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Video, service records, doctor's testimony presented at impeachment trial

MANILA, Philippines (Feb 28, 2012) - The prosecution presented a video of the Supreme Court (SC) spokesman's press conference, the Chief Jusctice's old service records and testimony of a doctor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were presented yesterday at the resumption of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona - all aiming to support allegation of the latter's partiality towards the former President.

SC spokesman Midas Marquez violated the internal rules of the High Tribunal for hastily announcing the Nov. 15, 2011 temporary restraining order (TRO) on the travel ban on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, claimed Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares yesterday as the prosecution panel presented video footage taken by television network ABS-CBN Channel 2 showing Marquez’s press conference that afternoon.


Colmenares said that in the footage, Marquez announced that former President Arroyo and her husband Mike could leave the country provided that they comply with three conditions of the TRO, even before the resolution of the SC was transmitted to the parties involved.

One condition was to post a P2-million cash bond, the other to assign a legal representative who would receive all the subpoenas while they are out of the country, and the last was that the Arroyos should go to a country with a Philippine embassy and inform the consulate.

Initially, Marquez said the TRO was “suspensive” because the Arroyo couple had to first comply with the three conditions of the SC.

However, in the latter part of his press conference, he announced that the TRO was already in effect.

Defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas said the footage was “irrelevant” to the impeachment case, but the court allowed it to continue.

The prosecution panel also subjected ABS-CBN cameraman Edwin Villasana to direct examination, which Cuevas also questioned, but this was allowed by court presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“I don’t see any relevance, your honor. The Chief Justice is the accused here in the impeachment trial. We do not know the actual purpose,” Cuevas told the court.

“I will allow it. The prosecution wants to prove the respondent’s partiality in granting the TRO in favor of former President Arroyo and Mike Arroyo to give them the opportunity to escape. The purpose is to show his (Corona) partiality,” Enrile said.

“The video is talking about the TRO being considered by the SC. It was being drafted, the TRO resolution was under consideration with conditions. Let them present their case,” he added.

For her part, Sen. Loren Legarda found the video footage somewhat “inaudible,” and urged the impeachment chairman to order ABS-CBN to provide them with a transcript instead.

Pampanga Rep. Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo's doctor Juliet Gopez-Cervantes and ABS-CBN cameraman Edmund Villasana testify at the Senate impeachment trial yesterday. The prosecution panel also presented Arroyo’s attending physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, who authenticated the medical certificates of Arroyo.

“I am the attending physician of the former president every time she went to the St. Luke’s from 2006 to December 2011. So, for five years I have been her main attending physician,” Cervantes said during direct examination conducted by prosecution lawyer Arthur Lim.

Cervantes said in 2006, Arroyo developed diarrhea and her family decided to bring her to St. Luke’s.

“As a specialist in gastroenterology, I attended to her diarrhea. And from then on even when her problem is no longer gastroenteritis and liver, they decided that I would be their attending physician. I attended to GMA July 2011, August 2011, September 2011,” Cervantes said.

She said Arroyo was admitted to St. Luke’s after complaining of severe pain in 2011.

Cervantes said Arroyo has “metabolic bone disease and osteoporosis due to hypothyroidism imbalance and vitamin C deficiency and her disease needs lifetime treatment.”

During the hearing, the Office of the Vice President chief administrative officer, Emma Avanador, was also presented by the prosecution to authenticate the documents pertaining to the consultancy work of Corona for Arroyo during her vice presidency from 2000 to 2001.

Sen. Joker Arroyo expressed “amazement” yesterday over the claim of the prosecution that they were having difficulty in convincing witnesses to testify against Corona in the impeachment trial.

“I am amazed at the statement of the prosecution that they had difficulty because the respondent is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But you have the backing of no less than the President of the Philippines,” Arroyo said.

“How can you say that? You should have no problem getting witnesses because of persuasion,” he added.

Arroyo cautioned the prosecution for insisting that they are having difficulty in requiring witnesses in a bid to convince the Senate court to reconsider its earlier decision not to issue a subpoena to Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III reiterated his call for the prosecution to stop associating their client with former President Arroyo to establish Corona’s alleged partiality to the former president.

“They want to establish that the Chief Justice’s relations with the former president can be traced back since Mrs. Arroyo was still vice president,” Salvador said.

“Article 3 of the eight Articles of Impeachment finds Corona culpable for violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust for lack of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence. That’s already an established fact,” he said.

“There is law that provides guilt by association. It does not mean that if I worked with you, or you worked with me, that your sins will also be my sins. So that would be unfair unless you can establish conspiracy, which is far from this case.”

Prosecution team wants to recall ruling

Meanwhile, the House prosecution team asked the court yesterday to recall its ruling denying the testimony of Philippine Airlines (PAL) officials on the alleged privileges received by Corona and his wife Cristina while cases against the country’s flag-carrier were pending at the SC.

Lead prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas made the request to allow Enrique Javier, PAL vice president for sales, and Ria Carrion-Domingo, PAL vice president for product loyalty marketing, to testify before the impeachment court on the PAL Platinum Cards issued to the couple.

Tupas said the testimonies of the witnesses and the documents, particularly the PAL Certification and Compliance to be presented in the court, would prove “not the crime of bribery but the allegation that Corona has committed culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayed the public trust when he failed to meet stringent standards of competence, independence, probity and integrity.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile disallowed testimony on Corona’s alleged “perks,” including unlimited courtesy travel from PAL, saying the evidence was immaterial and irrelevant to the case, specifically, Article 3 of the complaint. (From