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Enrile calls 'birth pains' first week of impeachment trial

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Thursday that both the prosecution and defense panels experienced ‘birth pains’ throughout the first week of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

”We have birth pains,” Enrile, presiding judge, assessed as the Senate, sitting as impeachment court, adjourned the trial until Tuesday next week at 2 p.m.

”We started rather in disarray but we’re finally getting smoother. I think next, we will be very fast in our proceedings,” the veteran senator said.

The fourth day of the historic impeachment trial ended after hearing the fifth witness, Atty. Sedfrey Garcia, Marikina’s Registrar of Deeds, who testified on the Corona’s properties which the prosecutors alleged in the Article 2 of the impeachment that the Chief Justice did not declare in his statements of assets and liabilities and net worth.

Actually, the prosecution team has so far presented a total of three Registrars of Deeds that also include Randy Rutaquio of Taguig-Pateros Registry of Deeds and Atty. Carlo Alcantara of Quezon City Registry of Deeds.

”The prosecutors are under heavy pressure to defend the case with the quantum of evidences and number of witnesses to be summoned,” Enrile said.

Alcantara presented to the impeachment court a total of 23 titles in the names of Corona and his relatives in Quezon City.

Rutaquio, on the other hand, testified on the 303.5-square meter condominium unit in Taguig City which the prosecution alleged is owned by the Chief Justice and his wife.

Rutaquio presented to the impeachment court a deed of sale in the name of Maria Czarina Corona. He said the attorney-of-fact in this transaction, as sold by Megaworld Corp., was the chief justice himself.

The impeachment trial started last Monday although the trial proper officially kicked off only last Wednesday with SC clerk of court Atty. Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal took the witness stand first to talk on the statement of assets and liabilities and net worth of Corona.

Defying a 1989 SC resolution prohibiting the clerk of court to release the SALN of the justices, Vidal submitted to the impeachment court the copy of P22,938,980 with zero liability.

Based on his SALN, Corona borrowed P11 million from Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc., a corporation owned by the family of his wife Cristina, but the Chief Justice was able to pay it in a span of five years.

Malacanang records section chief Marianito Dimaandal also testified last Wednesday regarding SALN from 1992 to 2001, the period when Corona served as assistant secretary of the legal affairs.

With all the documents and testimonies tackled in the first four days of the trial, House prosecution team chief Rep. Niel Tupas said: “We are confident that we can prove our case.”

The impeachment court tackled first the Article 2 of the eight articles of impeachment that focused on Corona’s failure to disclose to the public his SALN.

The prosecutors also included under Article 2 the allegations that Corona did not include in his SALN other properties and that the chief magistrate amassed ill-gotten wealth.

The impeachment court spent the first two days in the pleadings and motions including a motion to summon the Coronas that the court denied last Tuesday “for lack of merit.”

The prosecution drew the first blood when the impeachment court denied the defense’ motion for preliminary hearing to discuss the veracity of the impeachment complaint.

Tupas said the prosecution will present 11 more witnesses, including Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Henares, in the Article 2, prompting Enrile to direct the witnesses to bring their documents as early as 8 a.m. on Tuesday for the verification and marking as evidence to save time.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III said a caucus will be held on Tuesday before the 2 p.m. impeachment trial.

The impeachment court decided to take a break on Monday, Jan. 23, in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

By Jelly F. Musico




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