Enrile cites defense’s blundersBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted not because of the prosecutorial skills of his accusers but the blunders committed by his lawyers.
In separate interviews, senators listed the following errors: The presentation of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as a hostile witness; the “staged” walkout of Corona that incurred the ire of senator-judges; the conditions that Corona imposed on his accusers after his first offer of a waiver; and, the discussion of the sale of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) shares worth P34.7 million to Corona’s daughter Carla Castillo for P28,000.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile smirked when asked whether the House prosecutors brought about the “guilty” vote of 20 senator-judges against Corona.
“It was the judges who were good, isn’t it?” he insisted in jest in an ambush interview.
Senators noted that until Representative Niel Tupas, the lead House prosecutor, rested his case after presenting evidence on three articles against Corona, his panel had very weak evidence against the Chief Justice.
They also chastised the prosecution for relying on spurious sources, including a “little lady” who was said to have provided evidence on Corona’s bank deposits and photocopies of dollar transactions.
“Actually, the prosecution started with no case. They just produced evidence as the trial went along. Even Representative (Rodolfo) Fariñas admitted in open court that he did not sign the impeachment complaint because it was defective,” recalled Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
“When the Ombudsman testified, the fire went out of control,” Enrile remarked.
“My suspicion was that the lawyers wanted Morales to disprove the news reports that she did not have evidence on the Chief Justice’s $10M in bank deposits. But the plan backfired,” said Senator Edgardo Angara.
Angara said Morales had many documents provided by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to prove that the deposits were not declared in Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), Angara said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson called Morales’ appearance in the impeachment trial “a big mistake, a big blunder on the part of the defense.”
“Had the Ombudsman not appeared, the Chief Justice might have been acquitted. Remember that until then, the prosecution panel carried the heavy burden on its shoulders of hyping up evidence that did not live up to the real facts like the dud about the Chief Justice’s 45 properties,” he explained.
During her testimony, Morales produced documents which she said came from the AMLC tracing the dollar time deposits entered into by Corona in five banks amounting to $10 million to $12 million from 2004 to early 2012.
The defense held that the supposed AMLC documents were never authenticated and had no probative value. Experts said that the so-called “transactional balance” was concocted by Morales and the Commission on Audit.
Enrile said Morales “presented a report based on documents so detailed—a myriad of details!”
“No mind, even Einstein, can invent the details covered by those transactions. A legal mind or a financial mind could not concoct or invent the contents of those documents and the numbers and the transactions that happened over a period of eight years,” he added.
In explaining his guilty verdict on Tuesday, Enrile made it clear that Corona “does not stand accused of having amassed any ill-gotten wealth before this impeachment court.”
Angara pointed out that Corona inadvertently painted himself into a corner by revealing that he actually had $2.4 million and P80.7 million in banks.
Corona’s walkout right after his first appearance spoiled whatever gains he earned that day. “Everyone had this fear of a unanimous vote for conviction after he did that,” Lacson said.
Lacson added that senators were initially elated at Corona’s offer of a waiver on his deposits during his initial appearance. However, the subsequent challenge to sign a similar waiver given to Senator Franklin Drilon and the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint turned them off. “The patina of sincerity collapsed,” he said.
Enrile said Corona was also damaged by the testimony of a former sheriff who admitted supervising an auction where Corona’s daughter bought 90 percent of BGEI shares worth millions for only P28,000. “To me, that was an unjust enrichment,” he explained.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. cited the critical role that media played in the conviction of Corona.
“But at the end of the day, the media pushed us, pushed the Senate, pushed the public, and the defense as well, to confront all of the issues that were brought out in the course of the investigation and the court trial and faced them up to it,” Belmonte said on Tuesday.
“The fact that the media was looking at them also made them (senator-judges) decisive, their decisions clear, not fuzzy, and the whole process has been resolved in a clear, clean way in accordance with our Constitution and our laws, that is in effect a changing event,” he said. With a report from Cynthia D. Balana