Day 29 highlights of the Corona Impeachment Trial: Case of the Missing Evidence

by Wilfred Avila

Guess what was the most interesting sight of the day at the hearings today was? An empty gallery … the VIP gallery! The only regulars who were there were former Senators Ernie Maceda and Kit Tatad! Only about three new Congressmen were there to keep the Prosecutor Representatives company.

Oh, but listen. What was Representative Toby Tiangco doing there today? He was all smiles. Guess he wanted to relive the commendations and sweet words of Senator-Judge Miram Defensor Santiago the day before. Wondered too if he removed his shoes again.

The only place that never changes in sound and fury is the media room and the Press Briefing area. Media people trying to outrace each other to get resource people from either the prosecution or the defense teams for their radio and TV programs. The analysts are of a different lot. They are pre-determined according to their political leanings. If you think that they are as fair as the early afternoon, you are sadly mistaken. The guns are loaded even before they sit down to talk.

The session started at a quarter past two in the afternoon with 17 Senator-Judges present. It was back to work for Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III as he acted as moderator for the hearings.

The Prosecution started its cross-examination of SC Chief Judicial staff officer Araceli Bayuga who was asked to return for the second day. before the cross-examination could even begin, a bombshell was thrown to the Senate-Judges.

The Lead defense Counsel Serafin Cuevas informed the court that a handwritten letter by Mrs. Cristina Corona, which showed the acknowledgment of a receipt of the titles, borrowed by Private Prosecutor Jose Justiniano was never returned. Justiniano, not expecting the public complaint assured that he would look for it as it could have been included in other documents.

Cross examination started with Private Prosecutor Antonio Hernandez asking the questions. He asked about why the witness, Bayuga, appeared in the impeachment court and whether she got permission from her superiors at the Supreme Court.

Bayuga said that she was only subpoenaed on Tuesday, March 13, and that she was summoned by the court back in Feb 1. She said the CJ ordered her to prepare the documents on his salaries and other benefits earned from the Supreme Court. She then explained how the certifications were issued.

Bayuga continued to explain the details of the salaries and allowances itemized in the certification she submitted to the court earlier. She explained details on the allowances, amounts given and how it is reported by their office.

Further to the above, Hernandez asked Bayuga about the Supreme Court’s alpha list. She explained it in as detailed a fashion as she was capable of.

As the cross examination ends, Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon took the podium and asked in detail about the Chief Justice’s salaries and taxes. The witness was allowed some moments to review her documents.

After Drilon, Senator-Judge Ralph Recto asked more questions.

Senator-Judge Antonio Trillanes IV asked questions and this time demands the answers from the Defense Lead Counsel. He queried about the relevance of the Bayuga testimony to the Chief Justice’s case. He also asked whether the Chief Justice would divulge the information about his dollar accounts as he had earlier promised in some television programs.

Cuevas engaged the Senator-Judge by saying that he had not yet arrived at the point where a definitive stand could be taken as to the appearance of the Chief Justice. It will be recalled that Trillanes is one who has unequivically stated his position and how he was not going to vote for the acquittal of the Chief Justice.

He further asked whether, in fact, Cuevas was presenting evidence to refute Article 2.4 which was earlier removed by the Court. In a rather pointed retort, Cuevas said that he was not but as he didn’t know what the Court was thinking and what figures they were thinking of, it was best to cover in the defense the sums of money being bandied about. Trillanes said that he would be asking the same question to keep reminding the defense where it should go.

Senator-Judge Francis Escudero asked about the filing of the Supreme Court’s alpha lists with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and which particular branch of the Revenue service it was being filed at.

Senator-Judge Francis Escudero clarified with the prosecution on exactly what properties they were referring to when they presented their case. Cuevas replied that he was referring to the cases that was presented in court by the prosecution. It was then that Escudero started counting off the exact number of properties alluded to the Chief Justice. He said that initally the prosecution announced that they had 45 properites that belonged to the Chief Justice. This was reduced to 24 and 8 were already answered for by the testimony of Vicente the day before. 3 were nothing but parking lots and 5 were already admitted by the Defense. Two were removed as they were parking lots as well incorporated to actual titles with the properties. This left six to be answered for by the Chief Justice. Lead prosecutor Neil Tupaz replied in the affirmative.

Meanwhile, Senator-Judge Alan Peter Cayetano said that the issue should be on the declarations on the SALNs and not something else since this was what was bothering the court.

Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada also clarified about the list of 45 properties allegedly owned by the CJ. Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson admitted publicly that he toyed with the idea of voting against the Chief Justice due to some reason I do not recall now.

Senator-Judge TG Guingona asked about something that was quickly shoved aside by the Presiding Judge as something that should be discussed in the caucus.

The discussion went back to the missing Corona letter and the Presiding Judge demanded that the Prosecution look for this letter immediately. Drilon stood up to say that this was a matter that would best be resolved privately between the prosecution and the Defense themselves. Enrile agreed but said that it was important to assist in this since the lost pieces of papers were material evidence to the defense. Catching Drilon’s facial expression showed his utter lack of concern. He was laughing as if he said the most profound thing ever in the hearings. This man is truly full of himself.

Witness Bayuga is temporarily discharged and directed to return the next day for more questioning. Next witness to be called was Atty. Irene Guevarra, Secretary of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. She ranked first in the Bar Exams and studied at the Ateneo de Manila Law Schoool where she was a student of the Chief Justice. Questions in direct and cross examinations were basically on CJ Corona’s allowances as member of SET.

Senator-Judge Koko Pimentel then stood up to make a short manifestation commending Guevarra’s work at the SET and thanking her for her assistance during his hearings at the SET in a case against resigned Senator Migs Zubiri.

Atty. Girlie Salarda of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) testifies about the CJ’s salaries and allowances as HRET member. Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada stood up and coyly asked the witness what was her background. His having stood up at all was cause for hoots from the gallery since it was obvious it was a gallery play for the beautiful witness. He was formally answered by the title Attorney by the witness. he immediately changed his tact and went back to his chair.

As the trial was adjourned, the Case of the Missing Papers remain unsolved. A veritable Watergate is beginning to unfold and it would seem that it did not bother the Prosecution too much. However, it remains a major piece of evidence that is as of yet to be submitted to the Court by the Defense. Drilon made sure nobody else cared or should even bother with it!


“The notary public is Atty. Beth Mantoya who used to notarize the documents in SGV. When she resigned from SGV, she joined Romulo Mabanta Law Office which assigned her to Hongkong for many years. She has since married a foreigner and last we heard she is now living in Switzerland with her husband. My Marikina property was sold through a broker who brought Demetrio Vicente to my house as her buyer. Even if the buyer turned out to be a relative of my husband, we paid the broker’s fee because we did not sell it directly to him. Since we sold the property to him in 1990, we didn’t see him again until 2012 when I was told that the title of this property was still in my name. By the way, the buyer’s wife, Mrs. Lita Vicente is the first cousin of Mr. Kenny Morales, husband of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who, according to Mr. Vicente, has been to his house.”