Key defense witness is lawyer-accountant

Testimony of Corona seen as trial climax


Chief Justice Renato Corona. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Defense lawyers are gearing up for a crucial phase in the proceedings, putting “finishing touches” on the testimony of a key witness who will “lay the groundwork” for Chief Justice Renato Corona’s likely appearance as the “climax” of the impeachment trial.

Describing Article 2 of the impeachment complaint as the real “battleground,” defense counsel Ramon Esguerra said the witness—a lawyer and a certified public accountant (CPA) —would discuss in detail that “there is every justification for the entries” in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Esguerra said the Chief Justice would then explain the sources of money declared in the SALNs, including those used to purchase properties mentioned in the documents.

“The emerging consensus is he will take the stand,” Esguerra told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview shortly after Corona met with his 12 lawyers for around three hours in Makati City on Friday afternoon.

Asked how soon the Chief Justice would testify, the defense counsel said: “I think logically, he should be the last to take the (witness) stand because it would be anticlimactic if he would come first.”

Trial will resume on March 12 with the defense presentation after the prosecution rested its case last week.

Article 2 alleges that Corona failed to publicly disclose his SALNs and thus, committed a culpable violation of the Constitution.

Esguerra (no relation to this reporter) said Corona made it clear to his lawyers that he had “no problem” testifying in his own impeachment trial. “It cannot be foreclosed,” he said.

In the defense panel’s list of witnesses and documents submitted to the impeachment court on January 31, the CPA-lawyer was not named but was described as an “expert witness” who would “testify that CJ Corona did not violate the Constitution and pertinent laws on the SALN, and that (his) assets came from legitimate sources and the values he used thereon have legal basis.”

The testimony will be backed by documentary evidence purportedly showing that Corona “also received allowances and other emoluments as justice of the Supreme Court” and that “he and his wife have the lawful means to acquire the alleged properties.”


Among the evidence would be two separate certifications dated Jan. 5, 2012, regarding the “per diem/allowances” received by Corona as a member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

The defense would also present a separate Jan. 9, 2012, certification on Corona’s “salaries, allowances and other emoluments as Justice of the Supreme Court covering the period of April 9, 2002, to Dec. 31, 2011.”

One concern earlier raised by the lead defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, was that senator-judges could quiz Corona “on all angles” and defense lawyers could not object under the impeachment trial rules.

Esguerra acknowledged that possibility, saying his camp was trying to avoid a situation where Corona “becomes helpless there as a witness.”

But he said that would only happen if a witness would not be telling the truth.

“It is not difficult if you are telling the truth, no matter how it is turned upside down,” Esguerra said in Filipino.

“You will wonder—why did he decide to fight on if he really was hiding anything? On the properties, why would he put them under his name if he wanted to hide them? He should have come up with a dummy, put up some corporation. He’s a lawyer, remember.”

Delay in declaring unit

One such property is Corona’s condominium unit at The Columns in Makati, which, the prosecution pointed out, was reflected only in his 2010 SALN when the certificate of title was issued on Nov. 3, 2004.

In a legal memorandum dated February 16, Corona’s camp argued that “he became the full owner of the Columns unit only in 2009, when he took actual possession.”

“CJ Corona refused to accept delivery in order to preserve his right to pursue legal remedies against the developer for the repair of the defects and damage to the Columns unit,” according to the memorandum. “For this reason, CJ Corona could not mention the Columns unit in his SALN before 2010.”

Esguerra said the defense would have to “recast” its list of witnesses owing to the withdrawal of the five other articles of impeachment, and by virtue of the Supreme Court’s February 14 resolution preventing its members or employees from testifying because of “judicial privilege.”

The resolution meant that the defense could not present Justices Presbitero Velasco, Roberto Abad and/or Arturo Brion for Article 7.

The article alleges that Corona had favored former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through the court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) allowing her to seek medical treatment abroad last year.

What would probably be left for the defense would be constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, whose testimony would cover “the substantial issue of the WLO (watch-list order) being subject to judicial review for which the assailed TRO was issued in consonance with the constitutional guarantee of liberty to travel,” according to the January 31 list of witnesses.

Upper hand

Senator Joker Arroyo on Sunday said the prosecution currently had the upper hand, having presented its evidence.

Arroyo said senators were now confronted with the problem of appreciating the evidence required to either convict or acquit the Chief Justice.

“Even evidence that has been excluded by the Senate will unavoidably linger in the minds of the senators,” he said in a phone interview.

Asked which side had the advantage at this stage, Arroyo replied: “The prosecution because they have already presented their evidence and even the public seems to lose interest in the proceedings.”

Senators who are nonlawyers were likely to “look at the evidence in the same way the general public looks at it, the overall impact on their consciousness unruffled by the fine distinctions it entails,” he said.

The senator said it was right for the prosecution to drop the five remaining charges against Corona and just focus on the three articles of impeachment, evidence on which they had presented in seven weeks of trial so far.

“Why waste and scatter efforts and good will on the five articles they belatedly found out to be weak? Their concentration on three articles strengthens their position and they don’t lose any advantage,” Arroyo said.

But he admitted that prosecutors were “hampered by the haphazard and ill-prepared articles of impeachment.”

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  • Dayo Gabriel

    Money in, money out. In SALN, you need to state if you have asstes and if you have liablilities. The day Corona purchased his property, asset na yan. Ang liabilities nya ay ang utang kung meron pa. SO kailangang naka-declare pa rin sa SALN yan! Eh paano na ngayon ang mga misdeclaration ng value ng mga lupang idineklara nya sa SALN nya? Kahit anong galing magsinungaling ni Corona, lalabas at lalabas ang katotohanan na wala syang moral ascendancy to lead the supreme court. His partiality at walang delikadeza ang syang naglulugmok sa kredibilidad ng supreme court.

  • Purisima Tansengco

    According to ABS-CBN News:

    “Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda said on Saturday that politics, not just evidence, will weigh heavily on senator-judges when they vote whether to convict or acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona.”

    Is Maceda insinuating the followings?

    (1) Hi guys (Senate-judges), you should vote accordingly to your political preference, especially to whom that could benefit you in your career; and to your party loyalty. Disregard the strong evidences that the prosecutors have presented for violation of Article 2.

    (2) A saving face for CJ Corona in the event he is convicted. The defense team can claim that it is political influence by the President that lead them to defeat, not their inability to defend their client, nor is it based on the unexplained wealth and dishonesty in Corona’s sworn SALN. They will never attribute their lose to rendering a “free service” for CJ Corona.

    Maceda’s self-serving opinion may be able to escape many people, but definitely not me.

    • Sopi Ngac

      So you don’t agree that politics have a bearing in this impeachment trial?

      Would’ve the honorable Congressmen impeached Corona without the orders and promises of pork by Malacanang?

      I don’t like Maceda but he is merely stating a fact that many Filipinos do not understand or refuses to admit that they do understand. Maceda knows politics more than anyone here does.

    • Orson Powell

      aling puring:

      maceda doesn’t have to convince you . tagal ka ng convinced- by the yellow crowd. people like you and your ilk are the bane of the land …. hey, you wouldn’t even entertain the thought that the defense have the right to be heard .. you already abrogated upon yourselves the goodness and righteousness, you already proclaimed to high heavens that you and your ilk are heaven-bound …… lucifer was of the same thought as well. he thought of himself as wise and all-knowing . well, the result was the lake of fire…

      granting for the sake of argument that the persecution was able to offer strong evidences, does it mean that we don’t hear of the defence side? wheeeee …. the saducees and pharisees are dime a dozen ….

      i can see you with rosary in both hands and since you’re as rich as imelda, are the beads diamonds or south sea pearls? you are the typical “kontrabida” in the movies .. umiiyak sa harap ng altar pero pag labas minumura ang mga katulong .. he. he. he…. self-righteous ….

      • lolita marquez

        @ orson powell

        why can’t people not wait for the defense to counter the evidences. can’t they not see through the whole of it? if it were not for corona believing in himself that he is clean, he would have done a merci earlier.

  • Jim Deguzman

    esguerra is not difficult if you are telling the is more difficult if you are covering the truth with lies because of dishonesty undeclared assets, bank accounts, dollar accounts, and SALN.

  • Gary Baniaga

    Convicted or not… Corona has no more moral ascendency to stay in the supreme court!

    • Orson Powell

      and you’re morally right? whooooaaaa .. thanks miriam for the word …

      since when did hearing one side of an argument the moral thing to do? as the cliche says – there’s always three sides to an argument. your side, the other person’s side and the right side – mine. he he. he..

  • Baimona Bao Hadjirasul

    Under assets categories, it includes properties, cash and receivables. You cannot hide your cash and properties by paying developer while not reporting the properties bought or cash paid on the ground that titles or actual possession not yet effected. Cash was not given as donations but as payment for properties. It must be reported al least Receivables to show the actual net worth.

  • Baimona Bao Hadjirasul

    The respondent, CJ corona betrayed public trust (Public was the source of his income). It is enough that peoples direct representatives lost their trust on him. Moreover, why he has so many bank accounts??? May be he has more active and closed account not discovered.

    • Orson Powell

      he. he. he.. another persecution lawyer … public was the source of corona’s income .. he. he. he…. how about his inheritance? before he joined the government, did you pay corona’s salary?

      i have many bank accounts .. negative nga lang lahat ang balance. is there a prohibition to owning more than one bank account? and hey bud,,,,, only stupid people maintain one account — especiallly since there is a limit to what the insurance will pay when the bank collapses.

      you want to know i there are closed accounts as well? he. he. he… ask madame auring

      • Kyouraku Shunsui

        the pdic insurance covers per depositor and not on per account basis. with all those “millions” of corona in psbank, only 500K will be covered by pdic.

  • Good Governance

    It was reported yesterday or two days ago that Mr. Cuevas, head of the defense team, had decided against Mr. Corona taking the witness stand. It seems that now Mr. Cuevas has been outvoted by his fellow defense lawyers with the support of Mr. Corona. Twice Mr. Cuevas has taken at least two big hits in the trial. Earlier he accused Malacañan of pressuring him to resign as chief defense counsel, and was later shown to be lying when he denied that he said so. And now his judgment that it was bad legal strategy to put Mr. Corona on the witness stand has been questioned. Perhaps it is time for him to bow out as defense counsel, even without pressure from anyone. This could help speed up the pace of the trial.

    Telling the truth directly to us his fellow citizens, and not through his lawyers or witnesses, is Mr. Corona’s best defense. After all, didn’t he say at the start that he will rebut all the charges against him point by point? Doing this himself without the use of props will show courage and conviction. And didn’t he also say that he will on his own reveal his dollar accounts in due course? No one else can do this more credibly than he can.

    Mr. Corona, you are the man of the hour. Please do not change your mind about testifying and tell your fellow citizens the whole truth. We await your explanations with bated breath.

    • Fernando Busi

      Atty. Cuevas is just being a good lawyer he doesn’t see the need to get his client on the stand because the prosecutions case is weak. As a lawyer its not his job to entertain the yellow army nor to wage a media campaign but win the war in court.

      If CJ Corona wants to take the stand then perhaps its also a sign he wants to clear things up personally instead of just technically. The question here is will the yellow army be open minded enough to listen.

    • Brando Pascual

      Naiinis ka kay Justice Cuevas dahil magaling siya. Kung pulpol ang dating niya, natutuwa ka.

      Ganyan lang talaga.

  • Simoun Alajero

    …the prosecution could learn from the professionals…even minus the bias media support…accorded the prosecution earlier…
    …seeing CJ Corona testifying…is like seeing superman fending off his enemies…against all odds…
    …but, i would not recommend it …as it is totally unnecessary..
    …and, surely…i’ll put my money to the side…who adheres…to the RULE OF LAW…

  • Good Governance

    This so-called lawyer-accountant witness will try to show us that the 3.5 million pesos declared in Corona’s SALN at the end of 2010 is really equal to almost 32 million pesos shown in his known peso deposit accounts at the end of 2010. The latter amount excludes the amount of his unknown, and perhaps unknowable (thanks to a SC TRO) dollar deposits. Reconciling these vastly different amounts will be like trying to square a circle. Whether this lawyer-accountant can perform this magic remains to be seen.

  • Simoun Alajero

    ….the passing of Mr. Isagani Yambot…coincides with the death of free discussion in this online forum…After deciding to delist ….DISQUS… as the ID provider for article comments….the list of participants drop precipitously…a big blow to the new found freedom of speech…in this country…
    …a long drift away from it’s traditional role….as the fearless forum….
    …this newspaper…is slowly drifting to the darkside…as the sole mouthpiece and propaganda tool of the current palace tenant…
    …so long to our friends…who will find this change cynical …. and understandably…will rather keep their silence…instead of suffer under Mr. Aquino’s strong handed vindictiveness…
    …we will miss your…VOICES…

    • Orson Powell

      kabayan, hopefully they’ll be able to iron the kinks out …

      imagine inquirer to follow the “objectives” of philstar? philstar’s mantra was buried when the likes of soliven, benigno and beltran died. it is common knowledge that the aquino administration is shielded by both the inquirer and philstar … the publishers of both newspapers are known aquino followers… and they are succeeding somewhat … the slants/biases are there … unfortunately, a good portion of the yellow crowd are lapping it up like crazy …

      somewhere in here i posted — 2000 years ago the mob (translated to today’s yellows) cried/shouted “free barabbas” … they got what they wished .. the saducees and pharisees (today’s ruling elites) washed their hands when the deed was done … lucifer too thought he was the angel of light … the all-knowing wise guy .. we know where he ended up ..

  • Mang Teban

    If the witness by the defense who is said to be a lawyer-accountant will explain the entries in the SALN of Corona, I wish him “luck” if he can really get away with the huge discrepancy of Corona’s declaration in the SALN and the concrete evidence of the property titles and financial transactions with the banks.

    If the witness screws up, he can say goodbye to his clients and his “good” reputation he is presumed to have built up through the years. If he slips past the scrutiny of the senator-judges, he will be an instant celebrity. More senators and congresspeople will be his clients.

    I would like to believe that senator-judges Osmena, Recto, and Enrile can pry open the testimony of this witness based on what these senator-judges claim to possess as their basic skills in analyzing financial statements and business transactions, particularly in real estate property acquisitions and flexible peso-to-foreign currency time deposits. Abangan ang tagisan ng galing. I hope we will not be disappointed and Sen. Miriam Santiago will not butt in to spoil the momentum.

    Joker may be right about the upper hand advantage of the prosecution but I can also sense his apprehension that the defense will not be able to reverse the tide. Joker is expecting a dramatic comeback for the defense. I cannot see how..yet the reality is most of the senator-judges have already made their decision what to vote even before the defense presents their case. Let us still hope that some of them can change their preconceived biases and vote with fairness and truth in mind.

  • Brando Pascual

    The mear fact that CJ Corona will testify in person is something that the prosecution is afraid of. It will bolster the CJ’s claim that he has nothing to hide under the articles of impeachment signed by 188 congressmen. I can see him aquitted. If this happens, those who are behind this impeachment will be embarrashed. And given the kind of people that we are, I don’t think they will stop from pursuing their dream of knocking the CJ out through all angles of throwing punches just to please their master.

    • Fernando Busi

      We need an independent organization to keep track of politicians and their lies here in the country. Sort of like

  • Fernando Busi

    Bakit tinggal yung disqus now i can’t monitor who im talking with. I guess this will make for a more civil thread from here on.

    Looks like the tide has really changed since January if allowance and etc of the CJ is sufficiently big enough and this cpa-lawyer can really explain all of this then all will and good, To those who believe that allowances in government is nothing i will tell you this there is more intense lobbying for under secretary positions in government than the secretary of a department because the undersecretary also gets appointed to board positions and rarely gets lambasted by the media.

    Can’t wait to hear Corona on the stand, looks like he wont be following Cuevas advice not to appear. That is good.

  • Kyouraku Shunsui

    that will be a lot of allowances/per diem to cover and defend against what was presented by the prosecution team. for a ten year period, i’m seeing it at more or less 2M per year of allowances. that’s quite a lot spending of tax payers money.

  • Elino Napigkit

    I hope this witness has the guts of a lion and they have covered all angles, to face the sneers and the cross examination of Drilon who would surely crucify him..

  • Edu Manza

    One such property is Corona’s condominium unit at The Columns in Makati, which, the prosecution pointed out, was reflected only in his 2010 SALN when the certificate of title was issued on Nov. 3, 2004.
    In a legal memorandum dated February 16, Corona’s camp argued that “he became the full owner of the Columns unit only in 2009, when he took actual possession.”
    “CJ Corona refused to accept delivery in order to preserve his right to pursue legal remedies against the developer for the repair of the defects and damage to the Columns unit,” according to the memorandum. “For this reason, CJ Corona could not mention the Columns unit in his SALN before 2010.”

    Fair enough. But during that five years of non-inclusion, he would also NOT report the cash used as payment, would he? Is there a part in the SALN for “other assets” where he reported the floating item? Also, he got it in 2004 and took possession only in 2009 to preserve his rights? Ang tawag ko diyan ay “tumpok ng baka.” Defense liars talaga.

  • Juanito -Fulpol- Dela Cruz

    papayag pala si Corona na mag-testify… ano na ang plano ni Tupax? eh di mag-drama at mag-walk out… sino ang stimulus ng kanyang drama, eh di combination of Miriam and Drilon…


  • Juanito -Fulpol- Dela Cruz

    very professional talaga si Corona… biruin mo, mag-testify…

  • Kharim Al Khitran

    “It is not difficult if you are telling the truth, no matter how it is turned upside down,” –Atty Esguerra.

    If that’s the case and really should be then why seems the defense panel can’t easily decide whether or not Renato Corona to stand as a witness? Even the presiding officer JPE has already assured that the CJ will be treated with utmost fairness and respect, why seems so many reservations?

    Isn’t it reservations are normally signs of guilt and unsureness of what one’s saying! That’s how simple it is, let’s face it!

  • lolita marquez

    in as much as i am not an accountant or a lawyer, it behooves me to hold my tongue in explaining for or against Corona’s SALN , assets and liabilities there in.

    OMG, nangunguna pa ang iba kung paano maaring ireconcile o hindi ang kayamanan ni Corona.

  • actnow

    Yeah.. right..The CPA lawyer will spin a tale of how corona accumulated 78M from 2002 to 2011 with an allowance as memebr of an Ectoral Tribunal. Wow, where can you find an allowance that is more than your basic salary.  Corona is SHEET  ( HAS TO CHANGE  THE SPELLING)  OUT OF LUCK. hE IS IN DEEP  sssss HHT

    • Guest

      Hahahhh! I am thinking the same as you @actnow.

  • Rachelle Domingo

    don’t cover the judge,you can’t see its face

  • Impeach Corona

    Putting Professional to Fix the Job.

    Doesn’t align with honesty and transparency to me…
    Is that really hard to explain it himself?


  • Guest

    Ngayon ko lamang narinig si Senator Joker Arroyo na nagsalita na akoý naniwala. He admitted that the Prosecution is on the advantage. Huh! Iyan ang ayaw maririnig ni Brenda.

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