Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cuevas harassed by BIR agents poking into his properties; Gatdula fired after INK refused to force Cuevas to abandon defense. Honasan says mouthful about honor and good name. More desperate moves of prosecution, including 100 witnesses. Wanted: 'schools of fishes' for successful fishing expedition

There are disturbing reports that a Cabinet member met with members of the Black and White movement in a high-end condo last Jan. 28 afternoon to finalize plans for a People Power effort. Their idea, according to the reports, is to occupy the Supreme Court and forcibly oust Chief Justice Renato Corona and create a disturbance at EDSA well before the conclusion of the Senate trial, with participants recruited from Central and Northern Luzon. Reports claim that the people hatching this plan believe at this point that with all the incredible bungling of the prosecution, CJ will surely be acquitted.  And so, IN DESPERATION, reports claim, this group will stage People Power at SC and EDSA as a pre-emptive move.  


Frankly, I don’t think this Cabinet member and the B/W Movement people are so dumb as to try to fake an artificial People Power. For as Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, who apparently also has heard of these reports, was quoted as opining, “On this planned ‘People Power’ to force CJ Corona to resign, it won’t succeed. Call it another thing. True People Power is not man-made. True People Power is never planned nor organized. It is spontaneous.”
How true. Let’s hope and pray that the supposed plotters won’t resort to moves that would jeopardize the peace and stability of this country, for there are also those who would not tolerate unjust and unruly actions. The nation is intensely glued to the Senate trial which is a daily joust of legal and psychological abilities between the prosecution and defense, based on evidence and the rules of court. And except for one senator-judge who is being asked to inhibit because of his acting as lead prosecutor-judge, the senators appear to be trying their best to be fair and impartial in this trial.
Thus, if there are any moves by outside pressure groups perceived contrary to court rules and elementary fair play, it could be the last straw among a people who have fairly tolerated the trial by publicity to which CJ has unjustly been subjected by what former Sen. Kit Tatad calls the “conscript media.” 


For days since the summary firing of NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula, reports have also buzzed that this happened because the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK) refused to succumb to Malacanang’s pressure to stop former Justice Serafin Cuevas from appearing as lead defense counsel of CJ Corona. Now Cuevas himself affirms this rumor, as reported by a newspaper today, attesting that some Palace emissaries have suggested that the criminal case against Gatdula (also an INK member like himself) would be dropped if Cuevas abandons the defense panel. Cuevas was also quoted as revealing that he’s being harassed by BIR agents now poking into his properties.
I don’t know Justice Cuevas beyond occasionally shaking hands with him, but the Palace would be committing a grave blunder if it continues harassing him. With his stature in the legal community and as a "rock star" with the public, it’s easy to see that he took on the defense of CJ because he believes in the man’s integrity. Pressuring him thus would be considered a supreme act of desperation on the Palace's part. 


At this point it’s material to recall the point raised by Senators Joker Arroyo and Gregorio Honasan last week. Following the testimony of BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares on Corona's ITR, Arroyo got her to admit that the BIR is now investigating the discrepancies between the income declaration of the spouses Corona and their property acquisitions.  Arroyo then expressed deep concern that with the Senate on-going trial and the BIR’s continuing investigation on the Coronas, the public impression would be that ALL THE FORCES OF GOVERNMENT ARE NOW BEING THROWN  at the CJ. In other words, full-blown persecution and AN OVERKILL.  But that’s a perception the public has long held---that P-Noy is out to reduce Corona to a pulp, durugin siya.


Sen. Gringo Honasan followed Arroyo’s  point with his own observation about how CJ's trial in the media is “going faster than that inside the Senate” especially since apparently some prosecution members have had no qualms about leaking documents that were marked but not yet entered as evidence in the court (one prosecutor even argued that media cameras inside the Senate are so powerful that they can pick up minute details in documents! That, of course, is insulting the public’s intelligence; we all know they were leaked out---BOC). 
Honasan, obvious bothered by the way CJ and his family have been mercilessly raked over the media in these leaked documents, then queried: “What has happened to the concern for one’s good name and that of family honor and other similar values?” Good question, Gringo. 


The big question, however, is, would Malacanang accept a verdict of acquittal that a growing number of political pundits already foresee even at this stage, two weeks into the trial? 
We media constantly exchange views and opinions about the current high drama and at a recent social gathering in Makati I queried a prominent columnist about his fearless forecast. He replied that at the rate the prosecution is bungling things CJ might just be acquitted. His opinion is now shared by a growing number of people who opine that the impeachment complaint submitted by the House to the Senate was so hurriedly done as to be so poor in structure (as infirmed as the signatures of the 188!). In fact, some senators themselves suggested that the prosecutors re-structure their complaint so that they could introduce evidence not otherwise allowed under the present complaint. But defense counsel Cuevas was also quick to point out that this would entail new House deliberations; and of course, a repaired complaint could raise anew the need for personal verification by the 188 signatories, which the prosecutors wouldn’t want.
This growing opinion about the weakness of the prosecution, I submit, is tied with circulating rumors about a People Power being planned to get CJ out of the SC. 


Star columnist Alex Magno recently cited the opinion of his colleague, former Sen.  Ernesto Maceda, that the “turning point” in the Senate trial came on the fifth day, when lead prosecutor Neil Tupas challenged Presiding Judge Juan Ponce Enrile to “liberalize” the Senate proceedings by not entertaining too many technicalities. Enrile, obviously piqued by this challenge, pressed Tupas with the now-famous series of queries: “If you want me to relax the rules, then tell me how I must do it and to what extent. Are you suggesting that we should allow misleading questions? Are you suggesting we should allow hearsay evidence? Are you suggesting that we allow argumentative questions?”
JPE's series of queries stumped Tupas and he retreated. Afterwards I spoke to some of  his prosecution colleagues and they opined that “Neil should have shut up after Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago gave us a break by batting for a less technical approach, so that the truth could come out. Pero nagdadada pa rin si Neil.” Morale is quite low in the prosecution as it takes beating after beating. One of its expected star performers, bar-topnotcher  Rudy Farinas, walked out after private prosecutor Arthur Lim (who likes to thunder into the microphone, giving Miriam migraines) took over Farinas' assigned role in interrogating Kim Henares; but he has since been mollified.
 Last Thursday the prosecution withdrew an earlier motion to subpoena all the bank accounts of CJ Corona and the reason given was “so as not to saddle the Court with these matters." But I surmise that liberalizing access to bank accounts would also sow panic even in the business community, just like what Kim Henares is doing with ITRs. Finally, just before session ended last Thursday, JPE criticized the prosecution move to subpoena all the records of condos allegedly involved in transactions with the Coronas. As JPE said, if this were to be the case, the Court would have to subpoena even construction and engineering records! 


Over the weekend the public was regaled with more desperate moves by the prosecution, which declared that it intends to summon more than 100 witnesses,  including  14 justices of the SC and media members. The staggering number that it wanted subpoenaed (vs. only 15 witnesses by the defense) elicited an incredulous “Oh my God” from JPE, while  Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III exclaimed, “I wonder who’s delaying the impeachment trial now.”  Sen. Bongbong Marcos quickly calculated that the Senate needs an entire year to finish hearing all the 100 testimonies!
Let’s give the last word on the prosecution’s plan to subpoena 100 witnesses to this pundit who texted, “Of course prosecution is right in summoning 100 witnesses. It needs schools of fishes for a fishing expedition to succeed.”

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1 comment:

  1. Belinda,

    From where you have been getting your perspective?