The defense’s debacle

The prosecutors in the on-going impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona owe the defense a mountain of gratitude. After all, it was the defense that proved what the prosecutors could not:  That the chief justice has dollar deposits in the amount of— at least—$12 million, which he failed to disclose in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.


What on earth was the defense thinking when it called on the Ombudsman as its own witness? Perhaps they thought that the Ombudsman would not honor the subpoena sent to her to testify in the Senate. But why would she ignore such a subpoena when as a retired Supreme Court magistrate, she knows all too well that unlike contempt issued by the courts, a contempt imposed by the legislature may be for a lifetime. Did they think that the Ombudsman would not disclose details of her ongoing investigation, or at least not the documents tending to show the existence of the CJ’s dollar deposits, because to disclose these would be to violate the existing law protecting the confidentiality of dollar deposits without a court order?


But why would the Ombudsman not disclose this? To begin with, the secrecy of dollar deposits is only provided for by a law, while the duty of the Ombudsman to “investigate public official” for “illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient” acts and its power to “request any government agency for assistance and information necessary  x x x  and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents” are both provided for by the Constitution. Pursuant to the principle of hierarchy of laws, the Constitutional provisions on the Ombudsman prevail over the prohibition of the FCDU law.


What makes the defense act even more perplexing is that from the declarations of the Ombudsman herself, she apparently had no intention of taking the stand in the ongoing trial. When asked by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to what purpose the Ombudsman could investigate an impeachable officer such as the CJ, the Ombudsman responded that is was only for the purpose of “recommending to Congress the filing of an impeachment complaint after the one-year ban in December of this year.” Ergo, her investigation, if warranted, would have resulted only in a letter to the Speaker of the House perhaps recommending a second impeachment proceeding against the chief justice. This implies that she did not see taking the stand as an option.


So the question is: Why did they do it?


Lawyer Jose Roy III said it was upon the express order of Corona himself, to know what the Ombudsman has. I guess the defense achieved its purpose—except that in the process, they crucified their client.


The defense, after realizing that the Ombudsman dropped a bomb shell against the chief justice, is now saying that the information divulged are: one, not accurate, because the amounts were not verified by the Ombudsman herself; and two, in any case, illegally obtained and hence inadmissible.


Such are admirable attempts to contain the consequences of their self-inflicted damage. But these are utterly bereft of merit. To begin with, the Ombudsman divulged the documents only insofar as it forms part of her ongoing investigation about an alleged dollar deposit undeclared by the chief justice in his SALN. Certainly, this was what complainants Rissa Hontiveros-Baraquel et al alleged in their complaint. Moreover, although she has not personally verified the accuracy of the accounts, she is still entitled to presume that a very specialized agency such as the Anti-Money Laundering Council would be discharging its functions regularly. If at all, the AMLC cannot be faulted for heeding the constitutionally mandated power of the Ombudsman to solicit its assistance. Instead, it should perhaps be faulted for not conducting its own investigation even before the impeachment trial.


Moreover, the chief justice himself, in the form prescribed for the SALN,  has expressly authorized the “ obtain and secure from all appropriate government agencies, x x x such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections.” How can he now complain about the acts of the Ombudsman?


With the testimony of the Ombudsman,  Corona has put the last nail in his own coffin. Ironically, we have the defense to thank for this.


11 comments on “The defense’s debacle

  1. simongc says:

    the witnesses seem to be using strange or fancy verbiage , and even when Senator Marcos asked for a clarification of ” transactional Balance ” the explanation was not clear – Did they ever establish the actual balance of his combined accounts – i did not see that part if they did . Adding up a lot of deposits and withdrawals (that might be dodgey )does not tell the final story ie how much money did he actually carry on deposit in his accounts on a particular day or particular days . Was it a net balance of say US$55000 or a total of 12 million plus USdollars- i do not think this fact was adequately explained- just mumbo jumbo talk with no hard facts to back it up and tell the people just how much he did in fact have in his bank accounts, how much passed thru his accounts may not be relevant ; although source of funds would be.

  2. The Nutbox says:

    More importantly, we now have a REAL ombudsman. One with balls.

  3. Pwede na po bang masabi na ito ay Judiciary cleansing? sana nga po … for good governance

  4. tender onin says:

    The charges were specified in Article 2 of the Impeachment complaints, non-disclosure of assets,properties, etc. in the SALN. Therefore, let’s focus ourselves on the main issue for better understanding an avoid too much debates/alibis out of context. The question is, Did CJ Corona declared all his assets in the SALN? Obviously, the answer is, NO. The Senator-judges has now a strong basis to vote based on evidences presented particularly, the documentary evidences coming from Ombudsman Conchita Morales’ testimony. Thank you!

  5. aaron legaspi says:

    The AMLA information shows only transactions that covers 500 thousand pesos or more (or its dollar equivalent) and supposed suspicious transactions (this maybe lower than 500 thousand pesos). It did not report corona’s money from beginning or openning of account. What is important is that too many dollar transactions in excess of the equivalent of 500 thousand pesos were made by corona on curious dates such as election time and impeachment time and also when he became Justice of the Supreme Court. These transactions are clearly disproportionate to the legal income of the Chief Justice that makes it very,very suspicious.

  6. Ace Espinosa says:

    As expected, the accused suddenly becomes ill (sic). The same old tactic,yet still effective, reminiscent of the Arroyo administration. Remember, Gonzales?- The so healthy, alive and kicking presidential adviser, who was suddenly admitted to Philippine Heart Center because of a “serious illness”??? Where is he now? Hehehe…. Your guess is as good as mine. How about the boss, the ex-president herself ? Still gravely ill that requires continuous hospital confinement? Poor doctors…. tsk tsk tsk…they too become ill because they don’t know how to diagnose her illness quite well.

    With the latest Corona trial “excapade”, it would not be a surprise, the trial will end without him taking the witness stand…if the senate court adjourns by the end of May. Effective delaying tactic, huh???

    If he really is innocent as what he claims, why wouldn’t he just write an unconditional waiver. Demanding conditions for all the solons to issue the same is a presumption of guilt. Why? Of course, no one among these solons will make one because they are not the ones being tried. The way I see it, his posts in the government are products of connections, not so much with genuine qualifications. He speaks like an ordinary person being tried. Where has your wisdom gone?

    Poor Juan dela Cruz, until when can you endure the sufferings? Until when injustices prevail in this country?

  7. tender onin says:

    The acts of Chief Justice during last trial was a DISRESPECT to the Impeachment Court considering that he is the Chief Justice of the SC and very consistent in stating the Rule of Law, will always prevail. Now, here he is taking the witness stand and displayed his TRUE CHARACTER, arrogant, inconsistent. dishonest, hurled unfair accusations, taking advantage of the RESPECT liberally given to him by the Presiding Judge of IC. His actions was planned but, were considered “OVERUSED” in previous Senate hearings. Thieves- Public Officials are healthy when they steal money but easily, unhealthy and seriously sick when they are about to be caught. This is the most common defense of the guilty, high profile individuals particularly, those public officials occupying higher positions like CJ Corona. St; Luke Hospital, Veterans and The Medical City are now the favorite refuge of so called physically and mentally ill, Thieves. The Defense panel are now busy going to media explaining that there was no walk-out. Atty. Manalo of the defense. please stop fooling the Filipino people! Just fool yourself and your Defense team! You review the tape again and you will clearly see how arrogant your client was. He was not sick in fact he was very strong and arrogant with a vengeance eyes, challenging everyone. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, if he is really sick, he can simply asks permission from the court and surely, it would be granted. But instead, he said firmly with pride: “The Chief Justice of the Philippines, wishes to be excused”. And he just left the witness stand without permission. How crazy he was to do that to an Impeachment Court presided by the great, well respected and liberal JPE? After his improper behaviors and animalistic character, NO EXPLANATIONS are good enough to forgive him. A disciplinary action should be exercised by IC, “Direct Contempt”, Ang yabang yabang nya with his parting words, ‘MIDNIGHT APPOINTEE” lang naman siya. Lastly, if he is really ill, he should resign as CJ NOW! The Philippines do not need a sickly, diabetic and with heart problem CJ… We need a physically and MENTALLY healthy Chief Justice and Renato Corona is already OUT of the picture! Thank you and God bless us all!

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