By Raïssa Robles
Two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and noted constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas are among the witnesses named by the defense lawyers to testify in behalf of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Defense lawyers Jose M. Roy III and Dennis P. Manalo named Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco as the main witness who will counter the testimony of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima today and yesterday. De Lima yesterday justified to the court her defiance of the court’s Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), saying it would not have preserved the status quo – which is what TROs are supposed to do. De Lima said that in fact, it would have done irreparable harm by allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo escape justice altogether.
To corroborate Velasco’s testimony, the defense named either “Justice Roberto Abad and/or Justice Arturo D. Brion” in a 29-page submission to the Senate Impeachment Court dated this January 31. The submission lists the witnesses and documentary evidence.
Part of the magistrates’ testimony will touch on what Justice Lourdes Sereno divulged in her dissenting opinion on the issuance of the TRO and on her revelations on how Supreme Court administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez misrepresented to media what the court had decided on in Arroyo’s TRO case.
If the justices testify, I wonder if this will create an opening for Justices Sereno and Antonio Carpio to voluntarily come forward in order to give their own version of court deliberations that have always been cloaked in secrecy.
Their testimony could also give the prosecution a chance to cross-examine the magistrates. Earlier, the senator-judges had turned down the prosec’s request to summon Velasco, Sereno and two other justices as witnesses.
In scanning the list submitted by the defense, I noted two other interesting things:
First, although Corona and his lawyers have repeatedly said that the Chief Justice would answer all questions about his wealth in due time, Corona is not listed as among those set to testify.
Corona, however “reserved” his right to submit additional evidence and call additional witnesses, including himself.
Second, on the charge that his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth did not reflect his true wealth, Corona seems to be concentrating on giving evidence about his various real properties. He gave a lengthy list of witnesses and documents on this matter.
However, Corona did not submit any witness or documentary evidence from any bank about his peso cash deposits.
I would hazard a guess that Corona intends to make the public believe that all that excess cash he has stashed in banks actually belongs to his wife’s Basa-Guidote Corporation. And based on the list of documents he intends to submit, this would indicate that he plans to show that Cristina Corona legitimately acquired 98% of Basa-Guidote.
The fact that the money allegedly owned by Basa-Guidote is segregated in certain deposit accounts would mean that the defense is still pursuing the “fruit of the poisonous tree” angle insofar as all other Corona cash deposits are concerned. This means, the defense intends to persuade the court that all other accounts not holding Basa-Guidote money should be totally ignored by the court because information about them was illegally obtained.
I’m eager to hear the creative reasons that the defense will come up with for their client Corona.
And if they’re all pro-bono, I wonder how their law firms are reporting their billable hours in their book of accounts.
[The defense list of witnesses and documents can be downloaded here.]