You better believe that Filipinos from the various social strata follow the impeachment trial. One evening recently I was at a Mercury Drug branch and had occasion to chat with the security guard who said he was rushing home to catch the replay of the trial over TV. I said relax, it’s Friday---no trial. Queried on how he finds the hearings, the guard confessed to being an ardent admirer of the two seniors, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile whom he feels is even-handed and fair, and lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas whom he found “sobrang galing at dunong!”. But he also likes the aura of CJ Renato Corona---“para pong mabait at mapagpakumbaba,” adding how he pities CJ as “talagang bugbog sarado ki P-Noy.”
On the other hand, my suki fish vendor clearly understands that the issue against CJ is really all about Hacienda Luisita, disguised as a campaign against the CJ’s “corruption.”
Over TV the other day I watched P-Noy’s tirades against Corona at the opening of the EDSA anniversary at La Consolacion College. Like many citizens I found it deplorable and pathetic that he’d use that forum of young students assembled from various schools, to continue his vicious attacks on CJ---complete with visual aids and calling for his conviction. Ironically the first question he got in the open forum afterwards was, “Mr. President, how can you help us bring down tuition fees?” These youngsters obviously were signaling to their President that, hey, we want you to talk to us about gut issues affecting us and our parents who pay for our education with great sacrifice. But P-Noy continued his tirades against Corona, as he had done at Tesda the week before.
Reports say he'll take the hate-Corona campaign to 25 other campuses around the country. What P-Noy doesn’t seem to realize is that there is such a thing as over-doing something. In the first place, mapipikon na ang mga senators, for as Corona argued, P-Noy should respect the impeachment process and leave the senators alone in this job entrusted to them by the Constitution, instead of his openly seeking to influence their vote and marshalling all the forces of government against the CJ.
But by openly campaigning for CJ's conviction, P-Noy reinforces the assertion made by Corona’s defense team at a recent press conference---that he’s seeking to buy the senators’ votes for P100 million each. This is unfair to the majority of senators who are trying to act prudently in the trial court. Secondly, it’s MAKING A MARTYR OUT OF CJ and eliciting tremendous sympathy for him.
House allies of P-Noy, led by Pangasinan Rep. Hernani Braganza, are now bragging (no pun intended, Nani) that they’re shopping for the “ideal Chief Justice” presumably because they believe Corona would be convicted. Actually, going by how they have argued over the past nearly two months since the impeachment complaint signed by 188 House members was forwarded to the Senate, there’s only ONE QUALIFICATION that P-Noy’s allies are looking for in an “ideal CJ”---that he or she will obey P-Noy’s COMMAND. But doesn’t this bring us back to the argument being peddled by his allies about CJ Corona being GMA’s alleged stooge? Would it be only a change of cast? What's all the wrenching national upheaval about?
The popular theory among political pundits is that Aquino ordered the House to impeach Corona after the Nov. 22, 2011 unanimous decision of the Supreme Court ordering full distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s lands. Or at the very least, if redistribution of Hacienda lands is inevitable, P-Noy wants to make sure the Cojuangco family will get “properly compensated” (this was his first reaction to that SC decision).
Frankly, I can’t see how the SC’s Nov. 22 ruling, where 14 justices voted for redistribution, could be reversed just like that. Perhaps it’s more the computation of the valuation of the lands that the farmers will have to pay the Cojuangco family that could be easier to manipulate in a “revamped” SC, with Corona replaced. This is because the justices have varied positions on valuation: CJ Corona insists that it be pegged at 1989 prices, which means that the farmers get to pay only P196 million for the lands over a given period; whereas Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno reportedly insisted on land prices of 2006, when the stock distribution option was re-offered to the farmers, which means at least P5 billion for the Cojuangcos. Analyst Rigorberto Tiglao even puts it at P10 billion.
Whatever it is, P-Noy’s garrulous House allies would actually be insulting Justices Carpio and Sereno if they think these two magistrates, assuming either of them is appointed to a vacant CJ post, or even an outsider as is being rumored, such as former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, would be P-Noy’s PUPPET. I imagine they all have legal standing to protect.
The story of the fake bank documents supposedly containing reference to CJ Corona’s accounts at PS Bank is getting murkier by the day. First, the prosecution panel attached these docus to its request for subpoena of Corona’s bank accounts even as copies were floated by rappler.com in the internet. After the defense complained of the unauthorized float, the Senate grilled lead prosecutor Niel Tupas who made the startling revelation that the prosecution had nothing to go by in the accounts issue except the solitary information that CJ Corona had won P1 million in a PSB lottery. With this admission, Tupas thus confirmed what the defense has been saying all along: that prosecution has to undertake a grand fishing expedition to move its case. .
Queried by SP Enrile on where the prosecution got the docus since PSB hadn't submitted any as yet, Tupas pointed to Umali who said it was handed to him by an unidentified “short lady” at the Senate. PSB branch manager Anabelle Tiongson was summoned to explain the docus' sudden appearance. After days of tortured and vague answers she finally opined that those were fake since some entries in the bank originals did not correspond to those in the prosecution's docus.
Interestingly, under questioning Tiongson, an Ilongga, claimed that she did not know Rep. Niel Tupas at all, despite the fact that her first cousin, Obet Armada, was the running-mate of Tupas’ brother Boboy in an election (Tiongson is also a relative of LP Sen. Franklin Drilon, both hailing from Dumangas, Iloilo, while the latter was Niel Tupas' wedding sponsor ). But even more startling was that Tiongson refused to “confirm or deny” that Niel Tupas is also a depositor in PSB (text messages claim the existence of alleged huge deposits of Tupas there that make Corona look like poor relation). An exasperated Senate President stressed that failure to confirm or deny means only one thing: AFFIRMATIVE.
Listeners doubtless could not help but see the entre-familia connection among the "Iloilo Mafia."
Last Thursday Tiongson detonated another bomb. She claimed that Q.C. Rep. Jorge Banal showed up at her bank branch with bank docus bearing Corona’s name, seeking more information on CJ’s accounts. But she said that after recovering from “shock” at seeing those signature cards in an outsider's possession, she refused to give him any info and he left. So startling was the script Tiongson was following that afternoon, that even her young lady lawyer did not know that her client was going to divulge it. So, why did Tiongson offer it at that moment---to save her skin? Whose script was she following? Did higher ups in the bank authorize her to do so, to cooperate with President Aquino?
Rep. Banal, who happened to be in the Senate premises (!) that afternoon (he’s part of the House secretariat) was summoned by Enrile to explain his role, and his story was that he found the docus in a brown envelop left by his fence last Jan. 31 evening, and he promptly turned it over to his prosecution colleagues. Interestingly his brother, PDI columnist Conrad Banal, wrote up the Corona bank issue on Feb. 2 when no one even in the Senate had those docus.
All these developments proved several things: that at the start the prosecution had no evidence whatsoever other than those docus that were ILLEGALLY OBTAINED, and that, as Enrile pointed out, the prosecution depended solely on the Senate subpoenas to fish them out. The problem is that as Sen. Joker Arroyo put it, these docus have “no evidentiary value,” having been obtained under illegal conditions and attested to by bank officials themselves as a forgery. As Arroyo put it, “A forgery is a forgery.” SP Enrile agrees, as he reasons that if the documents are proved fake, then the prosecution's whole body of arguments on this issue will be stricken off the record.
Aside from the "fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree principle," the logic here is that if the docus are fake, assumptions based on them, e.g., sum totals there cannot be trusted.
But there's another strange twist: the Palace quickly asserted that those docus are GENUINE, not fake. The Palace is the only one making this claim now--- totally without basis, Your Honor, as Defense's Serafin Cuevas loves to say. Was it because the Palace wants to save the PSB and its parent bank, MetroBank, as well as do damage control on the banking industry that now suffers from the docu leaks? Or it wants to ferret out all the details of Corona's accounts, before JPE makes good his threat to strike them off the record?
The defense team is seriously contemplating filing charges against those who willfully used the fake docus to obtain evidence in a court process that's lawful and in order.
The developments are bad for the banking industry, but so too are they bad for the prosecution that's given to repeated lies.
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