2 legal experts predict CJ conviction

Posted at 05/26/12 6:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Two legal experts predicted on Saturday that senator-judges will hand down a guilty verdict in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

University of the East (UE) College of Law Dean Amado Valdez told ANC’s “Dateline Philippines" that the prosecution was able to prove its allegation that Corona failed to disclose his true wealth in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN)--with the help of the defense.

He said the presentation of hostile witnesses, including the Ombudsman, by the defense proved counter-productive to Corona's case.

“All the 3 charges were proven by the prosecution with the aid of the evidence from the defense, especially because all the charges are political in nature. It is about the perception of the people, it's not strictly legal,” he said.

Valdez noted that the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales hurt the defense because she was able to present an official document from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

“She presented an AMLC document, which is an official document. Unless you have proof that the documents are prefabricated, they are presumed to be regular. It produced the dollar accounts where it put him [Corona] in the corner and he had no other alternative but to testify and then deny that he does not have $10 million but only $2.4 million, which he still did not declare in his SALN,” he said.

Corona, in his testimony on Friday, alleged that the documents were not authenticated, and accused Carpio-Morales of allowing herself to be used by Malacañang in its bid to oust him from office.

Carpio-Morales, however, immediately disputed Corona’s allegations, saying the document was personally handed to her by AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino, and that she was only doing her job as an Ombudsman.

Corona is accused of failure to disclose his wealth in his SALN. From 2002 to 2010, he only declared between P2.5 million to P3.5 million in investments and cash in bank in his SALN's from 2002 to 2010, a far cry from $2.4 million in his dollar accounts and P80 million in commingled personal and Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) money held in trust by his wife.

Swing votes

Dean Joe Bisquera, vice-president for legal affairs at the University of Manila, also predicted a “guilty” verdict against Corona. He claimed 8 “swing votes” are likely to go for conviction.

Bisquera said he sees 19 senator-judges voting “guilty,” 3 more than the 16 votes required for a conviction.

“There are 11 senators who will vote ‘guilty’ and there are 8 swing votes who I also feel, by Monday, will also vote ‘guilty,’” he told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

Bisquera named the 11 senators as:

Franklin Drilon,
Francis Escudero,
Teofista Guingona III,

Serge Osmeña,
Ralph Recto,
Francis Pangilinan,

Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.,
Panfilo Lacson,
Aquilino Pimentel III,

Antonio Trillanes IV,
Jinggoy Estrada.

The law expert predicted only four votes for Corona's acquittal--Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Manny Villar and Joker Arroyo.

Bisquera said he based his analysis on the senators’ personal conviction, political commitment to the Aquino administration, and their political plans.

Valdez said the verdict will be based on the evidence presented and not on political affiliation. He also believes that in the end, senator-judges will vote based on conscience.

Regardless of the court’s decision, he also believes that one of the country's democratic institutions--the impeachment process as provided under the Constitution--“has already succeeded.”

“I believe the institution has already succeeded here. We have educated the people, I think we have made the process in the Constitution work. I think that’s the essence of democracy,” said Valdez.

In the event of a conviction, Valdez said Corona can no longer appeal his impeachment case before the Supreme Court, noting that the chief justice had agreed early on to recognize its authority.

Presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday said they will hand down a verdict after the prosecution and defense give their final arguments on Monday.