Day 28 Highlights of the Corona Impeachment Trial: of aged sweets and sours

by Wilfred Avila

It is always sweet to share a few moments or just see old friends at the Senate Hall and the corridors of power. This is the case with me as I walk through the corridors and see most of the senators congressmen who are friends and some even personal friends such as Leslie, Bel, Camille, Doctor Toots and his wife, Julius, Toots Syled, Edvee, Noemi (a co-blogger) and so many others.

This sweetness turns into a sour distaste when the topic changes to politics and the on-going trial. We all can’t help for that is the very reason we all troop to the Senate …. to watch the same circus act averyday.

All that turned into a sweet smell of flower when I saw Atty. Karen Jimeno and she threw me a smile of pure delight upin seeing me. We suddenly almost run to each other to have a short kiss. Forgive me for letting my slip show but she is a very sweet lady indeed.

The Senate hearings began at around 2:12pm. In attendance were 20 Senator-Judges all dressed in their lavender robes. (Senator-Judge Allan Peter Cayetano came in late.)

I was surprised by the voice of Gregorio Honasan acting as the Majority Leader for that day. I was even more surprised when I saw that Majority Leader Senator Vicente Sotto III was in attendance but decided not to speak.

Immediately Presiding Judge and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile announced that the Members of the House of Representatives would not be subpoenaed as a asign of respect for a Co-Equal branch of government, the House being the other half of Congress.

Representative Tobias Tiangco was asked to return to the witness stand as Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago had questions to ask. She questioned Tiangco about his motivation for testifying in the trial. What made him tick? She also commented on the credentials and the seeming truthfulness of Tiangco’s testimony the day from his earlier testimony.

Before Tiangco replied, he apologized that he was shown in the newspapers as being in the Senate Hall with his shoes off. He claimed that he meant no disrespect for the Senator-Judges but that he was really so tired.

He proceeded to reply to the question of Santiago saying that he only wanted to show his thruthfulness when he delivered a priviledge speech in the House of representatives condemming the seeming haste of filing the Impeachment Articles and the pitfall of going against the administration.

“Mr. Witness with your haircut alone, it indicates that you are an iconoclast. A person who goes around a sacred temple and smashing things that are false idols…, Santiago said. It seemed like Santiago was pleased not only by the answer of Tiangco but with the man himself. Tiagnco was then excused from the stand.

The Lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas then called Araceli Bayuga to the stand. She was being presented to the Court in relation with Article II of the Articles of Impeachment or the SALN issue of the Chief Justice.

She testified as to the authenticity of the certification of salary and cash allowances released to and received by the Chief Justice. She said that salaries and benefits received by the Chief Justice totaled around P21 million. Salary alone around P5.8 million.

She presented the court’s Alpha Lists, where CJ Corona’s tax records are included, for 2002-2006. She says these were submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)’s revenue district office covering the Supreme Court, from 2004-2006.

All papers submitted by Bayuga were submitted to the Court as evidence. The were marked and numbered according to their presentation. The Prosecution was not prepared for this and requested that they be allowed to conduct their cross examination on the following day’s deliberations. The Presiding Judge allowed this.

While agreeing to having the witness re-crossed the next day, the Prosecution protested about the marking of the documents by the Defense. The Presiding Judge allowed it as was done by the prosecution during their terms. in any case, they could rebut the evidences during their re-cross. Prosecutor Representative Barzaga was the one who manifested this and was put immediately back to his place.

Senator-Judge Francis Pangilinan said that the Supreme Court was being selective in honoring subpoenas issued by impeachment court. “We now have an issue where SC decides when to follow a subpoena,” he said. Bayuga, the earlier witness is from the Supreme Court’s Finance Department. The Presiding Judge waived this aside and Pangilinan replied that this would be taken up in caucus.

The third witness was then called. Demetrio Vicente was called to the stand. He was presented to prove the existence of 7 parcels of land allegedly owned by Cristina Corona.

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He testified that he bought the land from Mrs. Cristina Corona back in 1990. He further said that the lot was subdivided into 7 by Mrs Corona before he even bought it.

Vicente also testified about the sale and the titling of the land. He underlined that he wasn’t able to transfer the titles to his name because he finsihed all his money on the construction of a house on the lot.

He submitted pertinent papers asuch as Titles, Certification and receipts to prove his testimony. These were all marked and numbered as evidence.

Private Prosecutor Jose Justiniano handled the cross examinitaion of the geriatric Vicente. He seemed like a bully bulldozing his way to get to the answer he wanted to hear. The poor old Vicente was seen almost helpless at certain points. Literally, he asked the Defense for help at one time.

Justiniano asked details about the sale of the property. Vicente said the deed of sale was notarized in Makati. CJ Corona was a witness during the notarization and further said that he is a relative of the Chief Justice.

Asked why he had this done in makati and not in Quezon City or even Marikina, Vicente replied that it was where he was brought to sign the Absolute deed of Sale. Tax declarations of the lots are still under Mrs Corona, as are the titles, though he was already the one paying for them he continued. Vicente underlined that he did not think of changing it to his name becasue of the added cost and that he had full faith in the honesty and integrity of the Coronas.

On re-direct, Cuevasasked Vicente about the real property taxes. Enrile also asks some clarificatory questions. Questions about the deed of sale, tax records, notarization of documents land titles, taxes and documents.

Vicente was asked about the details of how the property was sold to him. He replied that it was through a broker and he did not even know then that it was the Coronas who was selling the property. He could have had an even lower price for the purchase if he had known, he added.

He further presented other documents that includied a special power of attorney issued in favor of Mrs. Corona in the sale of a property owned by her sister Miriam Roco. The property mentioned is adjacent to the original 7 parcel land of Mrs. Corona.

Private Prosecutor Justiniano asked about the other property sales involving Vicente. More questions on the sale, tax records.

Enrile then asked more clarificatory questions to Vicente over the tax declarations of his property. Vicente and Enrile could not understand the question nor the answer.

Senator-Judges Ralph Recto stood up to assist Vicente in explaining the papers before him and verified that they were all correct. He then turned to the prsecution to ask Justiniano where he was going with their line of questioning. Did the prosectors believe that the papers, which were authenticated by different goverment agencies seem fraudulent to them? Justiniano coyly answered in the affirmative. Recto seemed amused when he said that it may be too farfetched to say that since all these documents can be traced and verified.

Jinggoy Estrada asked some unintelligible questions that did not substract nor add to the testimony of the elder Vicente. Seeing that this might backfire on him, the good Senator-Judge went back to his seat.

Staying true to form, Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon asked more questions of the elder Vicente. Vicente tried as hard as he could to answer but it was obvious that he was no longer up to his elements. He was tired and seemed a bit perplexed by the repetative questions being asked. Drilon had no choice but to take his seat as well.

Alan Peter Cayetano, who came in late, asked more questions. he was immediately disarmed by Vicente when told that the old man had been waiting for him with great anticipation. This brought a smile to Cayetano’s lips. No major questions were asked.

Thankfully, the witness Vicente was discharged from the witness stand.

Te Acting Majority leader Gregorio Honasan then asked the Court to rule on the indirect contempt charge brought against defense lawyer Jose Roy. The Presiding-Judge read the ruling. Roy and the defense Panel were meeted with a reprimand for a Press Conference they held at the Club Filipino.

The trial was adjourned. Vicente, the 73 year old witness of the Defense turned out to be a sweet elder man who tried to do his best after suffering two strokes and having a permanent sour look on his face as a reminder of what nearly took his life. There were certainly times in the hearing that we felt he was going to have his third with the badgering he got specially from Drilon.

Yes, it both sweet and sour!

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