How Corona, wife stopped from leavingBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“Are you arresting me?” Chief Justice Renato C. Corona asked Senate sergeant at arms Jose Balajadia Jr. during a brief standoff triggered by Corona’s sudden exit from the impeachment court at past 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
In an interview Wednesday, Balajadia recounted the bedlam that broke out after Corona’s three-hour testimony on Day 40 of his impeachment trial.
“And now, the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused,” Corona had told the Senate tribunal at the end of his so-called opening statement that lasted three hours.
Amid applause, Corona then rose and left the session hall, surprising everyone, including his lead defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Balajadia told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he was convinced that Corona and his wife, Cristina, had really intended to leave the Senate even without Enrile’s permission.
“Naturally, this is a normal assumption. He’s (already) in the exit area,” observed Balajadia, a retired general.
After apologizing to the Chief Justice, Balajadia firmly told him that he could not just leave the Senate without being officially discharged from the witness stand.
Cristina asked him, “Is this martial law?”
“I did not answer back,” said Balajadia, who caught up with the Coronas in the hallway behind the session hall, which is located on the second floor, after Enrile had ordered a lockdown.
The narrow hallway, which is usually off limits to the public, leads directly to the senators’ lounge and connects to a secret passage to the senators’ parking area in the basement.
A phalanx of about 10 Supreme Court security personnel, along with a group of jostling reporters, went with the Corona couple as they headed for the exit.
Balajadia said four members of his staff assigned to protect Corona blocked the couple and he forced his way toward the Chief Justice.
“I stayed between security people. I wanted to show calmness … while the SC security people were pushing and shoving everyone trailing them,” he said.
Upon seeing him, Corona asked if he was being arrested, Balajadia said. Defense lawyer Jose Roy III and Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez intervened to clear the crowd.
No way Jose
A monobloc chair was brought out for Corona who was then taken to the Senate clinic where he was provided with a wheelchair. His lawyers later said that Corona, a diabetic, had a bout of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and had to leave the Senate tribunal.
Balajadia said he later reported to Enrile in the Senator’s Lounge. The Senate President was fuming mad as he confronted Cuevas for Corona’s surprise departure. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was overheard telling Enrile and the other senators that the walkout was “planned.”
He said there was “no way” Corona could have left the Senate premises. “He can’t do that… anyone can’t just do that.” The Senate had declared “heightened security” that day, said Balajadia, adding that security protocols were in place for any eventuality.
Balajadia said that his staff reported to him that the Chief Justice’s official car and security convoy were prepared to whisk Corona away. But he said that even if he managed to reach the parking area, he would not be able to leave.
“He will stay inside the parking area for a long time, but we will ask him to stop the engine because of carbon monoxide (pollution).”
Interviews conducted by reporters in the Inquirer’s bureaus showed Corona’s abrupt exit was regarded either as an affront to the Senate tribunal or was prompted by his poor health.
In Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, Ricci Vertucio, father of two, said the walkout was uncalled for but the challenge to Senator Drilon and the 188 congressmen must be given consideration. “Transparency among elected officials is a must for next year’s elections,” he said.
Judge Joel Rubio, Legazpi City executive judge, said: “It wasn’t a walkout. His health failed him.”
Pedrito Kalaw, chairman of the Batangas Chamber of Commerce, said Corona still had the sympathy of those in Batangas and that “maybe he really was feeling bad.”
People not impressed
Leo Fuentes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog, said the nation should not focus its entire attention on the trial.
“There are a lot of other pressing issues like oil prices and privatization of hospitals, that are being left behind because of this trial,” he said.
Fr. Robert Reyes in a text message said: “People were not impressed. What he did was an appeal to the emotions, not an appeal to the evidence. It didn’t work.”
In Catanduanes, lawyer Romulo Atencia said Corona’s testimony must be expunged. With reports from Gerald Gene Querubin, Mar Arguelles, Maricar Cinco, Fernan Gianan, Juan Escandor Jr. and Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
Originally posted: 9:19 pm | Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Tags: Corona Impeachment , corruption , Ill-gotten wealth , Juan Ponce Enrile , Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales , Senate , Serafin Cuevas , Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona , waiver on bank accounts