“Birthday or no birthday, we work for the country.”
– Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile”
Senate president and presiding officer of the Impeachment Trial on Tuesday said that he is taking full responsibility on the issuance of the subpoena ordering the release of Chief Justice Corona’s foreign currency accounts in the Philippine Savings Bank.
“I assume full responsibility for issuing that subpoena and is ready to defend his position if there is a need for that. I will not pass the buck to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court… I am personally bound to assume the consequences of my action as presiding officer,” he said.
Enrile was responding to Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago when she questioned the validity of the subpoena, which was based on documents that PSBank Officials cannot confirm to be duplicates of original documents.
Santiago said that the prosecution is liable and could be subject to disbarment for bringing to court falsified documents. She said that asking the impeachment court to issue a subpoena based on unverified documents is a reason for one to be cited for contempt.
Meanwhile, Leonora Dizon, Bank of the Philippine Islands Ayala Branch told the Impeachment Court that Corona does not own any other accounts that are linked to the BPI account marked as evidence last week.
Dizon was later ordered to present next trial the monthly statements of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s checking account in BPI.
General search warrant – A search warrant that does specify why it was issued or what the search was made for. This type of warrant was outlawed in the mid-18th century by the British government as a number of people in authority used this to have their enemies arrested even if they did not have proof of any wrongdoing. This contravenes the explicit demand of the Bill of Rights that things to be seized must be specifically described.
- For Start of the session, 17 senators present.
- A debate on whether the subpoena for bank records is equivalent to a search warrant ensued. Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano asked: “When is a subpoena legitimate and when will subpoena become illegal, unreasonable search?”
- Sen. Miriam Santiago delivered her thoughts on the matter. “What search warrant are you talking about? We issued a subpoena,” she said. “The issue is can counsel, in any proceeding, attach a document which he doesn’t know about.”
- Sen. Santiago stated that providing a fake document or testimony to any court is a case for disbarment. She said: “Can you allege something with the court that is based on any anonymous source? My goodness!”
- Sen. Santiago left the court after her spiel as she was hyperventilating.
- Presiding officer and senate president Juan Ponce Enrile shared his position on the matter. “Senate as an impeachment court must observe the rule of law,” he said. “I assume full responsibility for issuing subpoena and I’m ready to defend position in any court of law.”
- “Whether court committed grave abuse of discretion has to be decided by the Supreme Court being the highest court,” Enrile added. “It is my duty as presiding officer to respect the power of the Supreme Court to review acts of Impeachment Court in interlocutory matters.”
- Leonora Dizon, branch manager of BPI-Ayala, is called to the witness stand for questioning. Sen. Chiz Escudero said that both prosecution and defense have already terminated their direct- and cross-examination.
- Cuevas tells the court that they have decided not to visit BPI-Ayala anymore as their client already has the documents, and that they have filed a manifestation about their intent.
- Private prosecutor Arthur Lim responded: “They realized perhaps their mistake. Now they don’t want to go to the bank. However prosecution wants that the search for truth not to be hampered by technicalities. It was defense who opened the matter on monthly statements.”
- Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas again complained about Sen. Drilon’s alleged bias for the prosecution. Enrile responded that “court is a body of 23 minds” and that he cannot control the senator-judges.
- Drilon started to question Dizon, but she said that the monthly balances of Corona’s account as she thought she still needed to “wait for instructions.” Drilon tells Dizon to come back tomorrow and present the documents.
- Cuevas then said that the subpoena requested by Sen. Serge Osmena for Corona’s other financial instruments was similar to a general search warrant, and is hence against the rules of court. However, Enrile responded that he has only allowed the subpoena for documents related to Corona’s accounts in BPI-Ayala and that it was a reasonable request to find out if the chief justice did not include some assets in his SALN.
- Sen. Tito Sotto stated the prosecution has submitted a legal memo on the powers of the chief justice.
- There was brief suspension of the proceedings. When it resumed, Cuevas asked for an early adjournment of the day’s session. “Valentine’s day naman po eh, in short a declaration of cessation of hostility.”