Enrile: It would be in Corona’s best interest to testify at trial
MANILA, Philippines—With the prosecution now close to resting its case, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday welcomed the idea of Chief Justice Renato Corona testifying at his impeachment trial to refute allegations that he betrayed the public trust and committed culpable violations of the Constitution.
Enrile, who presides over the trial, offered a theory on why prosecutors opted to drop the five other articles of impeachment against Corona.
“They know that if they pursued [the rest of the articles], they could not secure the required votes to remove the respondent using those five articles that they removed…. They did not want to waste their effort on them anymore,” he said in Filipino in a radio interview.
Prosecutors need to secure the vote of at least 16 senators on at least one article of impeachment to convict Corona.
Enrile said the prosecutors’ move to drop the five charges would be subject to “many interpretations” in the context of the evidence they have against Corona.
“Psychologically, many interpretations could be drawn because you make an allegation and then you withdraw it. That means that you have no evidence to prove it,” he said in an another interview.
Enrile agreed that it would be in Corona’s “best interest” to take the witness stand and testify particularly on Articles 2 and 7.
“That’s my view,” he said. “To me, he needs to explain only on two things, Article 2 and Article 7.”
Article 2 refers to Corona’s alleged failure to publicly declare and accurately fill up his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). In the course of the trial, the prosecution noted alleged discrepancies between entries in his SALN and the actual value of his properties and bank accounts, not counting dollar accounts.
Article 7 alleges that Corona favored former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through the Supreme Court’s issuance of a November 15, 2011 temporary restraining order that would have allowed her to leave the country if the justice department had complied with it and did not physically stop Arroyo at the airport.
Enrile said Corona would be the best person to answer questions raised on his bank accounts and the allegations contained in Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s dissenting opinion in connection with the TRO.
In a separate interview, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said Corona would be “the best person to explain the entries and the leaving out of certain items in his SALN.” But he said the chief justice could also send his accountant do the explaining.
Sereno had claimed that the TRO became “legally ineffective” when Arroyo’s camp failed to comply with one of the three conditions set by the Supreme Court, particularly the appointment of a legal representative.
Justices Roberto Abad and Presbitero Velasco later disputed Sereno in their respective opinions. The high tribunal also ruled that “the TRO was not suspended even with the finding that there was no full compliance with the conditions of the TRO.”
Should Corona decide to appear in the impeachment court, Enrile said, he would be treated with utmost respect.
“We cannot allow the highest magistrate of the Philippines to be treated rudely,” he said. “Every magistrate who decides to come here will be respected because they are magistrates of our country.”
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