Senate to meet again on move to summon Corona bank records-A A +A
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
THE Senate will meet Wednesday morning to deliberate again on whether to subpoena the bank records of Chief Justice Renato Corona after Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago asked that the move be reconsidered, saying breaking bank secrecy has yet to be justified.
The defense panel also filed a motion to quash, or void, the subpoena issued to branches of Bank of the Philippine Islands and PSBank.
Santiago, in a letter addressed to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, said bank deposits are only mentioned in a paragraph in Article II that alleges ill-gotten wealth and that the Senate has already ruled against introducing any evidence for that.
"It appears that the subpoena would violate this Court’s own ruling that evidence shall not be allowed on ill-gotten wealth," she said.
She also said the subpoena for Corona's dollar accounts with PSBank would also violate the Foreign Currency Deposit Act, which only allows the examination of foreign-currency accounts when the owner gives written consent.
"This is the only exception, and it is not present in this case," Santiago, a former trial judge said.
"The majority is of the view that the present impeachment proceedings present a valid exception to the general rule on confidentiality of information on bank accounts even for foreign currency bank accounts," the impeachment court said Monday.
Santiago added cases in jurisprudence that the prosecution cited to justify the issuance of the subpoena "are off-tangent."
The senator has been absent from proceedings because of hypertension. "If necessary, I shall, despite ill health, attend this caucus, if given advance notice of at least three hours," she said.
The caucus, initially set for noon, will be held at 11 a.m. instead. Senator Francis Pangilinan told Sun.Star the subpoena will remain valid unless the Senate reconsiders its ruling on Monday.
Corona's lawyers, meanwhile, filed a motion to quash the subpoena on similar grounds to Santiago's. They said the motion was "a measure of extreme caution dictated by the unusual circumstances of the case."
They said the supoena will "allow complainants to support their allegation under paragraph 2.4" of the impeachment complaint against Corona.
"Any evidence relating thereto should be deemed inadmissible and irrelevant to the proceedings," lawyer Joel Bodegon said.
Citing Intengan v. Court of Appeals, the defense said attaching foreign currency records to a complaint or affidavit is a criminal act under the FCDA.
"This is the same illegal act committed by complainants when they attached the unauthenticated signature cards and Application and Agreement for Deposit Account of CJ Corona's purported bank accounts," the defense said.
Violation of the FCDA carries a penalty of imprisonment for from one year to five years and a fine of P5,000 to P25,000.
"Any information or subpoena issued pursuant to such an illegal act cannot be condoned," they said.
Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali told the court the documents were given him by an unknown "short lady" as he was leaving the Senate last week.
No need to find 'short lady'
Although Senator Francis Escudero pressed the prosecution panel Monday to tell the court where it got Corona's supposed bank records, the court will not delve into the identity of the anonymous source.
"The issue on the identity of the short lady is irrelevant, the violation of the FCD Law (Foreign Currency Deposit Act) is different. That is not an issue for the impeachment court," Senator Franklin Drilon told reporters Tuesday.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, for his part, said the matter should be left to the "DOJ (Department of Justice) and other law enforcement agencies who have the jurisdiction in investigation if there is any violation of the law."
Senator Ralph Recto told reporters he does not believe the prosecution's explanation but will not look further for the so-called short lady.
"Does that short lady have a neck brace?" he said in jest.
Drilon, Guingona, and Recto are members of the administration Liberal Party.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would take the prosecution's story at face value.
"But still, the CCTV (closed-circuit television cameras) of the Senate can really identify her. So, we should pursue the manifestation of Senator (Vicente) Sotto, the majority leader, to look into the CCTV of the Senate," he said.
Senator Gregorio Honasan II, who is not a member of any political party, said the bank records are still irrelevant since these have yet to be accepted as evidence.
"We ruled on the subpoena based on the request not in the content of the so-called envelope given by a short lady," he told reporters. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)