SOUTHERN COMFORT: Week 4: The Corona impeachment trial

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 February) – It was a field day for the prosecutors for the week.

It may have been denied request for some members of the Supreme Court to testify in the impeachment trial but it was able generate and extract into the open the most damaging pieces of information yet to support its claims that Chief Justice Renato Corona has been dishonest and untruthful in declaring his true net worth and thus violated the constitution and committed acts of betrayal of public trust.

Yet, the prosecution says all the bank accounts thus far allowed by the impeachment court to be opened in a limited way were just a peek of what the chief justice may be stashing away in other bank accounts, particularly the contentious five PSBank dollar accounts of Corona.

The prosecution, without having to go beyond what was allowed in the subpoena of the Senate impeachment court, gleefully watched in the sidelines as Senator-Judges took turns giving legitimacy and value over what the defense described as “fruits of the poison tree.”

In all, in two long and stunning days, it was established, although not yet admitted, that Corona had over P31 million (US$700,000) in peso deposits at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and PSBank as of 31 December 2010. Yet, what was declared in his statement of assets and liabilities was only P3.5 million or a little less than a tenth of what were stated in his bank accounts.

These did not include the five PSBank dollar accounts of the Chief Justice as admitted by its bank president that Corona has in the bank and other possible bank instruments related to all his known accounts.

That Corona finally decided to seek judicial remedy from the very court where he is the primus inter pares (first among equals) with prayers of issuances of temporary restraining orders and writs of preliminary injunctions to prevent the impeachment court from opening these contested accounts point to admission of ownership.

That he now is seeking his own court to declare the ongoing impeachment trial as null and void ab initio bespeaks of his declared intention to answer all accusations hurled against him by the House of Representatives, point by point, in the impeachment court.

In what appeared to be its biggest blunder yet, too, his defense is now scrambling to stop the examination of the details of his BPI accounts after lead counsel and former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas asked the impeachment court for a thorough examination of Corona’s account records together with an innocent but, as it turned out, a damaging challenge to the prosecution to accompany them to the bank.

Several senator-judges were quick to jump on the gun and challenged Cuevas to do the same in the PSBank accounts of Corona.

The week also put forth some legal hairsplitting as well as defining the powers of the Senate sitting as an impeachment court in the argument among its members capped by the issuance of a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court preventing the former from looking into the dollar accounts of the chief justice.

But in what will surely enter into the books of jurisprudence, the impeachment court, in denying the prosecution’s request to subpoena several members of the Supreme Court, also issued a veiled warning. The matter of interpreting the rules of Senate impeachment court is within the purview of the Senate performing a judicial function. The Senate in return is recognizing and respecting the internal rules of the Supreme Court. It is saying that there should be no mistaken notions which prevails in their own houses. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)

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