SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Admissibility versus perception

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 February) – Regardless of how the defense team of impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona handles the documents concerning his several bank accounts which were not included in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, it would be a classic damn-if-you-do, damn-if-you-don’t situation.

If they allow such documents to be presented as evidence, it would be enough to pin down their client. If they don’t, the public will [rightly] suspect they are trying to hide something.

The magnitude of the revelations that Corona has stashed tens of millions of pesos – and possibly thousands of dollars — in several accounts in at least two banks is not lost on his lawyers. They know they have to do something to counter growing public perceptions that these amounts are highly questionable, as these were excluded from the SALNs. But what exactly is to be done is another matter.

From the start, the defense lawyers have always been in a quandary on how to deal with Corona’s undisclosed bank accounts. They had tried all tricks in the books to stop the testimonies of the bank executives. Failing that, they declared that the money came from the Chief Justice’s wife, Cristina R. Corona, reportedly from her income as a controlling figure of a contested firm.

It remains to be seen whether this claim is true or not. Yet what will stick in the people’s minds is Corona’s dogged attempt to conceal his several accounts and millions from public knowledge in clear violation of the law governing SALNs. They will not stop wondering why the chief magistrate would not want to divulge his tons of cash if this indeed came from legitimate sources, for example, from the reported corporate earnings of his wife.

This is now all water under the bridge. Nothing much can be done to reverse the swelling tide of anti-Corona sentiment even if Attorney Serafin Cuevas and company manage to score technical points every step of the impeachment trial.

Technically, the testimonies of the bank officials who have come to the witness stand can be rendered worthless if it would be proven that the House prosecutors had obtained the bank documents in an  irregular manner. As some senator-judges explained in today’s (February 20) hearing, all these documents will be for naught if coming from government sources like the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Note that the admissibility or non-admissibility of evidence will be based on the manner with which it is obtained. If the impeachment court ruled that the bank documents – and with it the testimonies of the bank officials – are inadmissible, it would not mean that the documents are fake and the testimonies false.

Questions will forever remain on Corona’s previously undisclosed millions regardless of how the impeachment court would rule on the controversial documents submitted by the prosecution. Sadly for the Chief Justice, Cuevas and company are not the right soldiers for this kind of war, the opinion war. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at