CJ defense insists witnesses are relevant

Posted at 05/08/12 2:19 PM

Quicho says defense is mindful of Senate mood

MANILA, Philippines - Lawyer Rico Quicho on Tuesday denied that the defense team of Chief Justice Renato Corona did not present pertinent witnesses during Monday's impeachment hearing.

Quicho said the defense team had wanted to present more witnesses to prove the sale of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. property to the city of Manila. However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pointed out 3 of the defense witnesses would provide testimony not relevant to the case.

"The defense is mindful of the mood of the Senate impeachment court and we will act accordingly," he told ANC's Dateline Philippines. 

He added: "It is not the defense's strategy to create fireworks. We really wanted to present our evidence based on how we apreciate the evidence presented against the Chief Justice so far. We will be very thorough in our presentation and we hope the relevance and the materiality of the testimony of witnesses will be appreciated by the court."

The defense panel had wanted to present as witnesses a Analyn Moises, the records keeper of the City of Manila; Elseda Castro of the Sampaloc Market; Noel Kintanar of the Fort Bonifacio Development Corp.; and a man identified only as V.C. Cadangen from the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s law division. Of the four, only Kintanar was able to testify.

Enrile lectured the defense team for presenting witnesses whose testimonies have no relevance to the impeachment case.

“I have to tell you the truth, we are quite disappointed that the witnesses that you brought here this afternoon have to do with collection of fees. What has that got to do with the impeachment?” Enrile said.

“The question here is Article 2. All of those witnesses presented this afternoon were irrelevant to Articles of Impeachment number two. That’s why we feel a little disappointed,” he added.

Article 2 is on Corona's failure to truthfully disclose his statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Enrile noted that the defense panel has presented a total of 17 witnesses since it started its presentation last March.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said the defense panel can help hasten the trial if it allows Corona himself to testify.

“Instead of cluttering this court with witnesses who are impertinent, immaterial, irrelevant to these proceedings, I suggest that you bring the respondent himself to answer all the allegations leveled against him and if the Chief Justice will appear, the judges, the impeachment court will be very, very happy to hear his side,” he said.

Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, however, said the Chief Justice has a right to due process and cannot be compelled to testify against his will.

“He is Chief Justice of the country and out of respect, let us give him some consideration irrespective of the nature thereof,” Cuevas said.

“We cannot be bulldozed into presenting this witness because you would like him to testify. That is not the order of trial. That is not the demand of justice. There is no authority nor any jurisprudence that gives the reason for compelling a party accused for appearing in court if he does not appear to be in a position to do so,” he added.