Prosecution must explain source of bank records, Corona lawyers say

MANILA -- The burden of explaining where they got photocopies of Chief Justice Renato Corona is on the prosecution, the defense panel said Monday.

Taking a cue from Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who took the Senate floor earlier that afternoon, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III said that under disputable presumption, the prosecution has to show that it did not fake the documents and that it did not have a hand in getting them leaked.

"A person last seen with stolen property is the thief," he explained in Filipino, adding the burden of disputing that is with the team of prosecutors from the House of Representatives.

Defense lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho, meanwhile, said Quezon City Representative Jorge Banal has yet to explain a separate set of documents he said someone left at his home in St. Ignatius Village, Quezon City. "The law is clear that once you inquire into an account without written consent of the depositor, you already violate (the Foreign Currency Deposit Act)," he said.

In her testimony Monday, Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank)-Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson said Banal had asked about a signature card that was purportedly Corona's, and about a Corona dollar account that won P1 million in a bank raffle in 2008. She said he has asked her to help "in a personal capacity," but that she refused.

She said she was "disturbed" by Banal's visit because he was holding a document "that seemed to be a bank document that was supposed to be confidential."

Santiago later told Tiongson that she was "completely correct" by refusing to help. "The law even prohibits any person from asking any question (about accounts)," Santiago said after reading from the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. She said the restriction extended to any person, even without any motive, who asks about someone else's foreign currency accounts without written permission.

"You were acting exactly pursuant to the language of the law. Unlike a lawmaker, who, although a lawmaker was already a lawbreaker," she said. "Perhaps people should read the law more carefully particularly when they are entrusted with making the law," Santiago added.

She said that under the Rules of Court, possession of something, in this case bank documents, that came from an unlawful act, it is presumed that one is "the doer" of that act.

Previously, the prosecution submitted photocopies that Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali supposedly received from an anonymous "small lady."

The defense has been trying to have testimony and documents regarding Corona's bank records stricken from court records for being immaterial and for being "fruits of the poisonous tree" because of the disputed provenance of the photocopies.(Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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