'Stop hiding behind your wife's skirt'
- Marvin Sy () - March 9, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Administration lawmakers called on Chief Justice Renato Corona yesterday to show up at the Senate impeachment court and testify “rather than hide behind the skirt of his wife Cristina” in defending himself from accusations of “assorted misdeeds.”

“While we welcome the decision of his wife to testify on the Chief Justice’s wealth declarations and bank deposits, we maintain that Mr. Corona himself should take the witness stand because he is in the best position to explain the roughly P45-million gap between the amount in cash he had listed in his annual SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) reports and the cash he was discovered by the Senate Tribunal to have actually stashed in two banks,” lawmakers comprising the bloc made up of the 188 signatories to the impeachment complaint said in a statement. “For a full-blooded Batangueño, it appears uncharacteristic for the Chief Justice to hide behind his wife’s skirt and let her man the fort, so to speak, by taking the witness stand and do all the explaining on his assorted misdeeds that buttress his lack of moral fitness to remain one minute longer as head of the judiciary,” the Movement 188 said.

The group was reacting to the defense lawyers’ announcement on Wednesday that Cristina is among the witnesses they had lined up to help them rebut the prosecution’s charges that Corona had fudged his SALNs and concealed certain assets (Article 2), accepted favors from a litigant-Philippine Airlines (PAL) despite a pending P2.3-billion case before the Supreme Court (Article 3), and had maneuvered the SC’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the travel ban on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Although Corona had declared in his latest media offensive that he was ready to take the witness stand, his chief legal counsel Serafin Cuevas said they would not present him, unless the need arises, to spare the Chief Justice from what Cuevas called an “environment of hostility and adversity” at the trial. “Why would any loving husband let his wife take all the heat and face what his chief legal counsel Cuevas has described as an ‘environment of hostility and adversity’ at the impeachment trial?” the lawmakers said.

“The only explanation is that Mr. Corona really has something to hide in each of the three impeachment articles on which the prosecution had rested its case, and is too scared to get caught with his pants down while being cross-examined by the House prosecutors on live nationwide television,” the group said.

“For all his pronouncements in his latest media offensive of his readiness to appear before the impeachment court, it appears that the Chief Justice is so spooked of facing the House prosecutors himself to disprove the narrative that he is no exemplar of the high standards of integrity, probity and independence required of the head of the Philippine judiciary,” the group said.

“It is all too obvious that Corona and Cuevas are playing a good-cop/bad-cop routine because while the client professes a supposed desire and readiness to take the witness stand, his chief lawyer insists there is no need at this point for the Chief Justice to do so,” Movement 188 added.

The group said Corona has no reason anymore to avoid taking the witness stand because only he can explain the roughly P81-million discrepancy between the P22.93 million in assets he listed in his 2010 SALN and the P104-million worth of real properties and bank deposits that he actually owns, based on official records on property acquisitions and bank statements that had been turned over to the impeachment court. The group also said Corona alone can fully explain why he withdrew all of his Philippine Savings Bank deposits totaling P37.66 million on the same day he was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 12 last year.

It said the Chief Justice should also make good his pronouncement that he would bare his dollar accounts before the impeachment court.  

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino expressed support for the UP Paralegal Society’s survey on student sentiments in the impeachment trial of Corona. 

Sen. Miriam Santiago and Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile earlier criticized the students for launching the survey which showed the majority of them wanting the Chief Justice impeached. “She (Santiago) should be reminded that the freedom which allows her to entertain us with her sound bites and one-liners is also enjoyed by the rest of the population,” Palatino said.

“They (senator-judges) should appreciate that students are aware and are monitoring the trial everyday... Students also know how to cover their ears when politicians dish out arrogant remarks,” he added.

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