Defense: We have ‘cracked the code’ | Inquirer News

Defense: We have ‘cracked the code’

On the eve of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s make-or-break testimony at his impeachment trial, his defense lawyers exuded the kind of confidence that a student exhibits who already knows the answers to an upcoming exam.

Corona is set to finally take the witness stand on May 22 when he will be grilled by senators and prosecutors, particularly on his alleged ownership of 82 dollar accounts with some $12 million in deposits.

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But Rico Paolo Quicho, one of his lawyers, on Friday indicated that his camp had already “cracked the code” on the alleged $12 million deposits, an allegation another defense lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III, described as the prosecution’s “last card.”

“With guided optimism, I think we will be able to get an acquittal for the Chief Justice,” Quicho told a press conference on Friday.

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A team of accountants is now examining the 17-page report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales presented in testimony last Monday.

The computer-generated report—which the defense panel has dismissed as being invalid—was the sole basis of the claim that Corona allegedly owned $12 million in foreign currency deposits.

From 82 to 3 or 4?

As of Friday, Salvador said the team of accountants has found that only three or four—not 82—of the accounts mentioned in the AMLC report actually exist.

He clarified, however, that this did not necessarily mean that the three or four accounts belonged to Corona.

“Before we had 45 to 5. Then new number now is 82 to 3 or 4,” he said, referring to the prosecutors’ much-ballyhooed allegation that the Chief Justice owned 45 properties, only to backtrack during the trial. The defense maintains that there are only five properties.

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“Let’s wait what our witness, the Chief Justice, will say on the stand, but I would like to clarify—we are not admitting or denying the existence of any dollar account (belonging to Corona),” Salvador said.

“We don’t want to second-guess the prosecution but I’m sure, after we crack the code, we will show that from 82 (alleged accounts), you can just count (the number of actual accounts) with one hand,” said Quicho.

The AMLC report was supposedly examined and analyzed by the Commission on Audit before Morales presented it before senator-judges last Monday. COA officials also prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the documents which the Ombudsman used during her testimony.

“It’s the responsibility of the Ombudsman to make sure that before she issues something, she has already verified the facts of the complaint,” Quicho said.

Defense lawyer Karen Jimeno said the group of accountants was still trying to analyze the AMLC report to “trace” how much money was involved in terms of actual account balances.

“They’re reducing all the numbers of the accounts… it’s really a long process and until now, they are still studying it,” she said.

Discrepancies

Going by Morales’ testimony on the AMLC report, Salvador said it would appear that she came up with the alleged $12 million figure through a “simple computation of all the transactions [found] there.”

The defense plans to present the allegedly erroneous computation in next week’s hearing.

“That’s what we want you to look forward to so you would see the discrepancies. They’re too far apart,” Salvador said.

According to Salvador, the defense sought the testimony of Morales simply to confront her on her allegation that Corona had $10 million in bank deposits. Instead of getting a straight answer, the defense received a “presentation of outflows, inflows and summary” of alleged deposits, he said.

“That’s how a student responds when he doesn’t really know the answer in a test,” said Salvador.

‘Transaction balance’

The lawyer called attention to the Ombudsman’s use of the term “transaction balance,” which, he said, did not at all refer to actual balances in the purported accounts contained in the AMLC report.

That was a strategy designed to allow Morales a way out once it is shown by the defense that there are only three to four accounts involved, Salvador said.

“But the damage has been done. Not everyone is good at banking. We just hear the numbers and our attention is caught by the numbers we hear,” he said.

In preparing Corona for his Tuesday court appearance, defense counsels are “simulating” what questions senators and prosecutors would throw at him and how they would be asked.

Salvador said the process involves what he called “scenario-building.”

“Definitely, we’re preparing hard for this last hurrah. This is the final stretch so as lawyers, we’re very professional with our work and we’re very cognizant of the fact that we really have to do well and the Chief Justice is reciprocating that kind of idea,” he said.

Right vs self-incrimination

Asked if Corona would invoke his right against self-incrimination, Salvador sought to put some perspective on the issue.

“Remember that the Chief Justice is like us who has rights under the Constitution. It doesn’t mean that just because you take the witness stand, you’re already stripped of all your constitutional rights,” he said.

“The question is: Will he use them? Perhaps only he can answer that because as things appear now, he’s being told:  ‘Don’t use this right,’” he added.

To apprehensions that the Chief Justice might resort to stonewalling during his testimony, Salvador said Corona might even spring a surprise.

“You might be surprised that he won’t do that, that it would appear like he’s just conversing with all of us when he sits there,” he said.

In deciding to take the stand, Corona showed that he was “humble enough to face the Filipino people,” his lawyer said.

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TAGS: Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Chief Justice Renato Corona, Corona defense team, Corona dollar accounts, Corona Impeachment, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales
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