Cristina Corona, 6 lawmakers to take the stand | Inquirer News

Cristina Corona, 6 lawmakers to take the stand

Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina AFP FILE PHOTO

Defense lawyers will present as witnesses no less than the wife of Chief Justice Renato Corona and six members of the House of Representatives when the panel begins its presentation for Corona’s acquittal before the Senate impeachment court next week.

But the lead defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, on Wednesday said the decision to allow Corona himself to take the witness stand would “depend on the necessity.”


“If there’s no reason to present Chief Justice Corona, if there would be no subject for his testimony, why would we present him?” Cuevas said in an ambush interview at the Senate.


“Justice Corona didn’t become a justice for nothing. He’s a man reared up in an environment of hostility and adversity so we will see. It’s not a matter of me wanting him to testify or not,” he added.

But Cuevas was categorical when it came to Corona’s wife Cristina.

“Mrs. Corona, definitely, we’ll be presenting her,” he told reporters, to testify on the couple’s bank records and the Chief Justice’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

Cuevas said among the six representatives likely to testify were Hermilando Mandanas, Tobias Tiangco and Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla.

On January 31, the defense panel submitted a 29-page “compliance” listing its witnesses and documents for the trial.

It listed the testimonial evidence of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Representative Niel Tupas Jr., the lead House prosecutor, on its preliminary objection that the impeachment proceedings at the chamber had violated the constitutional right to due process of the respondent.


Belmonte and Tupas were to “testify on their statements regarding the circumstances and events that transpired on Dec. 12, 2011, which led to the impeachment of CJ Corona.” Also on the list were Remulla, Mandanas and Tiangco, who all refused to sign the complaint.

Mandanas, an erstwhile member of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party who was later booted out as chairman of the powerful ways and means committee, on Wednesday said he would testify if subpoenaed.

Parliamentary courtesy

Tupas said House prosecutors would not keep individual congressmen from testifying if they wish to. “That is out of the hands of the House of Representatives if they are willing to testify,” he told reporters at the Senate.

But in the case of House prosecutors like him and Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, Tupas said his panel would not testify and would instead invoke the principle of “interparliamentary courtesy.”

Fariñas said he would testify if allowed by Tupas, who said Representative Romero Quimbo, a spokesperson for the prosecution, was also on the defense’s list of witnesses.

“We are not afraid (to testify). But what is the reason we should take the stand? We have nothing substantial to say,” Fariñas said.

“Based on his TV interviews, he expressed his willingness to show his dollar accounts. It will facilitate the trial since he is being asked to account for his actions as Chief Justice, so it makes sense for him to defend himself and address the accusations head-on,” said Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, a prosecution spokesperson.

At a caucus on Tuesday, senator-judges ruled to accept the evidence offered by prosecutors for the second impeachment article, which alleged that Corona had failed to publicly declare truthfully his SALNs.

The records showed that the Chief Justice, who is charged with betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, kept millions in several peso accounts that he did not disclose in his SALNs.

“We are still considering our options. But for now we will just file our comments/objections and reiterate the reasons why bank records cannot be admitted by the court,” said a defense lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III.

Having watched Corona’s interview with GMA  7 on Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Corona “will dig himself into a deeper hole” if he is put on the witness stand.

Corona said in the TV interview that he had nothing to hide and was open to testify in his trial but that this all depended on the decision of his lawyers.

“I agree with Justice Cuevas that it would be damaging for Chief Justice Corona to testify because they would have no control over the questions that can be posed by the senator-judges,” Lacierda said. “It’s going to be problematic for him.”

But he added it would be better if Corona would testify, particularly on his SALN as against his properties and bank records. Corona was after all the “author of his SALN,” he said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Christine O. Avendaño and Marlon Ramos, PDI; and Maila Ager,

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Originally posted at 02:37 pm | Wednesday, March 07,  2012

TAGS: Congress, Government, Judiciary, Politics, PSBank, Renato Corona, Senate, Supreme Court

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