Day 35 Highlights of the Corona Impeachment Trial: Off to everywhere

by Wilfred Avila

During the hiatus of the Impeachment hearings, everyone but everyone went on with the circus in their own way.

The Prosecution went on campaign sorties to the provinces using the trial as the basis for their being re-elected and/or elected again. To say the least, it was a pathetic approach to campaigning since everyone but everyone did not submit their proper SALNs.

On the other hand, the Defense team also went on their own sortie. This was to present their side of the case to the people. They went to Bacolod, Cebu and other places where they were met by the various media outlets and other groups with open arms. It was almost like fiesta time.

The end of the trial will show which side was better at it. It may be sooner than we think. I pray that it is not rushed too much to disable the Defense Team from presenting their counter evidence to the maximum.

There is something unnerving about the prosecution and Defense panels going out of their way to exchange pleasantries and shake hands when, in fact, I am sure that each side wants the other side to lose. I guess that’s the lawyers’ way of underlining the lie of alls well. Hahahahaha.

Presiding Judge and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is sending mixed signals to everyone. In one breath he goes out of his way to rush the Defense into ending their presentation of evidence and in the other, perrorates that he and the Senator-Judges are all leaning backwards to give the same all the chances to the CJ to defend himself. Which is which? Really!

Today, May 7, began the long trek to the homeward stretch of the hearings. The press briefing room was super-hyped after the long vacation. When news came around that the session may last until 10:00 pm, the excitement soon died down.

It took awhile for me to get my adrenaline back because I dreaded the thought of long hours too. But, somehow, it seemed like everybody was trying to bamboozle the Defense team to hurry up and finish it off. I wonder why the rush when the Prosecution Team took their time in fishing for information during thir turn. the threat did not hold true however since the hearings ended at close to 5:30 pm.

A number of good friends were there at the resumption of the hearings. Seen at the hall were Bel Cunana, Baby Nebrida with her husband, Zen Danga, Leslie Bocobo, Babes Romualdez and Camille Zamora. There were many more.

The first Senator judge to enter the hall was Sen. Bongbong Marcos who went directly to the dressing room to put on his lavender toga. Soon after was Sen. Jinggoy Estrada perhaps checking on the attendance in the hall prior to going back to put on his toga as well.

There were three conspicous absences, the ever present lineup of former Senators Ernie Maceda, Kit Tatad and Freddie Webb. They have been daily regulars in the hearings.

At 2:00 pm sharp, the Senator Judges led by the Presiding Judge entered the hall for the resumption of the long awaited resumption of the trial on it’s 35th day.

Immediately, Senator Judge Loren Legarda led the opening prayer. 16 Senator Judges were present. We know for a fact that the defense foresee the trial going its limit by the Defense computation but everyone else is rushing them to finish in a week or two weeks time.

Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto announced that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima wrote the Senate and apologized for not being able to comply with the subpoena issued at the request of the Defense. She requested that she be excused from re-appearing at the hearings.

However, Presiding Judge Enrile stated that the subpoena for De Lima stays despite a prosecution motion to quash it. he further stated that the Chief Justice is entitled to compulsory process.

Meanwhile, the Rivera couple asked the Senate that they be permitted to appear after they have returned from a foreign trip long decided on. Defense Lead Counsel Cuevas said that the Defense can dispense with their testimony should the couple not be able to return prior to the end of the hearings. It will be recalled that the Rivera couple was buyer of the Ayala Heights property.

Senator Judge Miriam Santiago took the stand to manifest on two crucial questions. She asked rhetorically whether the Court has the authority to compel parties to end the trial before the end of Congress. She says, YES. Santiago cited the rules that allow the court to stop presentation of evidence.

The Defense Panel called back former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza to the witness stand. Atienza took the witness stand in his famous printed shirt and seemed more relaxed the second time around. The Private Prosecuter, Atty. Samonte, in an effort to present another copy of a Cristina Corona check worth Php 37.4M for purchase of the Basa Guidote property being debated on. Atienza said he did not know the process of issuing cheques. Atty. Samonte asked why the certified copy of the cheque from the COA had no “ITF for BGEI”

Presiding Judge Enrile asked the prosecution if they were impugning the document they themselves presented to the witness. Samonte admits what prosecution wanted to establish that the money was not presented in trust for BGEI.

Senator Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago took the stand once more and pointedly told Counsel for the prosecution that she wanted to educate him. She proceeded to say that they were asking the wrong witness. Call someone from the COA! You called the wrong witness. Call someone from COA to identify why there are 2 certified copies of one check. “You are harassing this witness! Whether that’s your intention or not, you are.”

Lead Counsel for the Defense Cuevas rejoined that this was not a simple cross-examination. Prosecution was making Mayor Atienza their own witness. Enrile retorted that there were many techniques in cross-examining. He enumerated four different ways in maing a witness open up. Let them cross the witness, he added.

The Prosecution lawyer Samonte asked if there were any expropriaton cases files by the City of Manila in relation to the case and Atienza consulted with the Legal officer of the City and said that he could not remember any expropriation case since there have been so many cases of expropriation undertaken by the City.

Samonte further asked why the price was pegged at P34.7M when in another case, the city government arrived at a lower price. “City government was shortchanged.” Atienza angrily retorted that he has never shortchanged the city government. He challenged Samonte to mention cases where he got lower prices. City budget officer at treasurer ang gumawa ng cheque. Hindi ako. Enrile echoed the question: ” Why don’t you ask the treasurer? Atienza is incompetent about the “ITF” in the cheque.

This is what made me laugh out loud. The Prosecution lawyer Samonte replied: “We just tried our luck!” Hahahaha

To prove his statement, Atienza said that the City government issued only 1 cheque. “May disbursement voucher po, I signed it.” Immediately, the Defense presented the said voucher. “Andito sa voucher paid “IN TRUST FOR Basa Guidote.” Debated on was whether “in trust for Basa-Guidote” was stated in the original cheque issued by the Manila city government. Atienza said that the trustee in the voucher was Cristina Corona and not Chief Justice Corona. He repeated earlier testimony that CJ Corona was present in both of his meetings with Mrs. Corona during the negotiations for the sale. Obviously not being able to get anything out of Atienza, the witness was discharged and the next was called after a 5 minute break.

Defense Attorney Manalo called Atty. VC Candangen of the BIR to the stand. He was called to show that the BIR issued a ruling that no capital gains tax may be leveled on excess of compensation paid to BGEI.

Enrile asked what was the materiality of this? We are wasting time. Wow, that line again! Senator Judge Franklin Drilon agreed with Enrile and said that document must be submitted as evidence so witness can be dispensed with. With relief, I noted that this was the only time he spoke in the entire hearings but his body language was saying much more during the hearings.

Atty. VC Cadangen confimed that the BGEI lot sale was exempt of capital gains tax. Almost before he could put a period in his reply, the witness was discharged. Next witness called to testify was Noel Kintanar of the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation to testify that there was a delay in the delivery of the Bonifacio Ridge Property.

Kintanar said that while repairs were being completed, Mrs. Corona contested whether she was liable to pay condo dues. he admits that the corporation agreed to pay for the dues until 2010 when actual turnover was completed.

This is also the year the property appeared in the SALN of the Chief Justice.

Prosecutor Comenares asks to be recognized to make a manifestation. Staying true to form, he whined about the decision of the Court to recall to the witness stand Secretary of Justice Lelia de Lima. He practically begged any Senator-Judge to ask for the reversal of the decision probably not realizing that the decision was reached at an earlier caucus of the Senator Judges. Hay naku! Again, Colmenares started taking about the will of the people being served.

Enrile replied angrily that the Senator Judges were elected by the Filipino people because they think we are intelligent.

Senator Judge Jinggoy Estrada took the floor to tell the Defense Counsel to hurry up with their witnesses and that the desire of the Senator Judges is to hear only one person….Chief Justice Renato Corona. He further stated that the defense was wasting everybody’s time. Whoa! Again I hear the same line.

What everyone seems to forget is that EVERYONE wants this trial to go to its conclusion in a fair and clear manner.

The prosecution was given all the time to present “their” evidence and, we ask, why the obvious rush to take away time from the Defense? An ything less than a fair trial will have repercussions that no one, absolutely no one, desires.

Enrile retorts that what they were trying to avoid is cluttering this trial with irrelevant, immaterial issues. We are wasting time. If there is a defect in the sale of the BGEI property, that is impertinent, irrelevant to this proceeding.

I hate to say this but methinks a lot of slips are beginning to show at the Impeachment Trial. Most are beginning to sing new songs that have funny tunes though the Senator Judges take the trouble of showing that they are fair. Fair to whom?

Meanwhile, in the backrooms:

Prosecution Spokesman Tañada replied to a motion to inhibit Sen. Angara from the Court by stating that it was a desperate move of the Defense to impute malicious thoughts in the public’s mind. Miro Quimbo echoed that if blood relations was the only basis, Sen. Estrada’s brother and JPE’s son are likewise complainants in the Corona Impeachment Trial.

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