GUILTY: When the defense acted as prosecutors

The rule is that the prosecution must prove the strength of its case. It cannot rely on the weakness of the defense. But in the historic conviction of Renato C. Corona, it was strangely the defense that ensured that   Corona would be the first officer in Philippines history to be removed from office through impeachment.

The prosecution rested its case solely on Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, to wit: that he failed to disclose to the public his statement of Statement of Assets, Liability and Net Worth as required under the Constitution. This could have meant either of two things: one, he did not disclose his SALN as required by law; or two, he was not truthful in his declarations thereat.

At the onset of the trial, the prosecution immediately subpoenaed the former CJ’s SALN that it had alleged, and rightfully at that, should have been made public. This means that the prosecution could not have meant to prove that his declarations in the SALN were untruthful precisely because they had not seen them. This was why they wanted Marites Vitug and Harvey Keh to take the witness stand:  to state that they were denied access to these SALNs.

I reckoned that the Congressmen must have thought that the former CJ would go the way of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierres. That is, that he would resign as soon as the articles are filed. But the former CJ did not resign. Confident, perhaps, that the prosecution did not have the goods on him, he opted to wage battle with the prosecutors and Malacañang.

The CJ was right. The prosecution did not have the goods on him. It appears that the prosecution only commenced with its case build-up after the transmittal of the impeachment articles to the Senate.  In fact, they were so excited when the Land Registration Authority provided them with a computer printout of 45 properties allegedly belonging to the former CJ that they run to town with it even before they had the chance to verify the veracity and accuracy of the list.

And for it, they got tremendous flack. While they managed to prove the existence of 11 properties, the damaged has been done. Senators would take turns lambasting them for vilifying the name of the former CJ by revealing raw information to the public rather than to the impeachment court.

After which the prosecution had very little. There was BIR Commissioner Kim Henares who testified that the ex-CJ could not have lawfully acquired his declared property with his declared lawful income alone. But this was declared immaterial because the articles of impeachment did not allege that the ex- CJ amassed ill-gotten wealth.

Then there was the flip-flop in the PAL attendant’s case under Article three. But even if the flip-flop did happen, the Senate was not impressed since this could not be attributable to the CJ alone, the SC being a collegial body. The prosecution then sought to prove that Corona received lots of free trips from PAL through the so-called platinum card. But this too was not allowed. Finally, the prosecution presented Justice Secretary Leila De Lima who unfortunately, did not have personal knowledge on how the former CJ allegedly altered records of court proceedings to make it appear that the majority of the court had already enjoined her from preventing former President GMA from leaving the country. Justice Serreno, in her dissent, claims that this was subject to certain conditions- which had not yet been complied with.

By the time the prosecution had rested, the betting was that the former CJ would be acquitted. But the strangest thing happened: the defense actually picked up the cudgels for the prosecution. First, they summoned Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and enabled her to present to the impeachment court the AMLAC report detailing that the ex-CJ had US$10-12million in bank deposits. Then the defense flip-flopped and contrary to its initial refusal, allowed the CJ to take the stand. In his opus, the ex-CJ proved what the prosecution could not: that he had US$2.4 Million and about 80 Million pesos in deposits, sums which he did not declare in his SALN. The climax was when the former CJ walked-out of the proceedings after his 3 hour monologue. That was the turning point. Even those who were unsure of the CJ’s guilt could not absolve him lest they themselves earn the public ire.

The rest is history. On the basis of both the testimony of the Ombudsman and the former CJ, and courtesy of the latter’s walkout, the  Senate found Corona guilty. Thank goodness for the defense. It did a splendid job for the prosecution!

10 comments on “GUILTY: When the defense acted as prosecutors

  1. Yonyon says:

    Unexpected providence for the prosecution was the presumptuous CJ confident soly after three hours monologue/ing with the hope of having fooled the public with his self serving if not selfish interpretation of the law but not the verdict twisting simple uncourteous to the court. Walking out to no effect for him, forgetting that he was highly expected to know best the basic respect and courtesy of law and procedures. Impeachment court is not his jurisdiction, he cannot be excused to walk out even if invoking as the chief justice.

  2. simongc says:

    two questions – 1- Did anyone work out the true extent of his bank balances ; was it US$55000 or US12million or somewhere in between . & 2- Does the conclusion of the Corona inquiry signal a restart of a forensic and ferocious prosecution of the perpetrators of the MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE or has that debacle disappeared into the annals of history never to be resurrected

  3. Jose L. de Mesa, Jr. says:

    Based on what you have written above, Atty. Roque, is it not possible that there was divine intervention? What good men could not prove, He allowed the accused himself to prove. Up until that time, no one in his right mind would have thought that the former CJ, intelligent that he is and with brilliant legal minds in his corner, would dare to do the unthinkable – expose himself. Thank God the good prevailed.

  4. ricky a. pollo says:

    me thinks Corona lost the game in the last two minutes with monumental blunders. Truly, the summoning of an adverse witness in Morales was a trojan blunder. Never it entered in their minds that Morales would not float stories of 12 million dollars of Coron a in the newspapers without being prepared for it. Or at least having seen something to support such statement. Relying much on absolute confidentiality of dollar deposit, Corona put his guard down thinking perhaps there no way Morales could have access to the amlac reports. At this stage the inevitable was about to happen. Alas, the defense were not on guard. When Morales was brandishing the documents of Amlac, Don Quixote err Don Cuevas should have moved for the striking out of the evidence and testimony on ground of the hearsay rule. But they did not but immediately terminated the direct which made the obvious that them unprepared for the hostile witness. The crucial point still is the appearance of Corona himself. They should have directly examine him, so that Corona can explained properly the admission, and immediately filed Certiorari Petition on the interpretation of absolute confidentiality of the dollar account. Its all a matter of strategy. The only thing reprehensible in this drama, is the five months of wastes of time and resources. IN impeachment, the HOuse or the Senate should not be stopped in the gathering all the evidence, and let the respondent explained. It hould should only take us one week to settle this. Whew, next to the next justice please.

  5. aaron legaspi says:

    Its elementary sir harry. If you are lying or hiding something when scrutinized publicly chances are you will commit some self inflicting errror. Much especially if you are armored by a title called The Chief Justice of the Philippines.

  6. ricky p. says:

    No better script was written for this drama, than what the good Lord has written. Truly, divine intervention. When everything seems to be a lost cause for the prosecution, lo and behold, a twist in the script was uncovered, with the villain himself admitting his folly albeit a defense on the matter of interpretation. It served as the guiding light to brighten the conscience of the judges. This is better explained of all people by Leon Guerrero himself, a.k.a. Lito Lapid. Armed with merely secondary education, with zero knowledge in law, but with a clean conscience, Lapid said Sorry po, sorry po, konsiyensa lang and pinairal ko, Guilty. Hehe, walang personalan Konsiyensa lang.

  7. simongc says:

    RE -is it not possible that there was divine intervention? Thank God the good prevailed.-/ – if GOD or divine intervention ever prevailed in the Philippines then the MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE would not have occurred in the first place and the perpetrators would not be running around Scot free and the families and relatives of those slaughtered would not be continually victimised by the Philippine judiciary police and law officers in the atrocious manner that is happening right now
    Are there any men of honour (beside Harry Roque) in the Philippines to stand up and do something? -Ramon “Ricky” Arellano Carandang was fairly outspoken when on TV but not now that he is a Government insider

  8. Randy Paderes says:

    Prof. Roque, if the defense did not present Ombudsman Morales, et al as hostile witnesses, would the impeachment court acquit the former CJ?

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