MANILA, MAY 15, 2012 (ABS-CBN) By Ira Pedrasa - The name of President Benigno Aquino III has several times been dragged into the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, but with an ally taking to the witness stand, he may yet be in for the roasting.

The testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is also mostly awaited, other than that of Corona himself. Analysts also see an “open season” of questioning when she takes the witness stand as a “hostile witness.”

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) spokesperson and Northern Luzon chapter governor Dennis Habawel told ABS-CBNnews.com that it would be a fair question if the defense would pose one or two to Carpio Morales.

Aquino, since day one, has mouthed his reverence for Carpio Morales. He broke traditions when he chose her for the oath-taking. He would later choose Carpio Morales from three other aspirants for the Ombudsman post, a choice that everyone saw coming.

“Based on the answers of the Chief Justice (to the verified complaint), he mentioned the reasons why he was impeached, so that’s material. It’s a fair question and it’s up to Ombudsman if she will say yes or no,” Habawel said.

In his answer filed back in December, Corona said the filing of the impeachment complaint was the handiwork of the Liberal Party, led by Aquino himself. He said the complaint was borne out of the “the “bias against [Corona] and the predisposition to destroy him by associating him with the unpopular former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and by misinterpreting his concurrence to certain Supreme Court decisions as protecting former President Arroyo.”

Corona pounced on this in subsequent incidents, even connecting his trial to Aquino’s dismay over the Supreme Court’s decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita owned by the President's relatives.

Aquino and his allies were also not wanting on this matter. The trial has taken a personality outside the Senate court until Aquino’s communication group decided to impose a self-gag rule.

Aquino connection

The trial took a different turn last week when the Senate dismissed one after the other the witnesses provided by the defense.

Finally, on Tuesday, the defense shocked everyone by having the Ombudsman and four others subpoenaed on an issue they earlier said they would rather ignore.

Defense lawyer Judd Roy said Corona would also appear before the court to rebut the allegations that he has $10 million, as earlier indicated by the Ombudsman in an order. Roy said that if the issue on $10 million is raised before the court, Corona will be “compelled to confront directly the accusations.”

“The way I understand it, there were allegations made outside of court, such as the $10 million…which has entered into the consciousness even of the senator-judges. So papaano mo nga naman masasagot if the prosecution brought the allegations outside the court,” Habawel said.

He said it is just a “fair strategy” that the defense brought the issue of the $10 million inside the court’s jurisdiction.

For former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the character of a hostile witness “may cause problems for the prosecution kung alam ng defense i-exploit ang kanyang pag-witness.”

Rules of court

Section 10, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court dictates that the examining party can pose leading and misleading questions from a hostile witness. Leading questions, of course, suggests to a witness that a statement is true.

Habawel explained that getting a hostile witness is a right afforded to the defendant, in a way that his or her credibility is destroyed “so that whatever she says can’t be used by the prosecution.”

In the impeachment trial of Corona, Carpio Morales will have to prove that her allegations of $10 million are true.

“If the Ombudsman fails to support her allegations, these become incredible,” he added.

University of Sto. Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina also said the summoning of Carpio Morales is also meant to “destroy the credibility of the prosecution.”

He said the game plan of the defense could be one of “public sympathy.”


Divina also said the Ombudsman can always deny any leading statements made by the defense, but she has to substantiate her answer in some way.

Like all the others, he said the Ombudsman also has the right against self-incrimination.

Asked if she can keep secret some of the goings-on at the Office of the Ombudsman vis-à-vis the probe against Corona, Pimentel, for his part, said: “I doubt it. She can be compelled to reveal everything unless covered by privilege communication.”

Habawel agreed, noting that the subpoena can be a telling piece of communication. The subpoena orders them to bring the original and certified true copies of the complaints against Corona, and of the documents where they based the allegation that Corona keeps $10 million in different bank accounts.

He also said Carpio Morales can have her own counsels to back her up. He added senator-judges can also jump in when the going gets tough.

Ombudsman and her evidence

“But she should have assured herself before she issued the order,” Habawel noted.

Some of the petitioners in the complaint filed before the Ombudsman earlier admitted they did not allege the $10 million. The petitioners, including Aquino ally and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, were also called as hostile witnesses.

Asked for the basis of her order, Carpio Morales had said: “We just walked through all the reports gathered from the media and we thought the impeachment is already going on, it was the best time to initiate investigation when we received the complaints.”

She said her office is mandated under the law to evaluate the complaints “and if there are enough leads and there’s a reasonable ground – there is the word reasonable and I again emphasize it – to believe that investigation is warranted, then the Ombudsman is mandated to request or direct the impeachable official to answer within 72 hours. It’s in the law. It’s not my choice.”


P-Noy richer by P10 million in 2011 By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) Updated May 15, 2012 12:00 AMComments (2)

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino grew richer by P10.130 million last year, his latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman showed.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, Aquino declared himself to be worth P65.130 million, with P32.162 million in real properties and P32.967 million in personal and other assets, as opposed to P54.999 million in the previous year.

The increase in Aquino’s wealth last year is most reflected in the value of his real properties, which amounted to P22.073 million as of Dec. 31, 2010.

In particular, his house in Quezon City identified under inheritance was previously declared to be worth only P13.796 million, but is now valued at P23.6 million.

Aquino’s personal and other properties which cover motor vehicles, cash on hand and cash in bank, receivables, and other assets went down a little from P33.155 million in 2010 to PP32.967 million last year.

In total, Aquino’s net worth grew from P50.194 million as of June 30, 2010 to P65.130 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, after 18 months in office with an annual income of P1.212 million.

Aquino had earlier explained that the increase in his net worth last year can be attributed to inheritance, the transfer or documentation of which were completed only in 2011.

Aquino has so far submitted three SALNs before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official depository of the same along with that of the vice president and the heads of other constitutional bodies.

Aquino’s predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SALNS show that she grew richer by as much as P76 million during her nine years in office, from 2001 to 2010.

Morales has P41.577 million; Brillantes, P31.525 million By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) Updated May 15, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who told the Senate impeachment court yesterday that she is not used to “millions,” declared herself to be worth P41.577 million as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman on April 27, 2012 showed a minimal increase in her wealth by P828,434 since she assumed her post in July last year.

Morales declared the same number of real properties, consisting of a residential lot, a house and lot, a house, three condominium units and a memorial lot, all valued at P14.109 million.

Her personal and other properties covering vehicles, jewelry, and cash also slightly increased from P29.040 million in July 2011 to P29.468 million after five months.

Morales, based on her latest SALN, appears to have disposed of some old cars, including one acquired in 1986 for only P50,000.

Her latest declaration now lists two new vehicles, including a car worth P545,584 and a van valued at P132,850, both bought last year.

The slight increase in her assets is also explained by the decrease in her liabilities covering payment for a condominium unit from P2.4 million to only P2 million.

Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, was appointed Ombudsman only in June 2011 after her retirement from the high tribunal.

All assets, no liabilities

Meanwhile, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. owns portions of at least 26 plantations in Santa, Ilocos Sur which form part of his total wealth of P31.525 million as of Dec. 31, 2011.

His SALN submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman last month showed he had all assets and zero liabilities.

Of the agricultural lands he owns, 19 are planted to rice, 16 to corn, and one is a sugar land in addition to two other agricultural lots located in the same province.

Brillantes, who was appointed Comelec chief in January 2011, said he owns “50 percent of one-fourth share” of all the rice, corn, and sugar lands he listed.

As to his two other agricultural lands, he said he owns “one-half share” of them as well as a house and lot and a residential lot still in Santa, Ilocos Sur.

The only properties that he has outside the province which he owns 100 percent include a house and lot in Parañaque City bought in 1971 worth P3.390 million, and a residential lot in Las Piñas bought in 2001 for P1.560 million.

In total, Brillantes, an election lawyer by profession, said his real properties covering his shares are worth only a little over P8.831 million.

His personal and other properties are worth a lot more at over P22.693 million, which covers two cars valued jointly at P2.443 million, law books and other personal effects worth P3 million, and investments, bank accounts, and shares of stocks valued at P17.250 million.

Like President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Morales, Brillantes, as the head of a constitutional body, is required by law to submit a SALN to the Office of the Ombudsman annually.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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