The Senate impeachment court, presided by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, is probing deeper into the peso accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona with PSBank after a witness testified that a photo copy of a document submitted by prosecution was fake.
The issue has bogged down the proceedings from moving toward Article III of the impeachment complaint on the flip-flopping of high tribunal decisions, including such high-profile cases as the labor dispute between flag carrier Philippine Airlines and Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines. The peso bank accounts in PSBank fall under the parameters of Article II accussing Corona of not disclosing his statement of assets, liabilities and networth.
Since day 14 of the trial — Feb. 8 — the court has been tackling the PSBank accounts of the beleaguered chief magistrate, effectively consuming five full trial days that included the shortened session on Tuesday, Feb. 14, during which Enrile acquiesced to the request of lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas for an early adjournment in view of Valentine’s Day.
'Bring the original' The Senate on Wednesday ordered PSBank president Pascual Garcia III to bring the original copies of what was tagged as a fake bank document.
"So the witness is ordered to bring the original with all the safeguards to carry out our respect to the TRO," said Enrile.
Many times over during Wednesday’s session, Enrile made it clear that the Senate will comply with the temporary restraining order prohibiting the impeachment court from examining Corona's dollar accounts in PSBank.
Garcia testified that the original document the Senate wants to scrutinize contains information on both the chief magistrate’s peso and dollar accounts. Enrile then instructed the PSBank president to ‘tape over’ the entries so that only the information on the peso accounts can be seen.
The Senate President was forceful in issuing his orders to the bank president, especially when he perceived Garcia being unresponsive to his question about the form used to produce the document,
Garcia kept hammering the point that there were differences between the original bank record on file and the photocopy that the prosecution submitted to the Senate.
“They are different… I am just asking you if you have… Otherwise, I will hold you in contempt,” Enrile said.
“Hindi namin kasalanan ito. Kasalanan ng bangko. Pinaghalu-halo ninyo itong peso account at itong dollar account sa isang record. Takpan mo ‘yung dollar account… lagyan mo ng tape, ‘wag mong lalagyan ng tape ‘yung peso account. Ang gusto lang nilang makita kung totoo na may signature ‘yung peso account at kung sino ang pumirma. You are ordered to do so,” the presiding Senator-judge said and banged the gabel.
Garcia testified that there were obvious differences between their documents and the ones presented by the prosecution. "We affirm that there are discrepancies," he said.
Garcia said that the document is similar in form to the original customer identification and specimen signature cards, but that they are different in "certain aspects."
The document submitted by prosecution has highlighter markings and some signatures in the original are not present in the form submitted to the impeachment court, the bank executive noted.
But when Enrile and Sen. Franklin Drilon asked him to bring the originals for comparison, he and his lawyer cited the TRO on the dollar accounts.
"Cover what you want to cover. Bring the original… Cover the dollars, if you wish, in deference to the ruling of [the Senate] and the SC," said Drilon.
During the session, Senator Joker Arroyo asked what the purpose was of using up the court's time in proving the authenticity of the document.
"If it is a forgery, what happens? We spent so much time explaining [this]," he said.
Enrile explained that the questions to the PSBank president and Katipunan branch manager are meant to determine the credibility of the witnesses.
He also said that if it is proven that the documents were forged, then the ones responsible for it shall be held liable.
Access to bank records
It was also ascertained on Day 18 of the trial that up to 12 bank employees can have access to deposit accounts.
Senator Francis Pangilinan elicited from the PSBank president the fact that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) through an examiner of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may inquire about deposit accounts.
The AMLC inspects suspicious transactions irrespective of amounts involved when any of the following conditions exists: there is no underlying legal/trade obligation, purpose or economic justification; the client is not properly identified the amount involved is not commensurate with the business or financial capacity of the client the transaction is structured to avoid being the subject of reporting requirements under the AMLA there is a deviation from the client’s profile/past transactions the transaction is related to an unlawful activity/offense under the AMLA and transactions similar or analogous to the above.The AMLC also looks into “single transactions in cash or other equivalent monetary instrument involving a total amount in excess of P500,000 within a banking day.
During his turn to query Garcia, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano explained that the Senate is exercising care in its inquiries on the bank accounts because the senators are aware that bankers and investors are among the people closely following the trial.
The court also ordered PSBank Katipunan manager Annabelle Tiongson — the one who told the court the supposed bank document was fake — to bring the logbook that reflects the instances when Corona’s account records were accessed.
Tiongson was also told to identify and bring specimen signatures of the persons who signed off on the Corona accounts. — Kimberly Jane Tan/RD/ELR/VS