LRA Chief's Appearance In Corona Trial Opposed

MANILA, Philippines - The prosecution panel opposed the request of the defense camp to issue a subpoena against lawyer Eulalio Diaz III, administrator of Land Registration Authority (LRA), to testify on the alleged 45 properties of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona based on the certification issued by the government agency.

In a seven-page petition, lead prosecutor Rep Niel Tupas Jr. believes that the testimony of Diaz is no longer necessary as it is immaterial and irrelevant in the impeachment trial.

He said that the prosecution had already clarified on the questioning of Senators Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada that what they have presented as evidence against Corona were 21 properties only and not 45 as earlier reported.

Tupas reiterated that the 21 properties of Corona were not only undervalued but were also not included in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

He said that instead of wasting time of this Honorable Court, respondent should present other relevant and material evidence to controvert the evidence already adduced by the prosecution.

The prosecution panel likewise said the Chief Justice has only himself to blame for the serious questions surrounding his integrity as a result of his failure to declare an honest and truthful SALN in accordance with the Constitution.

Panel spokesman Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo said the defense legal counsels should not disparage Corona's non-declaration of his expensive condominium units and millions in peso and dollar deposits in his SALN as mere inadvertence or simple negligence, stressing that the Chief Justice is expected to be ''candid, honest, and truthful at all times.''

As this developed, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago Monday challenged both the prosecution and the defense panels to prove that their respective claims in connection with the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice are based on the Constitution.

Santiago said the question is whether there is any discrepancy or omission in the SALN of the Chief Justice that strikes at the very heart of the nation.

''Our constitution contemplates a very high crime. We have to see then is what is the meaning of a high crime. For graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust to be grounds for impeachment, their concrete manner of commission must be of same severity as treason and bribery. Offenses that strike at the very heart of the life of the nation,'' Santiago stressed.

Santiago first challenged the prosecution to prove that Corona intended to commit wrong, particularly in connection with the alleged non-dislcosure of accurate SALN and his bank deposits, both peso and dollar accounts.

Her challenge to the prosecution was: ''Was there an element of intent to commit wrong?''

Her challenge was based on the Supreme Court's earlier decision that found a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official guilty only of negligence because there was no intent on his part to declare satisfactorily his properties.

Santiago was referring to former DPWH-NCR Director Salvador Pleyto who was charged with unexplained wealth.

On the other hand, Santiago told the defense panel: ''Show that your client has, in good faith, declared all his bank deposits. If not, why not.''

Santiago cited the case Office of the Ombudsman v. Racho, 641 SCRA 148 (2011), where in the court found Racho guilty of dishonesty for non-disclosure of his bank deposits in SALN. Nonetheless, the court held that ''in this case, Racho not only failed to disclose his bank accounts containing substantial deposits but he also failed to satisfactorily explain the accumulation of his wealth or even identify the sources of such accumulated wealth.''

As both panels discussed the SALN, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment court, said that there is only one standard for high officials and lowly employees of this government and that is found in the Constitution.

''And that is found in the first sentence of Section 17, Article 11... to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in your declaration of assets, liabilities and net worth,'' Enrile said at the start of the 31st day of the impeachment trial of the embattled Chief Justice.

Meanwhile, chief defense counsel former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas failed to attend the trial Monday as he was indisposed due to vertigo. (With reports from Mario B. Casayuran and Hannah L. Torregoza)