Corona In ICU, Can’t Return To Senate Today

Chief Justice Renato Corona will have to remain under treatment and observation at the hospital’s intensive care unit at the Medical City for about 48 to 72 hours according to the doctors. Prior to this happening, Corona will be incapable of returning to the Senate today for his scheduled cross examination.

The chief justice who went through already two heat bypass operations last 1995 and 2008 was brought to the Medical City last night at 8 p.m. (Tuesday) after his 3-hour statement and a followed up controversial walk out from the impeachment court.

Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesman, who went with Corona and his family in the hospital, said in an interview that he stayed with Corona from 8p.m. until midnight. He added that prior of his leaving, the chief justice gave him an assurance that he would be returning to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination (supposedly today).

“I left the hospital past midnight. I was able to briefly talk with the chief justice, and he assured me that he would appear this afternoon. When I got home a few minutes later, I got the unfortunate news that he was transferred to the ICU,” Marquez said.

The lawyers for the defense of Corona said in the radio interviews that the judge may not be able to immediately return to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination due to his medical condition.

“Latest was he has an elevated [troponin T level], a prelude to a heart attack. His condition is now being stablized in the ICU of Medical City,” Ramon Esguerra told the media on Wednesday morning.

48-hour monitoring

As of 9 a.m., Esguerra said that the chief justice is already in a stable condition but still has to remain in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the next 24 hours for proper monitoring and as to what the hospital doctors’ advised.

3 doctors of the Medical City have released a medical bulletin at around 10 a.m. today about the chief justice’s condition explaining that Corona may have suffered from an acute coronary syndrome or simply heart attack.

It was also mentioned by the doctors including senior vice president for medical services, Dr. Eugenio Jose Ramos, which they had to confine Corona in the ICU because of the reason that he is considered a high-risk cardiac patient.

Furthermore, the doctors said that Corona, a diabetic person, also is suffering from a renal failure that they ruled out another surgery for the chief justice. And they stated as well that they would not be allowing Corona to return to the Senate because he should be under strict monitoring.

The Senate has sent its own medical team to the hospital to check on Corona’s medical condition.

Lawyer Karen Jimeno cited that she would want Corona to return to the Senate and face the impeachment court again on Wednesday afternoon.

Disoriented

Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President, who was then sitting as the ruling judge in the impeachment court, affirmed that he will strike out Corona’s testimony if the chief justice failsto return for his scheduled cross examination.

Enrile highlighted that Corona’s walk out was indeed a sign of disrespect to the Senate as an impeachment court.

Enumerated in Corona’s 3-hour statement, he refused that he retained 82 dollar accounts, 31 peso accounts and 45 properties as suspected by the prosecution and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Prior to Corona’s walk out, he signed a waiver allowing the government and selected banking institutions to inspect and show in public all his bank records that includes his dollar deposits.

Though, he stated in his waiver that it would only be effective if the 188 other congressmen who signed his impeachment order and even Senator Franklin Drilon would be also open with regards to their bank accounts for examination.

After the signing of the waiver and raising the challenge, Corona told the court: “The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused.”

He stood up and left the floor, leaving the confused crowd and senator-judges. Even his lawyers asserted that they were not immediately informed of Corona’s reason for leaving the room without being properly discharged.

Enrile immediately ordered the Senate security to lock down the compound as soon as Corona left the session hall. Corona was then wheeled back to the session hall afterwards.

It was excused by Corona’s lawyers and his son-in-law doctor that the witness left the witness stand because he did not want to throw up and collapse in the session hall’s room.

The defense team said Corona suffered from hypoglycemia.

Marquez suspected that Corona’s hypoglycemic episode during the hearing could have been part of his heart attack. He also said that they were informed at the hospital that disorientation could be one of the symptoms of heart attack.

“I noticed that when he stood up from the witness stand, he did not know where to go. That’s what they say, when you suffer a heart attack you get disoriented,” he said.

The Senator-Judge said that Corona’s illness and hospitalization does not excuse his actions at the Senate impeachment court that is scheduled on Tuesday.

Pia Cayetano said in an ANC interview that no witness or acused should hold the court hostage by his wishes and demands.

“He (Corona) wanted to be the witness and the judge because he didn’t wait for the response of the Presiding Officer. He wanted to present his evidence but sinama pa niya pati si Senator-Judge ([Franklin] Drilon,” Cayetano said.

Moreover, Cayetano said that the senator-judges will hold an assembly to probably discuss Corona’s condition.

However, Marquez said that Corona has no intention at all to disrespect the Senate. He added that the chief justice knows that under the rules of court that refusal to be cross-examined may lead to striking out of the witness’ testimony.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Corona said he does not think Corona will resign despite poor health.

“In the five- to six-month period I’ve been with the Chief Justice. He has explained to us [that] for this case, for the judiciary, for this country, he is willing to lay down his life. He told us to proceed and fight…even against the wishes of his doctors and hisfamily, ilalaban niya ito,” Dennis Manalo said in an ANC interview.

Manalo uttered that the defense team hopes that Corona will be well enough to continue his testimony because they would not want the impeachment court to decide on the case under the present conditions.

“We are at the mercy of 23 senators who can say that ‘we don’t take that excuse, won’t accept that excuse, and not hear the rest of his (Corona’s) testimony anymore. We don’t want this case to be decided under these circumstances, it would be tragic on our part after working so hard,” said Manalo.

Tranquil Salvador, also a member of the defense team, said that they may ask the Senate court to “reset the testimony due to Corona’s illness.”

Salvador said that the rule of court allows the cancellation of a hearing if an indispensable witness is sick.

P-Noy Meets With INC Head

Malacañang said that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, visited yesterday the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)’s central office which is located in Quezon City to get to know with the religious group’s leader and “touch base” with the organization’s followers.

Eduardo Manalo, INC’s leader meets Aquino on the eve of the appearance of Chief Justice Renato Corona before the Senate impeachment court, but Malacañang then refused implications that the meeting is about or something to do with the impeachment trial.

Presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda said that, “The purpose of the President is to touch base with his supporters and you don’t need to get the support right now.”

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) management is apparently seen lobbying for the release of Corona, whose lead counsel is former justice Serafin Cuevas who is a member of the sect.

“Unfortunately, the schedule of the President and the schedule of Ka Eduardo (Manalo) could not jibe. It was only this Monday or today that they were able to find a common schedule,” Lacierda said. “The unfortunate thing was it was only today that they were able to find a common schedule.” He added.

Lacierda stated that Aquino’s meeting with the Iglesia ni Cristo’s leader was “warm.”

Aquino personally called for the impeachment of Corona in December 2011.

The last time that Aquino had a chance to visit the INC headquarters which was then considered as his first visit as well was before the May 2010 presidential elections when he was still a senator. He was accompanied by his sisters Ballsy Cruz and popular TV talk show host Kris Aquino.

“As you know, the INC supported the President during his senatorial campaign and during also his presidential campaign,” Lacierda recalled.

The spokesman admitted the impeachment trial was discussed, primarily because it was among the “burning issues of the day.”

“He explained to Ka Eduardo the reasons for the impeachment – that this is part of his reform agenda.

“The President only mentioned the reason why there was an impeachment against Chief Justice Corona and he explained his reasons,” he said.

Lacierda similarly modulated the implication of Aquino’s visit to the INC central office at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, when he could just have received the religious leader at his office in Malacañang.

“I asked that and the President mentioned it’s always a practice of not only this President but also the other presidents, to visit the head of Iglesia ni Cristo in Central. This is nothing new,” he said.

The other topic discussed, aside from the impeachment according to Lacierda, was the government’s skills development program that will be implemented through the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) which is being headed by Joel Villanueva, son of evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement, and is said to be an administration senatorial candidate in 2013.

Lacierda rejected allusions that Aquino was seeking for INC’s support for the future candidate, Villanueva.

“It was only a discussion of what the government has been doing. But there’s certainly no way something was discussed about Villanueva,” he said.

“There are certain matters that we do not list out in the schedule,” he added, dismissing the accusations that the administration had not been transparent in its meeting with the INC.

Not bothered

Lacierda also mentioned that he doesn’t consider Roman Catholic priests’ celebration Masses for Corona just to show a support from the Church leadership for the plagued Chief Justice.

“We have no response to that. This is a free country. There’s a separation between Church and State. So let them – if he wants to celebrate Mass for the Chief Justice, by all means. We have no response to that. And obviously, only a Catholic priest can celebrate a Mass, a Catholic Mass. So there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

He referred to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines saying that they’re not even aware of any official stand of the CBCP regarding Corona’s impeachment.

“They have not released any statement. So we just rely on statements. We don’t rely on individual bishops. As far as we know, they have not published in their website any official position taken by the CBCP,” he said.

Lacierda said they haven’t heard anything from CBCP president Jose Palma “other than those short interviews.”

“But as an official position, we have not seen any official position taken by the CBCP. Any organization can make a position. Right now, it is in the hands of the senator-judges. So let’s wait for the testimony of Chief Justice Corona,” Lacierda said.

Meeting defended

There was nothing wrong with regards that the President having a meeting with INC leaders, just for the issue of the prosecution panel in Corona’s impeachment trial.

“It’s not uncommon for presidents to solicit the support of the influential group even harking back to the 1970s,” Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II also defended President Aquino’s visit to the INC.

“There’s nothing wrong about it. He just presented his sentiments on the impeachment of the Chief Justice and his campaign for reforms, which sentiments are known to the public,” he told the reporters.

He said the President’s visit may be compared to Aquino’s past meetings with Catholic bishops at the height of debates on the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

“If there are groups big or small that are holding contrary views, it is not unusual for us politicians to approach them to present to them our side. To ignore them would mean insensitivity on our part,” he said.

“In the case of the Chief Justice, whether there is lobbying or not from any group, we are confident that the strength of the evidence we have presented against him would get him convicted,” Gonzales stressed.

But Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said Aquino’s visit only showed his insecurity.

“Why is he going out of his way to explain Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment when he should have nothing to do with it in the first place?” Magsaysay said. “He looks so defensive especially when a so-called congressional source said the INC was influencing senator-judges to acquit the Chief Justice.”

No INC meeting

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile contradicted the reports that he met with any representative of the INC.

“I quarantined myself,” Enrile told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said “lobbying for or against any issue is normal.”

“Whether it is happening I don’t know. I’m one of those who can say nobody had approached me to lobby then and now,” Sotto said.

“That’s part of the normal interaction between politicians and constituents. All sectors whether you are Iglesia or civilian or non-sectarian can talk to both sides,” Sen. Edgardo Angara said.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco also denied that the INC was trying to influence senator-judges identified with UNA.

“As the secretary-general of UNA, I would like to state that there is no truth to that rumor. No emissaries from the INC have sent feelers to senator-judges belonging to UNA for the purpose of pleading for the Chief Justice,” Tiangco said in a statement.

“It is disappointing to read of an ‘anonymous’ source trying to besmirch the reputation of both INC and UNA,” he said. “This congressional source insists he remain anonymous while he attempts to discredit UNA and debase the INC.” – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano

Timeline: Resumption of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona

Day 35 (May 7) The impeachment court allows the defense panel to subpoena Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as “hostile” witness, but two defense witnesses are barred from testifying since their testimonies bore no relevance to the case.

Day 36 (May 8) Chief Justice Renato Corona promises to testify before the Senate impeachment court based on the documents presented to the Office of the Ombudsman on his alleged $10-million bank deposits.

Day 37 (May 14) Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales presents an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report, which reveals Corona allegedly had 82 accounts with a “transactional balance” amounting to $10 million, spread out over five banks and not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Day 38 (May 15) Ombudsman Morales continues her testimony, saying there were “significant” transactions on Corona’s alleged dollar accounts during the 2004 and 2007 election periods and before the impeachment trial began.

Day 39 (May 16) The defense panel presents three complainants who filed charges against Corona before the Ombudsman in an attempt to show that their claims were baseless. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile compels Kaya Natin! Movement lead convenor Harvey Keh to explain why he should not be cited for contempt for handing over to his office confidential records of Corona’s alleged dollar accounts.

Day 40 (May 22) Corona testifies before the impeachment court.

Government Workers To Get Salary Increase Early

Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona supposedly has at least $10 million in his bank accounts that the Ombudsman is now asking him to explain, regardless of his peso accounts and real estate properties.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, asked Corona to explain in writing within 72 hours how he obtained several peso and dollar accounts, allegedly “grossly disproportionate” to his salary, in different banks.

The order was dated April 20 and served on Corona on April 23.

“This office finds that there is reasonable ground to proceed further with the conduct of an inquiry vis-à-vis the charges that you, during your incumbency as a public officer, accumulated wealth that is purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income,” Morales said in the April 20, 2012 order.

Furthermore, Morales mentioned in the letter that she had received information that “there are several bank accounts in PSBank and several other banks in your (Corona’s) name, including those denominated in US dollars the aggregate value of which amounts to at least US$10,000,000.”

Through his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, Corona responded with a terse four-point reply: (1) I do not own 10M. It simply does not exist. (2) It’s part of the black propaganda and mind-conditioning preparatory to the resumption of trial on May 7. (3) No different from the phoney LRA [Land Registration Authority] list, phoney US property list, phoney surveys, phoney letters to the Inquirer editor, etc., etc. (4) The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.

Three complaints

Appealing her powers under Republic Act No. 6770, which describes the powers and functions of the Office of the Ombudsman, Morales asked Chief Justice to reply in writing to the complaints and to the information regarding his claimed accounts in several banks.

Morales quoted 3 complaints filed against Corona before her office for violation of anti-graft laws, raising the Ombudsman’s power to examine impeachable officers for serious misconduct, including violations of RA 9194, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

“They claim that you do not have the means to acquire properties in substantial amounts, supposedly considering your ‘indicated net worth, modest means and salary as a Chief Justice,’” the Ombudsman said in her letter to Corona.

Complainants Ruperto Aleroza, Gibby Gorres, Harvey Keh, Risa Hontiveros and Albert Concepcion sought to have Corona investigated for allegedly amassing “real and personal properties in significant amounts” and not declaring them in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law.

A complaint that was dated Feb. 17, it was stated that 10 pieces of real property which were presented by the House prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate. These include supposedly “posh” units at the Bellagio, Spanish Bay, The Columns, One Burgundy Plaza condominium developments and houses in the La Vista and Ayala Heights gated communities.

The complainants also mentioned that Corona’s alleged 10 peso accounts and two dollar accounts at Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and five peso accounts with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

A second complaint was filed on March 1 by party-list member Walden Bello (Akbayan), Earnest Francis Calayag, Moses Mikael SD Albiento and Tristan Diane Brioso Zinampan.

They appealed that Corona under declared the values of his real properties in his SALN and did not declare his property in La Vista, Quezon City, and in McKinley Hills, Taguig.

They claimed that the “actual value of his personal properties in the amount of P31,752,623.00 exceeded the declared value in his SALN by P27,252,623.09.”

“According to complainants, the real and personal properties supposedly owned by you and your family are manifestly out of proportion to your salary as public officer, as well as other lawful income, during your respective tenures as associate justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” the Ombudsman said.

A third complaint dated March 28 was filed by Emmanuel Tiu Santos who said Corona had unexplained wealth consisting of P24.6 million in five accounts at PSBank and P12 million with BPI.

Santos, citing reports published in the Inquirer, pointed out that Corona also withdrew P32.6 million on the day he was impeached.

Trial resumes May 7

“While you may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, this office has, as reflected earlier, the power and duty to investigate you for any serious misconduct in office for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. It was on this account that this Office conducted an initial evaluation on the complaints,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman’s move comes as Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate resumes on May 7 after Congress returns from a six-week break.

It will be the turn of the defense to present its case for Corona.

The prosecution sought to subpoena Corona’s alleged dollar accounts, but the Supreme Court stopped the Senate from compelling the banks to submit documents on the alleged dollar accounts.

Corona has said he would open his bank accounts to public scrutiny in due time.