Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/May/19 by Elizabeth Angsioco
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on the witness stand during Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial was the bomb! Her testimony shocked and made not a few people believe in the chief justice’s guilt. This was the prosecution’s end game.
I felt my eyes widening as the Ombudsman rattled off the alleged Corona’s bank transactions. Eighty-two bank accounts involving the staggering amount of about $18 million! That’s at least P756 million using present exchange rates. This must be it, I told myself.
After all, it was the Ombudsman testifying and the records came from the Anti-Money Laundering Council. These are two unassailable sources.
I thought that with this development, if there was an explanation, only the CJ would be able to adequately do that.
However, as I continued watching, questions not answered during the proceedings came to mind. So did observations about the manner the Ombudsman’s testimony was given, including her demeanor.
These sobered me and made me go back to my original stance: Hear everything first and suspend making conclusions until the whole thing is over.
There is no question that the Ombudsman came for war. She was combative with the defense lawyers and a number of senator-judges. At some point, I thought that her being testy was unnecessary and only confirmed her being a hostile witness.
The Ombudsman said that the AMLC sent her the records of alleged bank transactions of the chief justice. It is interesting that she also provided the House Speaker with a copy. Asked why, she answered that it was for a possible second impeachment complaint in December, if the House so decides.
As an ordinary political observer, this told me that the Ombudsman wants the chief justice convicted.
Senator-Judge Alan Peter Cayetano said that Senate requests for records in relation with its own investigations were repeatedly turned down by the AMLC. What, then, was so special about the Ombudsman’s request that records were even hand-delivered by the Council’s executive director?
Senator-Judge Gringo Honasan propounded more pointed questions about the Ombudsman’s actions that to me, were not adequately answered. Honasan asked if the Ombudsman also requested similar records for other cases pending with her office and if AMLC has released similar records for these cases.
Answers to Honasan’s questions could have helped us understand if the Ombudsman and AMLC were treating the CJ’s case like other case or if there is an unusual interest on this one.
So I wondered why no one from the defense or the Senate impeachment court wanted to summon the AMLC. It is the source of the documents and questions about contents, and about the circumstances of the release of these documents, can best be answered by the council.
As the alleged bank transactions of the chief justice were being presented, besides being shocked at the volume of moneys, I found it unusual that many of the transactions involved amounts that went down to the last centavo. I presume that regular banking persons typically make withdrawals in round figures because it is easier. Unless, of course, one is paying bills through banks. What kinds of transactions was the CJ doing then?
It should be emphasized that the AMLC only released the records of alleged bank transactions but the analysis and observation were done by the Commission on Audit’s Heidi Mendoza.
Thus, the observations that Corona’s transactions involved $18 million and 82 bank accounts all in his name were the commission’s. Unfortunately, such OBSERVATIONS were understood by many as CONCLUSIONS.
Eighteen million dollars in 82 accounts is unimaginable! This is damning. BUT, as said, it is an observation. Thus, it can be right or wrong.
The chief justice is not dumb. Or is he? Why would anyone involved in money laundering put the transactions under his or her name? When one of the prosecution spokesperson was asked about this, he could only say that in the commission of crimes, mistakes are bound to happen. If this is so, then Corona must be dumber than ordinary criminals.
The more I think about the Ombudsman’s testimony, the more questions crop up and the more I want to closely listen to the chief justice’s testimony.
The end game for the defense is coming. The chief justice has a lot of explaining to do. Even the prosecution says that his conviction or acquittal heavily lies in his testimony.
I can only hope that the people and senator-judges are still willing to hear him out. Give him his day in court. That is what justice is about.
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