are an insult to the intelligence of Filipinos!” Santiago told the prosecution.

She then let loose an unveiled threat that she has evidence against a congressman who testified earlier in the court for the prosecution. “I can prove that he is lying under oath. Be careful!” With that, she went back to her seat seeming cool again.

Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo took the podium and noted that the prosecution should have no problem getting witnesses.

“I’m amazed by the statement of the prosecution that they have difficulty inviting Sereno because the respondent is Chief Justice. You have the backing of no less that the President of the Philippines. You should have no problems getting witnesses,” Arroyo said.

The prosecution team was asked to get their act together and stop relying on the court to do the job for them. This means the prosecution should produce witnesses on their own instead of requesting subpoenas all the time, she added.

Meanwhile, Defense Lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas maintained that when the House members filed the impeachment complaint, they had no evidence on hand and was merely doing a fishing expedition in the course of the trial. “It is our opinion the complaint was haphazardly prepared, railroaded, thrown into the lap of impeachment court,” Cuevas said.

With finality and determination, Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile banged the gavel and told the Prosecution to go ahead with their next witness. That was that.

Dra. Juliet Cervantes of the Makati Medical Center was called to the stand to identify medical records of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It will be recalled that she was one of the attending physicians of CGMA. She authenticated the medical records submitted to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2011 of the former president. These records were actually used by the SC in allowing the president to travel. It seemed that she is a friend to all from both sides of the hall.

Lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas offered no objection to the medical records or the witness.

The Chief Administrator of the Office of the Vice-President (then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo) Emma Abanador to verify records that say that GMA appointed Corona as her Chief of Staff. Cuevas offered no objection since this was obviously the truth and of public knowledge and that Chief Justice Corona was, in fact, the Chief of Staff of the Vice-President then.

ABS-CBN cameraman Edward Leosala who claimed to be under the direct supervision of Ina Reformina, a reporter assigned to the Justice beat. She covers the Supreme Court even today. Leosala authenticated a 23-minute video that showed SC Spokesman Midas Marquez on November 15, 2011. The lights were dimmed to show the screen which was earlier installed prior to the trials and used for the very first time. It showed Marquez saying that there were three conditions that had to be met by the Arroyos prior to their being allowed to leave the country.

It will be recalled that the Arroyos, in fact, tried unsuccessfully to leave the country on the basis of that same TRO. Article 7, which was the charge being discussed, touches on Corona’s supposed partiality towards the Arroyos. This is yet to be proven by the Prosecution and argued by the Defense.

Another video was shown of CGMA lawyer Custodio announcing that the Arroyos were paying the P2M bond demanded by the Supreme Court. Still another very short video was shown with Custodio actually paying the bond required.

Leosala verified that he, indeed, took the video that was shown in the Court. No further questions were asked by the prosecution.

Lead Counsel for the Defense Cuevas took to his cross-examination. He asked details of Leosala’s circumstances. How long he was working with ABS-CBN, what he earned monthly, where he stayed. The Prosecution Counsel tried to object saying that this had no bearing on the case and that the questions were already asked. JPE allowed the question to be answered.

Cuevas continued to ask how it was that Leosala was made to cover the Midas Marquez Press Conference. Leosala replied that he was assigned to the SC beat and that the news desk of ABS-CBN ordered him to cover. He reiterated that the videos shown were filmed by him on an Ikegami professional camera.

Cuevas then asked if he could continue the cross examination on the next day and he was allowed to do so by the presiding Judge over the objection of the prosecution.

Yes, it was the day we all watch re-runs of ABS-CBN news!

On another front, the Iglesia ni Cristo is expected to hold an Evangelical Rally at the Luneta Grandstand tomorrow. According to the police, over two million people are expected to attend the said rally. The Chief Justice was invited to attend and Prosecutor Spokesman Erin Tanada said he would also attend since it was “Evangelical” in nature. We are not sure if he was invited. See you all there after the senate Trial.