‘We were in Palace to ask about Mrs. Corona’
They went to the Palace by the Pasig to verify reports that Cristina Corona, the wife of Chief Justice-on-trial Renato Corona, is about to fly the coop.
Or so the members of the House prosecution team claimed, by way of explaining their suspicious presence in Malacañang five days before Corona is set to appear in court in the final days of his Senate impeachment trial.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya and private prosecutor Mario Bautista had gone to the Palace last Thursday to discuss with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. whether there was a way to confirm reports that Cristina Corona had booked a Qatar Airways flight bound for Spain, Tañada said.
Bautista, one of 58 private lawyers assisting the 11-man prosecution panel appears to have the upper hand to cross-examine Corona when he takes the witness stand on Tuesday. The lead private prosecutor, Bautista displayed his considerable skills when he cross-examined Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales last Monday.
Tañada said the group also discussed reports of withdrawals being made from Corona’s alleged bank accounts, just days before the Chief Justice takes the stand next Tuesday.
There is nothing improper about the prosecution panel making such inquiries at the Palace, nor indeed their seeking such assistance from the Executive branch, said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“It was a valid query,” he said, explaining that the Bureau of Immigration that oversees the comings and goings of individuals to and from the Philippines is under the Executive branch.
“There was nothing wrong with having to ask the executive [about such reports],” he told a press briefing.
Lacierda wouldn’t comment, however, on Tañada’s information that the prosecutors also discussed with Ochoa the reports of alleged withdrawals made from Corona’s bank accounts during that Palace visit.
“I don’t know about that,” he said.
No booking made
Corona defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador denied the series of text blasts claiming that Cristina Corona, whom he noted had been with the Chief Justice when the latter met with his defense team on Friday, had booked a flight on Qatar Airways for Sunday night.
An airport official said categorically that Cristina Corona has not made any booking for a flight to Spain.
“She has no booking with Qatar Airways for Barcelona on May 19,” said the official who verified with the airline.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he has no authority to speak on the matter.
“She has not made any booking with Qatar Airways for today (Thursday) until Monday,” the official added.
Tañada said he himself did not attend the meeting with Ochoa but confirmed that the prosecutors had met with Ochoa to discuss impeachment-related matters.
No concrete steps
“They discussed the text messages on the alleged [flight] booking of Mrs. Corona and the information that there were withdrawals from the Corona accounts, which was circulating through text,” he said.
“They asked Executive Secretary Ochoa if there was a way to confirm these reports. We wanted a way to confirm it,” he added.
Abaya on Friday said that there “was no discussion on what concrete steps to take.”
“We were concerned because of the reports that we have been receiving. We thought that they (in the executive) should know,” he said in a phone interview.
“At least we were able to download the information to them,” he said.
It would appear that Ochoa first heard about the reports concerning Cristina Corona from them, Abaya said.
“Perhaps, we were just the first ones to know before it reached him,” he said. With a report from Tina Santos
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