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Too early to talk of calling Basas to witness stand

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 12:13 AM March 25, 2012

It’s premature for the prosecution to talk about calling Ana Basa and Sister Flory Basa as rebuttal witnesses in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, defense counsel Tranquil Salvador III said on Saturday.

“This is our turn in terms of presentation of evidence. And until such time, the prosecution will not be in a position to determine whether or not we have caused damage to their case. They will have to decide on that,” Salvador told a press forum.

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Should the prosecution move to present the two as rebuttal testimonies, the impeachment court would have to rule on it, Salvador added.

After former Manila mayor Lito Atienza testified on the city government’s purchase of property from Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) for P34.7 million in 2001, the prosecution said it was open to the possibility of calling Ana and her aunt, Sister Flory, to the stand. The defense had ruled out the two women as witnesses.

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Cristina Corona, who was accused by her cousin Ana and aunt, Sister Flory, of usurping control of the BGEI, received the payment “in trust” for the family corporation.

Her husband, Renato Corona, declared a P11-million cash advance from BGEI as a liability in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Inevitable rebuttal

Sen. Franklin Drilon has said that Ana and Sister Flory’s testimony as rebuttal witnesses was inevitable if the P11-million cash advance was taken up in the trial. The defense has argued that their testimony would be irrelevant to the case.

On Saturday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he believed Ana and Sister Flory could shed light on the P11-million cash advance that Corona took from the BGEI.

“The cash advance of P11 million from Basa-Guidote amounted to more than half his entire net worth as reported in his SALN at some point. And how this was acquired and how it allegedly found its way to Corona’s bank accounts is critical in fully understanding the entries in his SALN,” he said in a text message.

Salvador said it was the defense team’s call whether to “meet the issue” of the Basa women’s possible testimony as rebuttal witnesses.

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“If we feel that there is no need to face the issue and it’s irrelevant to the impeachment proceedings, we might decide not to even touch on that,” he said.

The BGEI issue was relevant to the defense because it proves that BGEI existed and had assets, including the P34.7-million proceeds from the sale of its property in Manila, Salvador said.

“The P11 million only shows that BGEI had funds,” he said.

No resignation

Also on Saturday, Salvador scoffed at fresh suggestions that the impeached Chief Justice should resign before the trial resumes in May.

“The Chief Justice will not resign. And he’s been very consistent with that statement,” he said.

The defense lawyer was asked to respond to a prosecution statement that Corona should quit now before he was “crucified.”

“He’ll see through the process. He has complete faith and trust in the process,” Salvador said.

He said the statement asking Corona to quit showed the “weakness” of the prosecution’s case.

“If you think your case is strong, you will not ask the person you’re suing to resign. You’d want to hold him liable. You’d want him to go through the process,” he said.

Corona’s defense presented 16 witnesses before the Senate impeachment court adjourned last Friday for the Lenten break. The trial will resume on May 7.

The defense panel has indicated it would not call Corona and his wife to the stand for fear they would be subjected to intense grilling and ridicule. Besides, they said there was no need for their testimonies for now because these could be covered by other witnesses and documents.

Amending the SALN

Salvador said the defense was also evaluating whether or not Corona should amend his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in time for the April 30 deadline, because to do so would be an admission of inaccurate or missing entries.

“Our apprehension is that if we move and try to do something in connection with the issues that are subject of the controversy, they will say, ‘That’s an admission.’ If there’s no pending case, that’s easy … That will continue to be studied,” he said.

Article 2 accuses Corona of failing to declare his SALN as well as his wealth. In the last two weeks of trial, it was shown that Corona had declared his real estate properties based on their fair market and assessed value, not on their acquisition cost.

Last Friday, lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas said he would confer with Corona on whether the latter would amend his SALN by April 30.

Salvador said Filipinos should take stock of the impeachment trial of Corona during Lent, and reflect on whether they had contributed to the process.

“Let’s take this opportunity to examine ourselves, not only us in the defense, the prosecution, the senator-judges. Where do we stand in this process? Are we contributing to the good of this country? Let’s examine ourselves, and see where this process brings the country as a whole,” he told the forum at Annabel’s.

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TAGS: Ana Basa, Basa-Guidote Enterprises, Chief Justice Corona, Corona Impeachment, INC, Sister Flory Basa
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