Saturday, May 12, 2012

Palace exec: Testimonies of Corona, Ombudsman will be 'crucial'

Malacañang is looking forward to hear not only the testimony of Chief Justice Renato Corona but also of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on the alleged million dollar account of the impeached magistrate. “There are two important testimonies that we should be expecting. It is the testimony of the Chief Justice and the testimony of the Ombudsman. And I think that’s where the battleground should be and will be,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a press briefing Friday. The Senate on Wednesday issued a subpoena for the Ombudsman, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, Emmanuel Tiu Santos, and civil society leader Harvey Keh. This was part of the condition set by Corona’s lawyers before letting their client personally face the impeachment court. Last week, the Ombudsman ordered Corona to respond to the allegations contained in several complaints filed separately by Hontiveros, Bello, Keh, and Santos that the chief justice has $10 million in supposed bank accounts. Both Hontiveros and Keh, however, have admitted not having personal knowledge on Corona’s alleged dollar deposits. Lacierda said his understanding is that the complaint filed by Hontiveros and the others was based on the testimonies in the ongoing impeachment trial. “I would assume that before she (Ombudsman) wrote the letter, there’s a basis for writing the Chief Justice that letter. And on account of that, how the Chief Justice should respond to the claim of the 10-million dollar deposits,” he said. “And also, once the Chief Justice sits, again, it will be open season for all the people who will be cross-examining, the prosecution as well as the senator-judges as to the existence of the dollar account. Those two testimonies will be the most crucial,” he said. Asked if Malacañang would give any support to the Ombudsman on her testimony, Lacierda said they don’t need to. “The Ombudsman is an independent branch (of government). She has her own powers; she has her own basis to secure information. So, I think, part of her testimony, she will be asked how she managed to secure whatever information she had. We don’t know what information; what’s the basis of her---the information she has. And it will be divulged once she is summoned by the Senate,” he said. Incidentally, it was before Carpio-Morales, then SC associate justice, that President Benigno Aquino III took his oath as president on June 30, 2010. Aquino has never recognized Corona as chief justice, describing the latter's designation by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a 'midnight appointment.' — Amita Legaspi/RSJ