Arroyo doctor, ABS-CBN cameraman take the stand on Day 24 of Corona trial
On Day 24 of the impeachment trial, the prosecution played three videos taken by an ABS-CBN cameraman to establish that the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on Nov. 15, 2011, was “conditional.”
Continuing with its presentation of evidence on Article 7 of the impeachment complaint, private prosecutor Al Parreño argued that the videos would prove that Chief Justice Renato Corona “displayed partiality” toward former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
On the strength of the TRO, which effectively lifted the watch-list order issued by the justice department, the former President and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, tried to fly out of the country on the same day the TRO was issued, but were barred by airport authorities.
Parreño put cameraman Edmond Losalla on the witness stand to authenticate the three video recordings he brought with him based on a subpoena issued by the impeachment court.
Losalla said the videos were all “raw copies.”
Parreño presented Losalla to back up the prosecution’s assertion that the “TRO in favor of former President Macapagal-Arroyo … mandated that she fulfill three conditions before she can leave.”
The prosecutor also alleged that the videos showed that Corona, through Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez, “coordinated” with Arroyo’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, to ensure that she could leave on the night of November 15, using the Chief Justice’s “administrative powers” to extend office hours, so that Arroyo could comply with the conditions imposed by the high court.
Marquez, for his part, allegedly “misled the public” by saying that the TRO was “effective when it is not,” Parreño said, adding that Corona had “distorted the effectivity of the TRO” by saying that it was effective immediately without due compliance by Arroyo with all three conditions.
The first video, which lasted for 13 minutes, showed Marquez, also the court administrator, at a press briefing following the en banc session of the high court.
The second video captured a footage of Topacio talking on camera, after meeting with Midas behind closed doors.
The third video showed a person carrying a bag containing the P2-million cash bond. Topacio was later seen bringing out the money amid chuckles from reporters and court officials.
All three videos were taken in a span of about three hours on Nov. 15, 2011.
In the first video, Marquez was seen fielding questions on the issuance of the TRO.
He clearly stated the three conditions for the TRO: payment of a cash bond of P2 million, appointment by the Arroyo couple of a legal representative to receive all legal processes by the Supreme Court, and should they leave the country, the couple should either call or report in person “just to inform our embassy or consulate that they are in that particular country.”
Marquez then revealed the result of the voting among 13 justices, 8-5, and how the justices voted.
The lead defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, objected twice to the playing of the videos, invoking his oft-repeated question on the relevancy and materiality of the evidence being presented by the prosecution.
“May we be informed as to the purpose for which this is being played?” he asked, cutting short the playing of the first video.
When Parreño restated the purpose, Cuevas retorted: “We don’t see the relevance or importance.” He said Corona, not Arroyo, was on trial at the Senate.
But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding officer of the trial, allowed the continuation of the playing of the video.
Responding to a question by a reporter, Marquez was caught on video saying that the TRO was not effective immediately.
“No, no … upon complying with these conditions. Once they are able to comply with these conditions, then they can leave,” said the court administrator.
He said the majority of the justices believed that the “continuance of [the Arroyos’] inclusion (in the watch-list order would have) done injustice to them.”
Marquez, however, said the TRO’s effectivity was “indefinite until lifted by the court itself.”
Asked whether the high court would take responsibility should the former President leave the country and refuse to return afterward, Marquez said: “Well, there are remedies. Again, We might be speculating on that … should and when it happens.”
Told about the government’s argument that Arroyo was a flight risk, he said: “There is actually no case yet.”
Once a case was filed against Arroyo, “all the government has to do (was) to file a manifestation at the Supreme Court to inform the court that a case has been filed and update the court on the status (of the case) filed in whatever court,” he said.
While saying that the TRO was “a conditional TRO,” Marquez maintained that the Aquino administration could manifest to the high court “if the [conditions are] violated” by the Arroyos.
Amid objections from Cuevas who claimed that he could not see the “actual purpose” in playing the videos, Senator Loren Legarda stood up to suggest to the prosecution to produce a transcript of the videos “instead of us laboring to watch 23 minutes of video.”
She called attention to the quality of the videos, saying they were “improperly produced and inaudible.”
When Cuevas objected to the playing of the second and third video, Parreño assured the court that the second video was “just one minute and the other one is a few seconds.”
Under questioning by Enrile, Parreño said the first video was taken at 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; the second one was taken about 30 minutes after the press conference of Marquez; and the third video showed the “attempted payment” by Topacio of the cash bond at around 4:15 p.m.
No cross for others
Earlier, two witnesses briefly took the stand to authenticate documents that had been requested by the prosecution.
Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, who testified for about 15 minutes, authenticated the medical certificate she had issued on the state of health of the former President, who was her patient from 2006 to 2011.
Cervantes, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist, testified that Arroyo was suffering from a bone ailment for which she was confined at St. Luke’s Global City from July 25 to Aug. 5, 2011. She was re-admitted on Sept. 20, 2011, and then discharged the following day.
Emma Abanador, chief administrative officer of the Office of the Vice President, authenticated the certificates of service and consultancy agreements of Corona when he was still a consultant of then Vice President Arroyo.
Cuevas refused to cross-examine Cervantes and Abanador.
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