Sunday, 19 February 2012

Senators to tackle contempt issue, Supreme Court records in caucus

The plate of the senator-judges will be full on Day 20 of the impeachment trial as they tackle three crucial issues, including the possibility of citing Chief Justice Renato Corona’s lawyers for contempt for claiming that MalacaƱang was trying to bribe senators.
The matter will be the subject of their caucus at 11 a.m. Monday after defense counsels submitted a 12-page explanation wherein they also “humbly apologize … for any misunderstanding or lack of clarity in their intentions and words.”
At the resumption of the trial at 2 p.m., the senators will grill Quezon City Representative Jorge “Bolet” Banal for approaching a bank manager on January 31 to verify apparently leaked documents of Corona’s deposits in his possession.
“We cannot discuss the matter in caucus because we don’t know anything about it,” Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Banal will instead be asked in open court.”
At Thursday’s trial, manager Annabelle Tiongson of Philippine Savings Bank’s Katipunan branch said Banal had sought her assistance on the leaked documents, a request she said she rejected.
Banal later briefly explained in court that he got the documents after someone allegedly left them at his gate in his St. Ignatius residence. The trial was adjourned afterward, with senators asking Banal to appear again this afternoon.
Supreme Court resolution
The caucus, according to Sotto, would take up the Supreme Court’s February 14 resolution allowing only limited access to certain court records the prosecution wanted scrutinized in the impeachment trial.
Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra on Saturday night criticized the “fishing expedition” in the past few trial days. During this period, the court tackled details of Corona’s bank accounts, with senator-judges and not prosecutors making bank officials admit to their existence.
‘Fake documents’
“Given all the realities in the trial, we know they’re wearing our patience thin, wearing us out,” Esguerra said by phone, referring to prosecutors.
“It’s been haywire, a fishing expedition the last three days. Since we cannot object to senator-judges asking questions of the witness, what else can we do? We are really at a disadvantage,” he said.
Tranquil Salvador III, also a member of the defense team, on Sunday said “all evidence (by the prosecution) will fall” in case it turned out that the Senate had subpoenaed Corona’s bank records based on fake documents provided by prosecutors.
“But assuming that they (evidence) stand, we have a good explanation,” he told the Inquirer, referring to discrepancies between money declared in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, and those deposited in his accounts.

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