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MANILA, Philippines—Senators said Monday that they were “disappointed” with the witnesses presented by the defense lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as they sought a speedy trial to finish the proceedings within the month.
Instead of putting “irrelevant witnesses” on the stand, Senator Jinggoy Estrada urged the defense team anew to bring to the court Corona himself so he could answer the allegations, and so that the senator-judges could finally vote on the matter.
Corona’s lawyers implored the senator-judges for due process and their rightful time to present their witnesses. “We believe that due process should still be observed,” former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, the lead defense lawyer, said.
He said the witnesses that they have presented so far will bolster their position that Corona did not commit any violation in connection with the charges against him for non-disclosure of his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he was “quite disappointed” with the witnesses presented by the defense.
“For example, you brought somebody who talked about the collection of fees, what does that have to do with the impeachment trial? The question here is Article 2, so all of the witnesses presented here was irrelevant to that particular issue. . . . That’s why we feel a little disappointed, now don’t tell us and lecture is about due process,” Enrile told Cuevas.
Asking Cuevas, he said, “Is it your position that there is no prima facie case presented before this court?”
Cuevas replied, “In my position, yes.”
“Then that’s your problem. . . . We are all lawyers trained in the art and we respect your skills and ability to appreciate the evidence but equally we respect [that] you respect our ability to appreciate the evidence presented to us,” Enrile said.
Estrada said that presenting Corona would cut the process short and would allow the senator-judges to arrive at a vote.
“Instead of cluttering this court with witnesses that are impertinent, I suggest that you bring the respondent himself to answer all allegations and if the Chief Justice will appear the court, we will be very, very happy to hear his side,” Estrada said.
Defense lawyers said they saw no need to have Corona take the witness stand, vowing to make the trial a speedy one. On Monday, the defense presented four witnesses in the trial.
Five more witnesses are remaining for the defense team, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who earlier testified for the prosecution.
"This just shows we're not delaying the proceedings," Rico Quicho, spokesperson of the defense team, said. "Baka ngayong linggo pa lang matapos na natin at magulat tayong lahat."