Day 41 of the Impeachment Trial : The never ending story will find its natural end

THE IMPEACHMENT TRIALS – DAY 41, May 23, 2012
THE NEVER ENDING STORY
WILL FIND ITS NATURAL END!

No one, but no one, knew how everything was going to unfold this day. No one knew for certain. By 10:00 am, cameras were being set up at the Session Hall were being setup for a possible announcement from anyone. Nothing came.

At around 10:00 am too, on the other side of town, in an imposing building known as the Medical City, a battery of Doctors and the hospital spokesperson were talking to the media. It was the first update on the condition of the Chief Justice who was rushed to the hospital earlier at 12:00 am.

Corona was still in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital after leaving his own impeachment trial yesterday, May 22. Renato Corona checked-in to Medical City hospital in Pasig complaining of “shortness of breath, cold sweats and light headedness”. At around 2:00 am, he was transferred to the ICU due to a possible heart attack. His doctors want him confined for 48 more hours in order for them to closely monitor him for a possible heart attack and to avert a major one, just in case. Corona was scheduled to return to the Senate today to be cross-examined by the prosecution.

Gary Valenciano, the celebrated Mr. Performer confirmed that he suffers the same thing and gets the same symptoms prior to an attack as he suffers the same sickness with the Chief Justice….Diabetes. While those in the know confirmed these sudden attacks, others who were not in the know kept screaming that Corona was faking his sickness. What a topsy-turvy world.

At around 11:00 am, Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III announced to the media that the Senator-Judges would meet in a caucus to discuss the fate of the Impeachment Trial. I will presume that they arrived at a conclusion but never announced it to the world in the trial.

At 2:09 pm, a stern but determined looking Presiding Judge, Juan Ponce Enrile, entered the hall and led the other Senator-Judges to begin the much-awaited trial. Yet, it was certain that Corona, the respondent, was not acting out any drama. He was in the hospital and was possibly headed for a heart attack. One thing for sure, he had no plans of heading for the Senate Hall that day. He just couldn’t.

Senator-Judge Bong Revilla led the opening prayer and said, in part that, “A nation without guidance is a nation without honor.” 22 other Senator-Judges were present and the feisty Senator-Judge Miram Defensor-Santiago was the only one absent.

Majority Floor Leader Sotto announced that the Court was now ready for the continuation of the testimony of the Chief Justice Corona. We wondered if the Chief Justice was hidden somewhere in the hall despite the earlier announcements from the hospital.

Lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas stood up to say that he went to the hospital where the Chief Justice was confined to bring him to the Court and to testify and be cross-examined. He claimed that he could not speak with the Chief Justice because he was heavily sedated. “The chief justice is in sedation and we were prohibited by the physician in charge to have a conference with him,” he added. Further he said that he spoke with Mrs. Cristina Corona, (the wife of the CJ) Carla, (the daughter) and the son, Francis and that they confirmed that the Chief Justice would testify after he was released from the hospital.

CVuevas continued to say that Corona wss still in the hospital though and that he was really NOT in a position to testify considering his physical and mental condition. He can’t even stand up. He’s gasping for breath, Cuevas added.

Understanding the realities of the situation, Cuevas said that, “We acknowledge the magnanimity, over liberality of this court but our impediment now is medical. We apologize to the court. According to physicians in charge, it can take him until Monday, Cuevas said.

The Presiding Judge was firm and looked decided as he told Cuevas that, “If you can’t assure us (he’ll be back) we’ll make a ruling that cannot be changed by anyone.” This was dangerously so close to saying what the earlier caucus with the Senators was all about.

Lead prosecutor Representative Tupas stood up to say that the Prosecution was going to cross examine the Chief Justice when the Presiding Judge asked them if they needed to cross-examine him. Cuevas retorted that the Prosecution may cross-examine the Chief Justice after the Defense was through with its direct. In the meantime, Enrile remained stony-faced as with most of the Senator-Judges. It seemed they were decided, one way or the other – with the Chief Justice or not.

It was then that Mario Bautista, private prosecutor stood up to whisper something in the ears of Tupaz. It was then that Tupaz made an about face to say that if Corona would be back only for cross, the Prosecution were willing to waive the right to cross-examination. Obviously again, the same tune was being sung by everyone. They all picked up their cues except for the Defense that realized they were at the losing end of this argument.

Enrile told the Defense that we shall give you until Friday. After that, we will consider case closed. On Monday, we will schedule oral arguments. This is totally revealing. An ultimatum has been given and with or without Corona, the case was to be judged. Enrile then asked if the Chief Justice would present his bank records.

One piece of good news is that the Opening Statement of Chief Justice Corona would be admitted in evidence and Cuevas underlined that the testimony CJ made yesterday LIES ENTIRELY ON HIS CREDIBILITY.

It was then that Senator-Judge asked the defense to show documented evidence on CJ’s forex investments in the late 60s. Cuevas said they will not submit any documents to support CJ’s testimony. This definitely means that by Tuesday, the Senate would have decided on Corona’s fate, one way or the other.

On a question from the Prosecution, Enrile laid down the ground rules for the summation of the trial: One hour for each side in oral arguments, includes opening and closing arguments of Prosecution and another hour for the Defense to argue. He then asked the Defense to be ready with their formal offer of evidence by Friday. Enrile continued to say that each senator would be asked their judgment on the case, having 2 minutes to explain their individual votes.

Senator-Judge Pangilinan then asked the defense if there were any pending cases related to the trial in the Supreme Court. Matter-of-factly, Cuevas responded that the Defense petition with the Supreme Court still stands. No action has yet been taken by the Supreme Court.

Senator-Judge Chiz Escudero asked the Defense where Corona’s waiver was. Cuevas replied that it was still with the Chief Justice. He continued to say that they had copies of the waiver but it was not being distributed around yet.

Escudero asked for clarification as to the statement of the Chief Justice in yesterday’s hearing that if all 188 complainants and Senator-Judge Drilon will not sign, he would ask counsels to rest his case. Cuevas replied in the negative.

Escudero then asked Lead Proecutor Tupas if he’ll sign waiver and he righteously replied that, “No. That’s not the issue. Issue is CJ’s waiver.”

Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon then stated that he reports all his assets in his SALN. There is no requirement that we open up our bank records. I won’t sign waiver, he empirically stated.There is automatic directive to defense panel that case versus respondent will be rested if any of 189 won’t sign. None will, he trumpeted.

Cuevas then replied to Drilon: “I’m not the Chief Justice. How can I answer that?”

The Impeachment Trial on Day 40 was adjourned until 2 pm of Friday, May 25. With all the body language in the hall, the prosecution believes it has scored a major victory to secure the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The prosecution panel hailed the decision of the Senate to admit as evidence Corona’s peso and dollar bank records. The team reacted to the impeachment court’s ruling denying the defense’s motion to “suppress illegally obtained evidence.”

The prosecution immediately held a press conference after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile announced the ruling that was reached in a Senate caucus on Tuesday, March 6. “The admission of evidence especially with regard to the PSBank accounts, I would say that is another nail added to the coffin of betrayal of public trust on Article 2,” said Prosecution spokesperson Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III. Another prosecution spokesperson, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said, “This is a major step towards accountability and our quest of truth.” Prosecutors have said that Article 2 is one of their strongest charges against Corona. Article 2 accuses the Chief Justice of failing to disclose and accurately declare his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Meanwhile, Prosecution spokesperson Marikina Representative Romero “Miro” Quimbo said the decision will strengthen the verdict of the Senate but the prosecution is not complacent. He said that the prosecution set its sights on getting the vote of 16 senators to convict Corona. “That’s the number that we really want to anticipate or that’s [what] we’re excited about,” Quimbo said. “I think we all learned our lessons that we don’t celebrate until the fat lady sings.” (Who may that be?, Juana Change? Hahahaha)

Senators have warned the prosecution team against declaring victory in public. Last week, they reminded the Prosecution that the defense has yet to present its witnesses and evidence.

In an impromptu conference inside the hall after the hearings, Defense Lead Counsel Serafin Cuevas has not ruled out the possibility of calling for a mistrial. If Chief Justice Renato Corona is convicted next week, he said they would review the transcripts of the trial to see if Senator-Jurors committed “grave abuse of discretion” during the trial.

“We will exhaust all legal resources, constitutional at that. Maski saang laban, pwede mo bang sabihin na sige kung matalo ka pahinog ka na matulog ka na talo ka. Hindi naman siguro iyon ang inaasahan ng iyong klieyente,” Cuevas told reporters when asked about reports that the defense panel will call for a mistrial.

“If it will amount to what is known as known as grave abuse discretion. Then we will avail of it as ground for petition for review,” Cuevas said.

But it’s too early to make that conclusion, he said. Cuevas said it’s an option they will study carefully. “Hindi naman lahat ng error ng court ay grave abuse of discretion sufficient to raise the issue of mistrial,” Cuevas said.

Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon said, however, that a mistrial does not apply to impeachment courts. In petitions before the Supreme Court and the Impeachment Court, Corona accused seven senators as biased against him. He accused Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, and Sergio Osmeña II of helping the prosecution build a case against him. More recently, he filed a motion for Senator-Judge Edgardo Angara to be inhibited from the trial because his son Aurora Representative Sonny Angara is the prosecution spokesperson.

Nevertheless, Cuevas said they are still counting on the Senator-Jurors to appreciate the evidence they were presented. Cuevas maintained the prosecution has no case against the Chief Justice because he declared all his properties in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. “Hanggang ngayon umaasa kami na makukumbinsi naming sila na walang kasalanan si Chief Justice,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas also announced that Corona has filed a motion with the Supreme Court for the early resolution of his petition to nullify his impeachment trial. “We prayed that oral arguments be scheduled. Hanggang ngayon, wala,” Cuevas said.

In his petition, Corona argued that there’s no probable cause in impeaching him. Cuevas added that it was railroaded. In the trial, the defense panel presented Representative Toby Tiangco to testify on the alleged railroading of the impeachment complaint. But Lead Defense Counsel Cuevas conceded that an intervention from the Supreme Court may be too late with the Senate deciding next week. “Baka di na aabot. Sabi nga kung patay na ang kabayo, aanhin mo pa ang damo? E di ibigay mo sa kalabaw,” Cuevas joked.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile did not change the decision that senators reached in a caucus on Wednesday, May 23. Enrile was firm despite a manifestation of Lead Defense Counsel Serafin Cuevas that Corona will only be fit to testify on Monday, May 28.

Since Corona’s supposed walkout on Tuesday, Enrile has refused to grant interviews. His deputy, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada explained to reporters the sentiment of the court. “We have been liberal. We have given them all the opportunity to present their side.”

Estrada added that allowing Corona’s opening statement to stay on the record even if he did not return to the witness stand on Wednesday, May 23, was already bending backwards, specially after Enrile said he felt disrespected by Corona’s supposed walkout.

Estrada said, “[Corona] knows what is right and what is wrong. He should know, being the highest lawyer, the Chief Magistrate of the land. He knows if he should ask permission from the court. When he testified there, he was not a Chief Justice. He was an ordinary witness. He should have shown respect to the court.” He continued to say that it would be easy for Senator-Judges to reach a verdict at this point.

“I think majority of the senators have already made up their minds. We have been conducting this trial for how many months and more or less the senators already know what their decision will be.” (Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!)

On the other hand, Cayetano contradicted this. “There are still a lot, including myself, who not only want to go over all the evidence over the weekend but hear the closing arguments.”

Senators have mixed views on how Corona’s opening statement would affect their judgment. Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon said it did not help Corona’s defense. “To me, the opening statement proved that he had 4 dollar accounts, he admitted it. He also admitted that there were 82 [dollar accounts], only that in the course of the years, the others were closed. The issue is was it reported in his SALN?”

For Senator-Judge Bongbong Marcos, Corona’s narration is useful for senator-judges. “The numbers, bank accounts, the balances, he was able to put forward his explanation. It is extremely helpful to the senators who were sitting in this case simply because it clarified some of the things we weren’t sure about.”

The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona would probably come to an end by next week. Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr., and deputy lead prosecutor Rodolfo Fariñas all said they are relieved. That is, at the very least, something they all agree on. “Hindi po ako nakakakain ng maayos. Hindi ako nakakatulog ng maayos. Necessarily, it is a relief. A very welcome relief,” Cuevas, 84, said after the trial on Wednesday, May 23. Meanwhile, Prosecutors Tupas and Fariñas are also looking forward to complete the trial. “Now that we know it is almost over, we are relieved. Whatever the outcome, on our part, we’ve done our best. We’ve contributed to the nation with this prosecution of the Chief Justice,” Tupas said.

Lead Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, belied reports that he and the other defense lawyers wanted to resign after the alleged walkout in the May 22 hearings. But he said that he tried to resign a long time ago. Corona did not let him go. “Nag-resign na ako matagal, ayaw tanggapin eh. Minsan may conflict of opinion. Kung wala na akong katututran e pinakamagaling siguro ay hayaan nyo na ako mag-resign,” Cuevas said.

After the hearing, the Basa clan, ushered by Representative Miro Quimbo, held their own press conference at the Press Briefing room. As is on Philippine Television, it was an early afternoon teledrama, complete with tears, histrionics, bad-mouthing and self-serving pity for the Chief Justice. That this was even allowed in the Senate premises was something that stumped many press people. Why were they allowed to hold their press conference there.

As I am writing this, the cyberworld is filled with reports that it was Senator-Judge Osmena who paid for their air-fare to come to Manila for added effect. I cannot verify this but, if this is true, why?

With the hope that Chief Justice Corona would be convicted, the Basas promise to resurrect all the cases against their father and fight to the end to rectify “his good name, his character and his person.”

Meanwhile, a television station aired an interview with Gen. Balajadia, Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, claiming that Mrs. Corona asked whether this was “martial law” when he stopped the Corona family from proceeding to their vehicles. He said he was a Lieutenant then and did “not like it.” Where was he actually assigned then at that time? Does anyone know.

Now, the Defense Lawyers confirmed the appearance of the Chief Justice on Friday. We pray that he does appear. The Filipino people need him to protect himself and clearly define where the Prosecution and the Senator-Jurors committed grave abuse of discretion. So many stood by his side and continue to stand by his side. In the end, it will be him alone who can show us the truth. Yes, it would seem that he is up against the world but he should not forget that many more continue to hold up the torch for him and the Rule of Law.

Here’s the latest Medical Bulletin. Since the last bulletin yesterday, the condition of Chief Justice Renato Corona has remained stable. No adverse events have occurred. We have monitored his biochemical markers; they have remained within the normal ranges. The Troponin T Level that has shown to be elevated on admission can be attributed to the patient’s chronically elevated serum creatinine levels secondary to his chronic kidney disease. To validate, troponin I and CKMB were also done serially which yielded normal results. In this regard, an acute myocardial infraction has been ruled out. His blood sugar and kidney function are stable. Today, the Chief Justice will be transferred to a regular room.

Nevertheless, given the underlying coronary artery disease of the patient which has shown progression compared to 2011 studies, the risk of an acute coronary event occurring in a highly stressful circumstances is real. It is the consensus of the medical team that attending the Senate hearing tomorrow will pose a risk to the Chief Justice’s cardiac status. Purely on the basis of his medical condituion, therefore, the team has reservation about exposing him to the risk of an acute coronary event.

Should the Chief Justice decide to attend the hearing, however, we will ask him to sign a waiver. Nevertheless, The Medical City team will be with him as part of its responsibility to ensure continuity of care and patient safety. Thereafter, it is to the welfare of the Chief Justice that he undergoes further medical evaluation of his cardiac status

Now, as the Impeachment Hearings draw to its inevitable end, everyone is working double time to add insult to injury to the woes of the Chief Justice and, on the other hand, to keep him close to their hearts to protect him and believe in him. That both sides have marked the line and are ready to defend their positions is obvious. But what about the lady blindfolded for truth and justice? Are the scales of Justice really fair? The Senator-Judges are nothing but human themselves who can be swayed one way or the other and we sincerely believe that some have.

As all storytellers will discover, the never ending story will always find its natural end regardless of any readers’ position. Yet, more chapters will be written of this historic events in the annals of Philippine history. Our children’s children will ask, did we do the right thing? While we, of the now and present, will ask, did YOU do the right thing?

Photo by senate.gov.ph

Wilfred Avila

a guest blogger from the Noisy Minority Facebook page

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