Senator-Judge Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leads the members of the Senate impeachment court in praying before the start of Day 36 of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate session hall in Pasay City on May 8.  (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

MANILA — Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona will finally take the witness stand on Tuesday next week to personally debunk accusations hurled against him, particularly the Ombudsman’s claim that he has 82 dollar accounts.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who presides over the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice, agreed to the motion of the defense panel that it may be allowed to present the chief magistrate on Tuesday next week.

Enrile wanted Corona to take the stand on Monday since the defense panel had already dispensed with their remaining witnesses.

But defense counsel Jose “Judd” Roy III appealed to the Senate impeachment court, saying that they need more time to study the voluminous bank records presented by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Corona will be the last witness presented by the defense.

The defense team presented former Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan party-list and Harvey Keh, who filed the complaint against Corona with the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We have no other witness. Therefore, the only witness remaining is the respondent,” defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas said.

Enrile suspended the impeachment trial until Monday.

Senators will discuss in their caucus Monday the division of minutes and sequence of arguments after the defense closes the presentation of its pieces of evidence and witnesses.

Corona’s lawyers said that the defense is ready to accept the verdict of the Senate impeachment court.

“We hope that the President is ready too,” said defense counsel and spokesman Rico Paolo Quicho.

He said that members of the defense team “will never quit and will finish this to give an honorable fight.”

Quicho said the defense team will be presenting the Chief Justice “to once and for all bury all the accusations against him.”

The defense panel downplayed the prosecution’s claim that the game is over with the testimony of the Ombudsman, who detailed the alleged bank transactions of the Chief Justice.

Quicho said the public should be wary and critical of the Ombudsman’s testimony, which was based merely on an unsigned and unverified report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

“Our people should be meticulous. The AMLC report is similar to the Land Registration Authority [LRA] list on Corona’s 45 alleged properties, which turned out to be bloated. I believe our people are wise enough this time. They are holding back judgment and want to hear the side of the Chief Justice. They have been burned by stories of the 45 properties, small lady, mysterious envelope in the doorsteps so much so that they will not easily get carried away by the 82 foreign dollar accounts.”

Witness scolded

Keh, lead convenor of the civil society group Kaya Natin! was scolded by senators for submitting unverified documents against Corona.

Enrile bared that Keh brought he documents to his office and even invited a television news crew to cover the event.

“Why did you not bring that [document] to the Ombudsman instead of bringing it to the presiding officer of the impeachment trial when you are not a complainant here? What is the purpose?” Enrile asked Keh.

Keh for his part told the Senate president that he brought the document to his office because he felt that the Senate is in the best position to evaluate the document.

He also denied bringing a television crew.

“Because of this I’m ordering you to show cause why you should not be cited for contempt. You are trying to influence this court,” Enrile told the witness.

Keh also received a scolding from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who questioned his group’s intent in filing the case and using as basis files downloaded from the Internet.

“You are not even a witness and you are foisting yourself as a complainant before the public. What kind of good governance are you trying to promote? You are acting on anonymous sources,” Santiago said.

Keh admitted that the documents he submitted Enrile’s office were delivered to their office in Quezon City by an anonymous person.

Not from AMLC?

The defense team said that the AMLC did not provide the Ombudsman records of the supposed dollar accounts of the Chief Justice.

A 20-page investigation report of the Office of the Ombudsman, which was circulated to the media Wednesday, revealed that the AMLC did not provide the Ombudsman any bank records.

“AMLC requires additional requirements,” according to the status of the request for Corona’s bank records by the special panel of investigators of the Ombudsman.

The report was submitted by special investigators Christopher Soguilon, Ferdinand San Joaquin, Repicurus Charlo Salcedo, Rholie Besoòa and Moses Buzmion to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dated May 10.

Morales based her testimony on the 17-page report which she got from AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino.

The defense team said that the report presented by Morales was fabricated.

The senators maintained that a court order is necessary before the AMLC can furnish any bank records of individuals under investigation.

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