Corona taking big gamble with testimony–Senator Santiago
MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Renato Corona is taking a big gamble by testifying before the Senate impeachment court, a senator-judge said on Saturday.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Corona would be at the mercy of the prosecutors and senators, and come under the microscope on national TV.
“He will be exposed to merciless cross-examination. During cross-examination, the lawyer is allowed to ask leading questions and, in effect, put words in the mouth of the witness, and it remains for the witness to deny,” she said in a phone interview. “He will have the opportunity to deny, but the lawyer will have the psychological advantage.”
Expect the 23 senator-judges, especially those seeking reelection, to show off and “preen before the cameras” as the trial reaches its climax, she said.
“The defense and prosecution will show off their trial skills. And the senators will want to impress their national constituencies that they deserve to be reelected in 2013,” she said.
Santiago bared these scenarios on the upcoming testimony of Corona who had finally decided to face allegations of a $10-million foreign deposit in the final stretch of his impeachment trial.
“This is going to be an action-filled traffic stopper. Everyone will stop traffic and go back home. Even the barrio people will go to the poblacion (town proper) to watch it on TV. This will be a moneymaker for TV, and I dread the many commercials. It will be like an international boxing championship,” she said.
Pepper him with questions
The prosecutors will “pepper him” with questions that would “imply he has a bad character,” she said. “They will try to get on his wrong side.”
The defense plans to present the 63-year-old Corona as its last witness.
“This is the state witness,” she said of Corona. “No senator will want it said that he was silent in this period, this climactic period.”
The court has subpoenaed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who had asked Corona to explain his supposed $10-million dollar deposits, and complainants Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, Rissa Hontiveros, Harvey Key and Emmanuel Tiu Santos to shed light on the alleged dollar accounts.
With all cameras trained on him in the televised trial, Corona will be scrutinized by the entire country, his every word, his every move closely watched to see whether he’s telling the truth or not, according to Santiago.
“From trials, I learned to study the behavior of witnesses on the stand. If one is telling the truth, this will emerge from what he’s doing or not doing. Whether his eyes are shifty or if he’s looking straight, or if he shifts in his chair,” said the former trial court judge.
But then Corona could succumb to physical and mental stress following lengthy questioning by the senator-judges and prosecutors, Santiago said.
“He might lose control and surrender himself to stressful moments when he’s taking heat from the enemy. There were some witnesses who broke down, admitted guilt, wept or looked so pale that they asked for a glass of water,” she said.
Santiago said she was also worried about the physical condition of Corona, who she said had undergone a heart bypass and had been advised to avoid stress.
Mental stress is another matter, she said. “If he feels harassed, he might snap back with an answer that should not be allowed in court. I myself get very angry. He might get very angry. He might resort to irrelevant argumentation,” she said.
“He runs the risk of a Chief Justice placing himself at the hands of an ordinary trial lawyer,” she added.
But Santiago said Corona won’t be a pushover.
“If he himself takes the witness stand he has to be pretty sure he’s telling the truth,” she said, pointing out that some respondents refuse to appear in court for fear they might give themselves away.
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