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Prosecution lines up 100 witnesses vs CJ Corona

MANILA, Philippines (Jan 28, 2012) - The prosecution team is lining up 100 witnesses who shall testify against Chief Justice Renato Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust in the ongoing impeachment trial.

The prosecution submitted yesterday a 39-page document that contains the list of possible witnessesand documentary evidence that it likes to present during the impeachment trial. The witnesses listed reportedly include 5 justices of the Supreme Court and journalists.

The list was submitted in compliance with an order from the Senate tribunal to the office of Senate secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes who concurrently acts as the the clerk of court during the impeachment trial.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago earlier castigated Tupas for not having a list of witnesses, prompting presiding Senator-judge Juan Ponce-Enrile to order the prosecution panel to prepare one.

“The prosecution reserves the right to present additional documents and witnesses, or to dispense with some of the identified documents and witnesses, during the course of the trial, as the need arises or as may be subject to stipulation,” the panel told the Senate.

The prosecution’s long list of witnesses was in stark contrast to the defense lawyers’ reported 25 witnesses. Corona’s defense team is led by former Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas.

There are eight Articles of Impeachment against Corona transmitted by the House to the Senate in December.

A list emailed to reporters showed the prosecutors plan to present SC justices and several journalists when they take up Article 7 that accuses Corona of “partiality” in granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the travel ban on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo issued by the Department of Justice.

The TRO would have allowed Arroyo to leave and seek medical treatment abroad.

Aquino administration officials, however, believe Arroyo wanted to leave the country to escape prosecution for electoral sabotage.

The panel wants to present Associate Justices Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Presbitero Velasco, and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez. Velasco and Marquez were listed as hostile witnesses. Velasco will be asked to testify on reports that Corona made handwritten corrections on the resolution that the former wrote in granting the TRO. Marquez will be asked to comment on allegations that he suppressed Sereno’s dissenting opinion. Among the journalists the prosecutors want to invite are Raissa Robles, Criselda Yabes, Marites Vitug, Zen Hernandez, and Ina Reformina.

Robles, Vitug and Yabes will be asked to testify on the close relationship between Corona and Arroyo.

For Article 3 or the alleged flip-flopping of SC on decisions under Corona, SC Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Diosdado Peralta, Jose Perez, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Martin Villarama, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Sereno may also be asked to testify.

The prosecutors also want Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to testify in the trial along with Arroyo’s personal physician, Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, and Dr. Mario Ver, the lead surgeon that operated on the former leader’s troublesome cervical spine.

Also being eyed as prosecution witnesses are Marianito Dimaandal, head of Malacañang’s records office; lawyer Enriqueta Vidal, SC clerk of court; Lauro Vizconde; Dante Jimenez; and representatives and/or officials of MegaWorld Corp., Commission on Audit, Judicial and Bar Council, John Hay Management Corp., National Statistics Office, House Land Use Regulatory Board, Bank of Philippine Islands, Philippine National Bank, Land Bank of the Philippines.

An official of the World Bank may also be asked to testify on the alleged misuse of loan proceeds by Corona, the prosecutors said.

“Oh my God!” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the impeachment court presiding officer, said yesterday when told of the prosecution panel’s plan.

“Well, as I told you from the very beginning, I cannot say with certitude how long or how short this case will take. It will depend upon the lawyers, you see,” he said.

Enrile, meanwhile, said it would be up to Corona’s lawyers and the House prosecutors to disprove or prove the eight Articles of Impeachment, but stressed he would never tolerate delaying tactics.

“I, as a presiding officer, would not control, will not control the amount, the number of witnesses, the number of documents that each side would present, but I will apply the rules so that delays will not be used to hamper the progress of the hearing. Unnecessary delays will not be tolerated,” he said.

“I do not control the manner of proving the case of any side in this proceeding. I do not know about the impeachment court, if they can control,” he added.

Enrile declined to comment further on his concurrence with the defense’s stand that Article 2 is “defective,” and that there was “multiplicity” of charges in the same Article of impeachment.

“I cannot make a judgment. Not yet. Don’t ask me about acquittal or conviction because the trial is not over yet. I will emphasize, I will not want to discuss any acquittal or conviction while the trial is going on. Under the rules of the Senate, we will try the case until it is completed,” he added.