‘Proof beyond doubt’ to convict Corona | Inquirer News

‘Proof beyond doubt’ to convict Corona

Prosecution set to rest case on Article 2

The prosecution on Saturday said it had established “proof beyond reasonable doubt” to secure a conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona and was preparing to rest its case on Article 2 of the impeachment complaint.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the chief House prosecutor, said his team had been able to present damning evidence on Corona’s nondisclosure of assets, which is covered by Article 2. “What we presented was already proof beyond reasonable doubt,” Tupas told the Inquirer in an interview.

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He added: “This is the sum of all lawyers’ fears—when the client is not telling the truth. How can you answer all this evidence? It seems respondent Corona is not disclosing everything to his counsels.”

Even Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a close adviser of President Benigno Aquino III, said there was sufficient evidence for Corona’s conviction.

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“If the senators are looking for a basis to convict, it’s all laid out already,” Abad said in a text message to the Inquirer.

“The dollar deposits—exposed and already admitted not only by PSBank (Philippine Savings Bank) but also by Corona himself—is [just] icing on the cake,” he said.

Abad also said the evidence would push political influences and partisan interests aside when the time came for the senators to decide on Corona’s fate.

Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, the prosecution spokesperson, said the team “is ready to rest with Article 2 and take up Article 3 very briefly, then [proceed] to Article 7 this week.”

Article 3 concerns, among others, Corona’s purported culpability in the Supreme Court’s issuance of flip-flopping decisions on final and executory cases and discussions with litigants regarding pending cases. Article 7 concerns in part his purported partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo “in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice.”

Help from ‘the people’

Tupas said disbelief was apparent among Corona’s defense lawyers whenever they were presented with evidence previously unknown to them.

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“With all the evidence being presented, [their case] has become indefensible,” he said.

Tupas said many private citizens had approached the prosecution to help in the impeachment case.

He cited an individual who relayed information on $300,000 and $700,000 deposits purportedly made by Corona in PSBank alone.

He said the informant did not give him pertinent documents but days later, his fellow prosecutor, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, handed over to the team an envelope containing what appeared to be authentic PSBank documents.

Umali had claimed that the envelope was given to him by a “small lady” while he was on his way out of the Senate building. But Senate CCTV cameras failed to show that such incident had occurred.

“When Congressman Umali gave us [the papers], I realized that the [Corona] accounts could have been leaked to many individuals already, including the media,” Tupas said.

He also said that information on other Corona accounts at Bank of the Philippine Islands was gathered by the prosecution from the checks made as payments for the latter’s properties.

“I can say that it’s really the people who are helping us. And it gives us strength; it boosts our morale against all odds in the Senate in facing veteran trial lawyers,” he said.

Backfire

Tupas rejected the perception that the prosecution was unprepared in the ongoing legal battle.

He said the defense’s strategy to make the prosecution look incompetent in the media had “backfired” on its client.

“The mere fact that they went to the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings already shows that they have no defense. It’s a desperate act that leads to a very weak defense,” Tupas said.

“It seems the Chief Justice entered this trial not in good faith. It’s only now that they are going to the Supreme Court, when the peso and dollar accounts were based on grounds existing in the impeachment complaint,” he said.

Quimbo said the defense flip-flopped in its stories as each damaging evidence was presented in the course of the trial.

“They seem to be clutching at straws at this point,” he said.

Unlike past Chief Justices

Quimbo confirmed that many private citizens had volunteered information on Corona, much of which was about the latter’s personal life. “But we don’t want to deal with [personal life] since it’s not in the articles of impeachment,” he said.

In contrast, Quimbo said, Corona’s recent public statements on the impeachment trial had revealed his transformation into a politician.

The Chief Justice has been delivering speeches attacking President Aquino, the House of Representatives, the senators, and even his fellow justices in the Supreme Court—a clear departure, Quimbo said, from past chief justices who had always observed decorum.

Quimbo said the people could no longer expect Corona to be an impartial Chief Justice: “His actions have only made his remaining in office untenable. Before he starts acting like a politician, he should first get elected. If he wants to attack other people and talk on top of soapboxes, he should resign first and run for [public] office.”

Political context

Asked if the Aquino administration was concerned about the perceived support of the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) for Corona, Abad said: “There is no doubt that the trial is taking place in a political context where various political forces are at play, trying to influence the process, one way or the other.

“That is to be expected especially when seen from the perspective that Corona was illegally appointed to [his post] to protect [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] from prosecution. But … when the evidence is overwhelming, political and partisan influences will take a back seat.”

The recent pro-Corona rally at the Supreme Court was reportedly led by INC members. A major INC rally is also scheduled on Feb. 28.

Asked if the administration was seeing INC support for Corona, Abad said: “No, we don’t see it that way and there has been no public pronouncement to that effect.

“The lines continue to be open and we have been assured that uppermost in the INC’s concern insofar as the impeachment trial is concerned is that the process be fair and that the truth prevail.”

The President’s political adviser, Secretary Ronald Llamas, also said it was doubtful that the religious group was supportive of Corona.

“I doubt if the INC leadership will support Corona with the clear evidence at hand. But as with all churches, members may have different positions on specific issues,” Llamas said in a text message.

Unreported assets

On the merits of the impeachment case, Abad said Corona’s refusal to open his dollar accounts to scrutiny “only strengthens the already established fact that he has a number of properties and peso and dollar accounts not included in his [statements of assets, liabilities and net worth] and not reported in his [income tax returns].”

“And considering that the unreported assets are grossly disproportionate to what he has declared in his SALNs, it is not going to be difficult to draw conclusions,” Abad said.

“But we leave that to the senator-jurors to make, which we hope will be soon,” he said.

Abad said the objective of the trial “is to establish whether there is enough evidence to conclude that Corona betrayed the trust reposed upon him by the public.”

Basis for fair judgment

“While the quantum of evidence ultimately depends on the appreciation of the senator-jurors, the information, testimonies and documents so far presented in and accepted by the [impeachment] court under Article 2 … are in my view enough basis to make a sound and fair judgment,” he said.

The President has “full faith in the impeachment process,” according to his deputy spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte.

“We need to respect the process but we should not use it to hide what needs to be revealed to the public,” Valte said over state-run radio dzRB.

First posted 11:51 pm | Saturday, February 18th, 2012

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TAGS: Articles of Impeachment, Corona dollar accounts, Corona dollar deposits, Corona foreign currency accounts, Corona Impeachment, Corona prosecution team, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo
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