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Defense rules out Basas

Says prosecution can’t present new evidence
By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 01:22 AM March 10, 2012

The lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Friday said the prosecution cannot present as a rebuttal witness Ana Basa, or any of the Basa relatives of Cristina Corona who have surfaced in various media to allege charges of wrongdoing against the Chief Justice.

A rebuttal only answers “new matters raised by the defense,” said lawyer Tranquil Salvador III, the Corona defense panel spokesperson.

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This means a rebuttal cannot raise new issues or be used as an opportunity to present new witnesses against an accused, Salvador said.

Besides, the issues raised by Basa, cousin of Cristina, in a two-part interview with the Inquirer on March 6 and 7 were not discussed in the articles of impeachment signed by 188 congressmen that the House of Representatives transmitted to the Senate last December, he said.

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“The prosecution can only decide on what to present in its rebuttal after we present our case,” Salvador told a news conference on Friday.

“Prosecutors cannot decide who or what to present until we rest our case,” he added.

The defense panel is set to begin its presentation of evidence on Monday, March 12.

New evidence not allowed

Following the Inquirer interview with Basa, the prosecution panel indicated it might introduce her and Basa’s aunt, Sister Flory Basa, as rebuttal witnesses when the defense presents its case.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the panel head, said Basa’s allegations about how she and other members of the Basa family had been “oppressed” by Corona and his wife “strikes at the very character of Chief Justice Corona.”

Defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno reminded prosecutors that they had already rested their case, which Tupas announced on Feb. 28. Tupas had told the impeachment court that the prosecution was dropping five of the eight articles of impeachment they brought against Corona.

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“The prosecution cannot introduce new evidence after it has rested its case. They can only use a rebuttal to address new issues raised by the defense,” Jimeno explained.

In the interview with the Inquirer, Basa said the family was “shocked” when it was revealed during the impeachment trial that Corona and his wife were in possession of P34 million from the sale of a Basa family property in Sampaloc, Manila.

Basa said family members were also surprised that Corona had availed of an P11-million loan from the family corporation, Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc.

According to Salvador, he had talked with the Chief Justice about Basa’s allegations. He said Corona was “saddened that a family issue like this has been aired before the public, especially since it was not an issue among the complaints raised in the impeachment court.”

He said Corona also wondered why Sister Flory had to be dragged into the controversy. The nun, a sister of Cristina’s mother, confirmed everything that Basa alleged in an interview with Radyo Inquirer on March 7 and the two-part interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“The Chief Justice is not mad at anyone, at any relative. His respect for all family members remains,” Salvador said.

Motion to acquit

Defense lawyers on Friday filed a motion to acquit before the impeachment court, asking the court to make a formal declaration that the five articles that the prosecution had dropped “are dismissed with prejudice.”

“In legal terms, ‘with prejudice’ means you are now prevented from filing or instituting another action involving the same articles. If and when our motion is granted, it means (House prosecutors) cannot charge the Chief Justice with the same offenses that they already withdrew,” Salvador said.

The lawyer said that until the impeachment court makes a clear pronouncement on the five articles already dropped by the prosecution, the defense panel “remains in a state of suspended animation.”

Salvador warned of the possibility that if the motion is denied, the prosecution would later again file the same articles they already dropped in another impeachment proceeding against the Chief Justice.

“On the other hand, if the motion is granted, it means the House can no longer revive the same articles dropped or withdrawn this year,” he said.

“It would be better to put that issue to rest before we proceed. Hopefully, there will be a ruling by the court to put this issue to rest before we start (with our presentation),” Salvador said.

Chief Justice could be climax

Another defense lawyer, Rico Paulo Quicho, said that during the first day of presentation, the defense would point out the indications that the House acted with undue haste in bringing the impeachment charges against the Chief Justice.

Salvador, meanwhile, said that there is a “strong possibility” that Corona would eventually testify in his impeachment trial despite earlier misgivings expressed by his lead counsel, Serafin Cuevas.

He said the defense panel was strongly considering presenting the Chief Justice on the witness stand, “if the need arises.”

“We are not discounting it. It is a strong possibility,” Salvador said.

“If and when we decide to do so, the Chief Justice would be the climax.  But first, we have to lay down our storyline, the basis for his eventual presentation,” he said.

Salvador said that according to their “initial calculation,” the defense would need three to five weeks to make its presentation.

First posted 11:51 pm | Friday, March 9th, 2012

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TAGS: Ana Basa, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Corona Impeachment, Corona impeachment trial, Cristina Corona, Sister Flory Basa
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