Saturday, May 19, 2012

Defense: CJ owned 4 accounts, not 82

MANILA, Philippines - As the defense team prepares for the “grand season finale” of the impeachment trial, Chief Justice Renato Corona is ready to debunk on Tuesday the claim of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that he owned 82 dollar accounts with a “transactional balance” of $10 million. Defense spokespersons Karen Jimeno, Tranquil Salvador III and Rico Paolo Quicho said the Chief Justice will prove that he has only about three or four and not 82 accounts, which Morales bared in her testimony before the impeachment court last Monday. “Then we had 45 and five.Now the significant numbers are 82 and three,” Salvador said, referring to the 45 real estate properties that the prosecution alleged Corona owned. “It is simple that under Article 2, the important thing is that (the Chief Justice) will be able to present the actual balance and what year there was such balance... and disclose why some are not in his accounts in specific years,” Jimeno said. Defense lawyers are preparing Corona for the hard questions that may be thrown his way pertaining to his accounts. “We simulate the senator-judges, simulate their temperament and how they will throw questions,” Salvador said. Corona is facing the remaining three of the eight Articles of Impeachment before the Senate. Article 2 is the main battle in the court since it is about the Chief Justice’s failure to disclose some properties and bank accounts from 2003 to 2010. While the defense doubts the authenticity of the 17-page Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report brought by Morales to the court, Corona’s lawyers said the Chief Justice is now being assisted by accountants and their lawyers in going through every transaction and every entry in the report. “They are reducing all the numbers in the accounts, and they are tracing all these numbers. This is not like a balance sheet. It’s really a long process,” Jimeno said. The defense team used as an analogy the 45 properties which the prosecution said Corona owned. The defense panel succeeded in destroying the prosecution’s accusations, leaving only five properties owned and reportedly declared by the Chief Justice in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). “If you will scrutinize the 82 accounts, there are only three or four accounts. This has been scrutinized by accountants and lawyers,” Salvador said. “If you will ask what these accounts are, I think we should wait for the Chief Justice. We are not saying that these exist, we do not admit or deny,” the lawyer said. Right vs self-incrimination Asked if Corona would invoke his right against self incrimination during the trial, Salvador said the Chief Justice still enjoys his rights and it does not mean that “all his rights will be stripped once he takes the witness stand.” “Only he will know when to use it,” the lawyer said. Corona’s lawyers also welcomed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s statement that the Chief Justice will be given due courtesy when he faces the impeachment court. “We expect that not only because he is the Chief Justice but also because he is the accused in this case,” Salvador said. Discrepancies Corona will be testifying on the discrepancies in the bank accounts presented by Morales as against the real number of accounts. “It is the responsibility of the Ombudsman to make sure that before she issues something, she had already verified the complaint. If we were allowed to present the complaints, then we could have established that their complaints were baseless,” Quicho said. “First, it was never verified by the witness,” Quicho said. “We cannot really rely on the details as can be found in the document until the witness established that.” “Our point is, we are asking Ombudsman Morales, you claimed CJ owned $10 to $12 million, where is your evidence? Because if you failed to prove that, you should resign,” Quicho said. Quicho again questioned the move of the Ombudsman to continue with her investigation when the complaints lacked credibility. Quicho also downplayed the black propaganda which circulated through text messages yesterday that Corona will be announcing Tuesday that he will turn state witness against former President Arroyo. “I thought they have a strong case, why resort to black propaganda?” Quicho said. No court holiday Meanwhile, Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Midas Marquez assured the public yesterday that courts all over the country will not come to a standstill on Tuesday when Corona faces the impeachment court. Marquez, also court administrator who has supervision of over 2,000 judges and 27,000 court personnel, said no court holiday will be declared even as various members of the judiciary have reportedly set activities to show support to their embattled chief. “There will be no court holiday. Those who want to join activities are free to do so, but they should file leave of absence,” he told reporters in an interview. The SC official said that just like Corona and his private lawyers, officials and members of the judiciary are also optimistic on the possible result of the impeachment trial. “We in the judiciary are hoping that this impeachment finally comes to an end and that the Chief Justice hurdles this challenge so we can all focus back to our work in the courts,” he said. Jojo Guererro, president of the 3,000-strong SC Employees Association, said their members are planning to accompany Corona to the Senate. But he said that their work would not be halted: “We will have a Mass and then will just accompany CJ to the Senate during our lunch break so there will be no work stoppage.” He stressed they remain supportive of the Chief Justice, saying they were not convinced by allegations and evidence presented by the House prosecutors during the trial. Guererro said they also find ridiculous the allegation of Morales that Corona has 82 dollar-denominated accounts with a “transactional balance” amounting to $10 million, spread out over five banks as of last year based on records from the AMLC. “We don’t believe in it – nobody should believe in it. We don’t think there is a person who will create 82 dollar accounts and suddenly withdraw them also. Let’s give CJ the chance to disprove this allegation,” he told reporters in a separate interview. Mar Aguilar, ad-hoc president of the Judiciary Employees Association and concurrent president of the Sandiganbayan Employees Association, also assured the public that their operations in lower courts would not be halted on Tuesday. “With regards to Sandiganbayan employees and Judea members, it will depend upon them if they want to join. But for me, I will support CJ and I will file a leave,” he said. Organizations of judges led by the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) and Metropolitan and City Judges Association the Philippines (MetCJAP) have also expressed similar support. Some of them are planning to also file leave to attend the hearing on Tuesday. In December last year, hundreds of judges and court employees stepped out of their courts in Metro Manila and trooped to the SC building in Manila to demonstrate their support for Corona. Judges in first- and second- level courts in Metro Manila decided not to hear cases last Dec. 14 to condemn the move of allies of President Aquino in the House of Representatives to impeach Corona. Because of this, court offices closed at noon and hearings were cancelled. It was held two days after the House of Representatives impeached Corona and a day after the Articles of Impeachment were transmitted to the Senate. Meanwhile, members of the judiciary continued showing their support to the Chief Justice in the sixth day of the octave Novena mass in the SC building. Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. attended the mass. Last Thursday, Associate Justices Teresita Leonard-de Castro and Jose Perez attended the special mass for his second anniversary as Chief Justice. No confirmation has been made yet whether justices of the high court will also attend the impeachment hearing on Tuesday. They don’t have their regular full-court session on that day since the high court is in recess and will resume session next month. – With Edu Punay - By Christina Mendez