Senator Santiago gives prosecution leader Tupas lengthy lecture on law
On day 16 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the chief prosecutor was still getting a mouthful over perceived legal blunders by his panel.
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. on Monday got his longest “lecture” to date in the impeachment proceedings from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who questioned the prosecution’s tack in connection with the Corona’s bank deposits.
A highly sarcastic Santiago, who, like Tupas, comes from Iloilo, lengthily questioned him, at times treating him like he was still a law student.
Santiago asked Tupas if, under the Foreign Currency Deposits Law, a bank president who refused to answer questions on a foreign currency deposit would “incur a penalty.” A seemingly nervous Tupas replied: “There’s a justifying circumstance then he will not…”
At this point, the senator cut him off and declared: “Ah, you’re temporizing. I’ll give you a grade of 3. In UP (University of the Philippines) as you know, that means ‘3 warning.’ I pass you but I warn you.”
The exchange provided a bit of comic relief in the course of Santiago’s questioning, which identified perceived weaknesses in the prosecution’s effort to scrutinize Corona’s bank records.
At the outset, the senator asked that Tupas answer her questions and reminded him about the “trial technique” that a counsel should “not ask a question if you do not know what the answer is.”
Santiago put Tupas on the spot on whether he knew the exact peso bank deposits of Corona. Tupas replied that P31 million was discovered in 2010 “so far,” the same year the Chief Justice declared only P3.5 million in cash in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). In 2007, he said P5 million to P7 million was in Corona’s account, but only P2.7 million was divulged in his SALN that year.
Santiago then asked Tupas about his “benchmark” in determining when a discrepancy between the amount in a bank deposit and the one disclosed in the SALN constituted a “betrayal of public trust.”
“There is a saying that those who come to court must come to court with clean hands,” she said.
“Shouldn’t we in Congress, who are taking part in the impeachment court, examine our consciences? Do we have P35 million? Those in the gallery, do you have P35 million in a bank? If that’s the case, it means we have betrayed public trust,” the senator said in Filipino.
Tupas admitted on questioning that the Anti-Money Laundering Council had not asked the courts to examine Corona’s bank deposits for possible money laundering. Santiago noted that such a move would have established “probable cause of an unlawful activity.”
“If it did not, then there is no probable cause. It seems very much like that,” she said.
Santiago also blasted the prosecution for using the Salvacion case in trying to convince the impeachment court to scrutinize Corona’s dollar deposits. Tupas admitted that the case pertained to rape “by a foreigner.”
“Is it by any stretch of imagination the same with impeachment? Do not answer the question,” the senator told him.