Enrile dares Corona to testify

Chief Justice Renato Corona

Chief Justice Renato Corona

MANILA — Testify in your impeachment trial.

This challenge was made on Wednesday to Chief Justice Renato Corona by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, also the presiding officer of the Senate impeachment court trying the country’s chief jurist on eight Articles of Impeachment.

Enrile said that the defense team of Corona should seriously consider putting its client on the witness stand as he is the only one who can refute allegations hurled against him by the House prosecution panel.

He added that the Chief Justice can give detailed information about his bank accounts and can explain alleged irregularities in such accounts, which were used by the prosecution panel to boost Article II of the impeachment complaint against Corona.

In Article II, the prosecution tried to establish that Corona failed to disclose his bank accounts and other pieces of property in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

“Walang iba kundi si Chief Justice lang ang makapagpapaliwanag ng kanyang bank accounts dahil naka–pangalan ito sa kanya, at siya ang nagmamay-ari nito [Nobody except the Chief Justice can explain his bank accounts because they are under his name and he owns them],” Enrile told radio station dzBB.

The Senate President expressed belief that once Corona decided to take the witness stand, it would be helpful not only to him but to the impeachment process and the nation as well.

“Mas makabubuti ito hindi lang sa kaso ni Chief Justice Corona, pati sa proseso, pati sa bansa [This would be helpful not only to Chief Justice Corona but to the process and the nation as well],” Enrile said.

He posed the challenge to Corona after the House prosecution panel headed by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo province on Tuesday formally ended presentation of their evidence and dropped the remaining five Articles of Impeachment against the Chief Justice.

With the prosecutors’ move, Enrile said, the defense panel, led by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, can now start presenting their own evidence to refute the allegations of the prosecution.

It turned out that Corona’s lawyers were considering putting their client on the witness stand.

But lawyer Karen Jimeno, a spokesman for the defense, also on Wednesday pointed out that Corona, in case he decides to testify, cannot take the stand everyday because he has to attend to his responsibilities as Chief Justice.

Another defense spokesman, lawyer Tranquil Salvador 3rd, earlier said that they were not afraid to present Corona in the impeachment trial to explain everything, including purported discrepancies in his SALN.

Salvador, however, said that presenting their client should be done at the “proper time.”

He added that Corona will open his bank accounts at the right time or when they start to present their evidence to the impeachment tribunal.

Where Malacañang is concerned, it will be best for the country to see the Chief Justice testify before the Senate impeachment court so that he could personally shed light on the purported discrepancies in his SALN.

Its spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, also on Wednesday said, “In Article II, [there] is a question [about] his SALN . . . we’re wondering on [who could testify] on that point because this is a SALN that is prepared supposedly by Chief Justice Corona and/or his wife. So it would be preferable for him to shed light on how he prepared the SALN, why the SALN was filled up in that manner. And the only person we believe who can really testify as to the substance of the SALN would be the Chief Justice.”

Lacierda apparently was referring to Corona’s 2010 SALN, where the cash on hand stated differed from that kept in banks.

Enrile said that the Chief Justice could be tapped to testify on Article VII, which pertained to a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court to stop the Department of Justice from restraining the departure of former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga province for a foreign country.

His challenge aside, a visibly irked Senate President also on Wednesday admonished both the defense and the prosecution from prematurely proclaiming that they have won the Corona impeachment case before the Senate court.

“May I suggest, gentlemen on both sides, you’re putting this court in a very serious predicament because you already make pronouncements about the weight and the quantum of evidence that you have presented for your side,” Enrile said at the start of Wednesday’s trial.

He added that claiming victory at this juncture could only mislead the people and place senator-judges in bad light and so both the defense and the prosecution should stop issuing such statements.

“[There is no winner yet here. You can’t be too sure about it],” Enrile said.

He advised the two sides to “wait for the completion of the entire trial until a judgment can be pronounced.”

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