MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Franklin Drilon on Saturday contradicted Chief Justice Renato Corona’s lawyers, saying that Ana Basa and Sister Flory Basa, estranged relatives of the magistrate’s wife, Cristina Roco-Corona, could be presented as rebuttal witnesses at the impeachment trial.
The Basas have given interviews detailing the conflict between Cristina Corona and other members of the clan that owned Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI)
Corona has said that he didn’t declare the multimillion-peso deposits in his bank accounts because the funds belonged to the company.
Drilon called attention to an entry in Corona’s 2003 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) that could be tackled during the defense presentation and, hence, would necessitate the presentation of Basa and Sister Flory as rebuttal witnesses by the prosecution.
He was referring to the “cash advances from Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc.” under the liabilities column.
“Therefore when Mrs. Cristina Corona, or the Chief Justice is presented, or even the accountant is presented, inevitably, the question would be asked either by the prosecution, the defense or a senator-judge, ‘Please explain this entry,’” Drilon said in a phone interview.
“Now the defense would have to explain what this entry is all about, and in rebuttal Ana Basa or Sister Flory Basa will be presented as rebuttal witnesses,” he said.
Drilon said he expected the defense to skirt the issue of the cash advances from BGEI in the 2003 SALN, but said it would be “difficult not to touch the issue.”
“The only way they can object to Ana Basa or Sister Flory being presented as rebuttal witnesses is for them not to touch the 2003 SALN cash advances. How can you do that? They will have to deal with the item, and the moment they will deal with it, that gives an opportunity to the prosecution to present Ana Basa or Sister Flory as rebuttal witnesses,” he said.
The item had not been tackled by the prosecution and, therefore, was something “new” if tackled during the defense presentation, Drilon said.
Defense panel spokesperson Tranquil Salvador had earlier said that a rebuttal was possible if the defense raised new matters.
He said that the issues raised by Basa were not covered by the articles of impeachment that were signed by 188 lawmakers.
Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo, prosecution panel spokesperson, said the presentation of the Basas as rebuttal witnesses “would depend entirely on the amount and weight of evidence that will be presented by the defense.”
“If we think that we will need to present evidence to counter theirs, then we will do so on rebuttal. The possible evidence that may be presented include the Basa relatives,” Quimbo said in a text message.
Palace wants testimony
Malacañang for its part on Saturday pitched for the inclusion of Mrs. Corona’s relatives among the prosecution’s witnesses.
Undersecretary Abigail Valte, President Aquino’s deputy spokesperson, said their inclusion depended on how the Senate impeachment court ruled if the prosecution sought the testimonies of the Basas.
“We don’t agree that the possible testimony of Sister Flory and Ms Ana Basa would be irrelevant because, we have to remember, their defense involves (the family company) Basa-Guidote,” Valte said over state-run radio station dzRB.
“It can’t be that you’d say the money came from the corporation and afterwards no questions would be raised as regards the condition of the corporation,” Valte said.
Valte on Friday said Corona, in making the rounds of media outfits, appeared to be presenting what he had to say before the public in the middle of the impeachment trial.
She said Corona had yet to explain in his media interviews the inconsistencies in his SALNs and the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution which raised the issue of his multimillion-peso bank deposits and pricey pieces of property.
“Well, what is happening is that the Chief Justice is obviously trying to explain to the public what his side of the issue is, except on the matter of the discrepancies in his SALN and the unreported assets that were brought up during the prosecution’s case in the impeachment trial,” Valte told reporters.
“Whether his allegations will stand in court, or whether he will put himself on the stand is something that remains to be seen. And we would like to see him make these allegations under oath,” she said.