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Is Senator-judge Joker Arroyo joking?


In January 2001, Joker Arroyo took the lead in asking the Senate impeachment court to subpoena Cathy Weir, then president of Citibank N.A., in order to produce records on then President Joseph Estrada’s dollar deposits. Arroyo was then a House senior prosecutor in Estrada’s impeachment trial.

A grateful nation subsequently voted Joker Arroyo to the Senate four months later in May.

I am raising this matter because moments ago, I heard Joker Arroyo, now a senator-judge, express wariness and caution in opening Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank records, particularly dollar account records.

Sen. Arroyo said:

"Whether foreign bank deposits can be opened and disclosed before us, an impeachment court, it is very serious….We are treading on a gray area which I share….I have read all the books….on this. we have to discuss this very thoroughly. No one can say he is an expert on this interpetation of the bank secrecy law. And whether it can be opened or not. And because of the policy consideration of course (whether) there will be capital flight or whether there’ll be a bank run and all that sort of thing."

I just could not believe it when I heard Senator Arroyo say all that because he did the exact opposite 11 years ago during Estrada’s impeachment trial.

As the lead House prosecutor Joker Arroyo urged the court to delve into Estrada’s dollar and peso deposits.

It was House prosecutor Joker Arroyo who delivered the bombshell in his opening statement before the Senate impeachment court in December 2000 – that President Estrada had a secret bank account under the alias Jose Velarde or “Valhalla”. Joker Arroyo even flashed on a screen Estrada’s signature on the money bill side by side with the Jose Velarde signature.

The House prosecutors led by Joker Arroyo were successful in getting the Senate impeachment court to open the Equitable-PCI bank records on Estrada’s Jose Velarde secret accounts.

In January, according to a Philippine Star report, Congressman Joker Arroyo divulged details of Estrada’s bank accounts to the press, despite a bank secrecy law.

Philippine Star published a report on one of Joker Arroyo’s news briefings:

Makati Rep. Joker Arroyo, a member of the House panel that prosecuted Estrada, told reporters yesterday that had the “now famous” 11 senator-judges allowed the presentation of bank records as evidence (for the second time), the nation would have known that the former President maintained numerous accounts under false names, including airplane models.

He said some of the bank deposits of Estrada and his mistresses were denominated as 747, 737 and 727, which are types of Boeing planes, and A-300, A-310, A-320, and A-330, which are Airbus models.

These are in addition to the bank accounts the fallen leader kept under the name Jose Velarde, Jose Marcelo and Kelvin Garcia, he said.

“He even has a checking account which he signs as Three One Eight in letters,” said Arroyo.

In another Philippine Star report, Joker Arroyo told reporters:

Arroyo said the pro-Estrada senators deliberately filed a motion to put the second envelope to a vote by the senator-judges, preempting Davide from making an impartial ruling on the issue. “This is a grand conspiracy between Malacañang and the 11 senators. They knew they had the numbers ,(so) to hell with fairness and justice.”

Arroyo has branded the result of the voting as a “shameless act of acquittal for the President.”

The (second) envelope reportedly contained details of transactions pertaining to the bank account of “Jose Velarde” holding some P1.2 billion deposits.

Equitable-PCI Bank senior vice president Clarissa Ocampo testified at the trial on Dec. 22 that Mr. Estrada repeated signed bank records as “Jose Velarde” in her presence.

The first envelope opened by the tribunal last month also contained bank records on the Velarde account, among them a P500-million trust account testified to by Ocampo.

From these news accounts, it is clear that Joker Arroyo was all for lifting the secrecy of bank records when it came to Estrada’s dollar and peso accounts, including those held in the name of Estrada’s wife and mistresses.

It is clear that Joker Arroyo believed that secrecy of bank accounts should be lifted during an impeachment trial.

But not now, it seems, when it is Chief Justice Renato Corona on trial and it is the dollar and peso bank accounts of the Corona family.

What is the difference?

By Raissa Robles

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