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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE: 6:41 PM) The Senate sitting as an impeachment court adjourned Day 40 of the Corona trial with an ultimatum to the defense: the Chief Justice must return for cross examination on Wednesday, or the court will erase from the record his 3-hour statement, and deem the case submitted for resolution.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gave the warning to chief defense counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, minutes after Corona returned to the session hall in a wheelchair, having "walked out" earlier after making his 3-hour statement---a gesture Enrile said was a form of disrespect for the impeachment court.
After about 45 minutes, Corona returned to the session hall in a wheelchair, and his son-in-law, a doctor, said he needed to be treated because Corona, a diabetic, felt faint when his blood sugar dipped.
Trial resumed at around 6 p.m., but adjourned after a few minutes following a request by lead counsel, Serafin Cuevas, to allow his client to rest. If Corona does not come back on Wednesday for the cross-examination, Enrile said that his three-hour testimony would be stricken out, and that the case would be put to a vote based on the evidence earlier presented in the trial.
“We will give him until tomorrow to return. If not, we will submit this case for resolution,” Enrile said. Enrile gave Corona and his lawyers the dressing down after Corona abruptly stood from his seat and left the session hall after delivering his three-hour opening statement, in which he refuted allegations relating to his bank accounts.
“I am the Chief Justice, and now may I be excused?” Corona told the senator-judges even if he had yet to be discharged as a witness. An obviously stunned Enrile banged the gavel to silence the crowd, and told Enrile to instruct his client to return.
When Cuevas failed and appeared at a loss, Enrile ordered the building sealed to prevent anyone from leaving the premises, locking out temporarily some lawyers and reporters who were outside. Cuevas later apologized to the court and explained that the chief magistrate left the hall because he was already feeling dizzy.
But Enrile did not seem persuaded that a medical emergency had just taken place. He told Cuevas: “We did not volunteer to be judges here. . . . I respect the Chief Justice and the institution he represents, but I equally demand respect for this institution that I represent and I’m not going to allow any slight or any abuse of authority against this court for as long as I am the presiding officer,” Enrile said. “Wag nyo kaming babastusin, hindi ko papayagan na bastusin ang husgadong ito ng sinuman [Don’t’ disrespect us. I won’t allow anyone to disrespect this court],” he said.