Corona testimony at impeachment trial still uncertain
MANILA, Philippines—As the impeachment trial heads to its final four weeks, there is no decision yet whether Chief Justice Renato Corona or his wife Cristina would take the witness stand, his lawyers said Friday.
The defense has lined up 10 witnesses for the rest of the trial, but is banking on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to appear as its witness when the trial resumes on Monday. The prosecution has moved to quash the subpoena for her.
The defense and some of the senators have agreed that the trial should be over before Congress adjourns sine die on June 7.
“There is no decision by the CJ about this,’’ defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno told reporters at the Philippine Columbian club in Manila, saying the Corona couple would testify if they felt this was necessary.
Besides, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III said, there was no need to present the Coronas for now since the prosecution has “failed to establish an impeachable offense.’’
On Monday, the defense is presenting anew former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza over the city government’s acquisition of a property from the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc., which was owned by the family of Cristina Corona.
But after Atienza, the defense panel hopes to present De Lima as its witness on Article 7, which alleges Corona’s partiality in granting a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country before she could be criminally charged had De Lima had not disobeyed it.
The impeachment court in March issued a subpoena for De Lima. On Friday, the prosecution moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the defense had cross-examined her for two hearing days on similar issues, among others.
This was a delaying tactic and an improper procedure, the prosecution argued.
Citing the rules of court, Salvador said that De Lima has to comply with the subpoena but acknowledged that she has legal remedies.
“We hope we can be given a chance to present Secretary De Lima before the impeachment court and show the whole story,’’ defense lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho said, pointing out that De Lima’s earlier testimony was limited to the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. “We will show that the chief justice did not commit any error.’’
The defense is presenting 10 witnesses, and could wrap up its presentation by the end of May. “Don’t think this would take any longer,’’ Salvador said.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, for his part, said he would propose that the impeachment court set a date for the handing down of the verdict before Congress adjourns on June 7 at the senators’ caucus on Monday.
“We can’t let this go beyond this adjournment. The schedule is under the control of the court. We will not be unreasonable,’’ he told reporters at the Manila Hotel.