Defense blasts PDI over witness' photos

Posted at 03/14/2012 6:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The defense panel of Chief Justice Renato Corona cried foul over the negative publicity generated by their witness Demetrio Vicente after he took the witness stand yesterday at the impeachment trial.

photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reacting to a series of unflattering pictures of stroke victim Vicente on today's Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), defense counsel Jose Roy III said: "It's unfortunate because I think Mr. Vicente admitted he has suffered from a stroke and I feel very badly for him."

He criticized the Philippine Daily Inquirer for publishing the photos. "I'm not surprised by what PDI has done. We've tried very hard to view PDI as doing its best to be objective. I'm afraid we're unable to reach that conclusion," he said.

He said despite the stroke, Vicente's testimony in the trial was very clear.

"I have no doubt he was certain about his documents and what they meant I think you can see from cross-examination, he was able to respond intelligently even when questioned by senator-judges," he said.

He said Vicente was relaxed, which means he was telling the truth. Roy even asked prosecution spokesman Miro Quimbo, under whose district Vicente's property falls, to help facilitate a media visit to the residence to show Vicente is in possession of the property.

In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, PDI apologized for the photos of Vicente published on its March 14, 2012 broadsheet.

“It has come to our attention that our photo of witness Demetrio Vicente on our front page today has offended some of our readers. For this we sincerely apologize. It was not our intention to disparage Mr. Vicente in any way,” the PDI said.

Defense spokesman Tranquil Salvador also took exception to the photographs.

"Sana di i-highlight ng ganun dun tignan sa merito ng kaso. Mag-stick tayo sa issue," he said, adding that Vicente knows his documents.

Roy said it was the strong family culture in the Philippines which provided the atmosphere on why Vicente did not insist on finishing the paperwork on his ownership of the property registered under the name of Cristina Corona.

"When you buy from relatives, you don't expect trouble if there is no difference or no history of bad faith. You don't expect relatives to flip and contest the sale later on," he said.

Nevertheless, Roy maintained that the 1993 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of Corona, where Vicente's property is listed, has nothing to do with the impeachment case.

He said he is still unsure as to if or when Mrs. Cristina Corona may be presented as witness.

He is also still unsure whether the defense will present Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez after he was seen in the Senate premises Tuesday.

Roy said Marquez merely met with them to clarify some matters. He said Marquez is ready to testify as he also wants to clarify some things before the court.

"I assured him the microphones of the witness stand cannot be knocked over," he said in jest, in reference to a press conference of Marquez where he was caught on camera making a face after a microphone fell.

Roy also said there was no double standard when the court allowed the presentation of Araceli Bayuga as defense witness because judicial privilege does not cover the salary and remuneration of Corona.

He said even the defense has been adversely affected by the February 14 resolution of the Supreme Court restricting the testimony of court personnel before the impeachment court without the authorization of the SC en banc.