'Cuevas caught unawares by Morales testimony'

Posted at 05/15/12 10:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Dean Antonio La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government believes lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas was caught unawares by the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Speaking to radio dzMM, La Viña said Cuevas seemed at a loss when Morales started talking about the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report about Chief Justice Renato Corona's 82 dollar accounts.

"Mahal na mahal ko yang si Justice Cuevas. Bilib na bilib talaga ako sa kanya. Nakita mo talaga nangangapa siya, hindi niya alam...Nagulat talaga siya. Ibig sabihin hindi nila alam na ginawa na pala ng trabaho ng AMLC," he said.

La Viña said it was obvious from the reaction of the defense team that they did not know what the Ombudsman had done in her investigation of Corona's account.

He said he does not know why the defense even called the Ombudsman as a witness in the trial.

"If they read the Constitution, they would know the Ombudsman can ask help from any government agency to do her job. So simple lang, she wrote the AMLC and then asked for help from Heidi Mendoza of [the Commission on Audit]. The defense should have expected that," he said.

La Viña said Morales' testimony made a strong impact on the senators, judging by their reactions during the trial.

"Una, talagang believable witness si Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Ilang beses sinabi ni Senator [Juan Ponce] Enrile kay Cuevas, matalino itong witness na ito. She's a very intelligent witness, Tama ka, napakaimpressive ng testimony. Believable, credible, malinaw...'

"Tapos dinagdagan pa ni Commissioner Heidi Mendoza na isang napakagaling at napaka-believable at credible. Kaya medyo magnificent yung testimony."

Morales earlier told the Senate impeachment court that Corona had $12 million in “fresh deposits," spread out into 82 accounts in 5 banks from 2003 to 2011.

She said Corona’s dollar deposits grew from just one dollar account in 2003 to 82 accounts by the end of 2011.

She said there were “significant deposits and withdrawals on various significant dates including the 2004 and 2007 elections as well as the week he was impeached specifically December 12,13, 15, 19, 20, and 22, 2011.”

She said on December 12, 2011, the day he was impeached, Corona pre-terminated a US dollar time deposit account amounting to $418,193.32 and then added to another bank in Bank of Philippines Islands (BPI) San Francisco del Monte branch. Corona then deducted $417,978.80 from the account and placed in a regular trust fund placement.