Not in my lifetime did I dream that lead counsel Justice Serafin Cuevas could be this simpleton to commit the blunder of a neophyte trial lawyer — calling a witness he did not prep and ask her questions the answers of which he had not expected.
Or perhaps, the veteran lawyer and jurist was misled by his client, Chief Justice Renato Corona that he did not have any dollar account in his name, let alone money of ‘Fort Knox’ proportions, a representation which emboldened Atty. Cuevas to fall into the disastrous trap of calling Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, as “hostile” witness. He felt confident that he could cut the graft czar into pieces because these accounts were actually “ghost” accounts. But these 82 dollar accounts turned out to be real, otherwise, who could have played a big joke on the AML Council, putting them on “bogus” accounts which the gullible Ombudsman had “swallowed hook line and sinker,” as Cuevas, passionately intoned. Not only that these accounts were numerous – they were also pregnant with circuitous and suspicious transactions enough to trigger the monitoring mechanism in RA 9160, the anti-money laundering act.
Cuevas was surprised on the floor of the impeachment court when he was told by Ombudsman Morales that her ‘data’ were sourced from the AMLC, which was mandated under the law to receive reports from banks and other financial institutions regarding ‘suspicious’ movements of money. Corona’s dollar accounts were like wiggling tadpoles whose ripples were serious enough to trigger a red flag at AMLC.
All along Justice Cuevas thought that the Ombudsman’s earlier revelation that the Chief Justice had at least $10 or $12 Million dollar deposits, was pure baloney, and he felt initial triumph upon reading the request of Morales to his client to respond to the complaints of Risa Honteveros and her group, which complaint did not even suggest about these dollar deposits. Cuevas thought that Morales was seeing mirage of dollar deposits of his clients — only to be confronted with the reality that his client indeed have dollar accounts, too many, and his rich trial repertoire, proves inadequate to conceal the truth.
Atty. Cuevas looked like he was duped like Atty. Judd Roy. The latter had announced earlier that CJ Corona will testify in his defense, but not until Morales, Honteveros, Walden Bello and Harvey Keh brought their goods first to the impeachment court. With the blistering testimony of Ombudsman Morales, everyone doubts if CJ Corona can keep his promise to face the nation and the people he had betrayed!
Or it could be still possible that the entire defense team knew its client to be totally blemished, but took the assignment of defending him nonetheless, to serve its own vanity that it can bend the system purely on the strength of its intellectual prowess. Oh, what a waste of private talents and government resources!
The behavior of Cuevas and Roy, comes to mind that classic statement attributed to Euripides: ‘Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” After more than 2 weeks presenting its witnesses, the defense had announced that it would stun the nation with evidence that will ensure the acquittal of its client. It came with the wild idea of calling Ombudsman Morales to the witness stand. Indeed her revelations lit up two days of fireworks in the Senate that was not about to get Corona off the hook, rather the fireworks were too bright enough to illuminate the lonely graveyard most crooks richly deserved. His lawyers were so deranged not to realize that their strategy was skewed and their evidence pushed their client unto his grave!
Corona’s sympathizers and allies can only flail their hands at damage control. They now started to discredit the Ombudsman and they were trying hard to create fear among the politicians that a powerful Ombudsman can destroy the bill of rights and that almost no one is safe from her marauding ‘vigilantism.’ As if running after the crooks in the government is anathema to a constitutional government.
The crooks want the regular court to stamp its imprimatur before the feisty Ombudsman exercises her mandate under the constitution and the law that creates her office. They want to rein her in by the erroneous idea that a prior court order is needed before she conducts a fact-finding inquiry to determine if a government official is a thief. On the same footing, was their dismay over the Ombudsman’s request for help in connection with the dollar deposits of CJ Corona from AMLC and COA because that would render meaningless the law protecting foreign currency deposits. They want to protect Corona’s statutory right and downplay the constitutional right of the Ombudsman to look into these dollar deposits, statutory law on the contrary notwithstanding.
Only in this country where politicians masquerading as civil rights activists would place a statute on a higher pedestal than the constitution itself.
CJ Corona’s dollar accounts were not covered by the foreign secrecy deposit act because he was not a foreign investor, but a high government official whose standard of behavior is above ordinary mortals. He should be more honorable, than less.
“PD No. 1246, (Foreign Currency Deposit Act) expressly declares that the secrecy of foreign currency deposits under Section 8 of RA No. 6426 is intended to protect “depositors who are non-residents” because the purpose of the secrecy is to “encourage the inflow of foreign currency deposits” to Philippine banks from such “depositors who are non-residents.”
Justice Carpio dissented on the TRO issued by the Supreme Court against the Senate’s attempt to look into the dollar accounts of CJ Corona because the majority ruling makes a mockery of all existing laws designed to insure transparency and good governance in public service.
Apparently, it is not only in the Supreme Court that the truth can be buried. If we allow MDS, Honasan and Bongbong Marcos to peddle the most atrocious lie that there should be a “predicate” crime before Ombudsman Morales can exercise her mandate; and that ‘dollar accounts’ are absolutely secret, then truth can be buried too in the halls of the Senate!
The anti-money laundering law, (RA 9160) which was amended by RA 9194 made it plain that there is no need for a court order for the AMLC to receive reports from the banks and other financial institutions about suspicious activities of depositors. Thus, the position of some senators that there should be a “predicate” crime before the Ombudsman can ask the help of AMLC and COA for a “case build-up” is baseless.
Suspicous bank transactions can be monitored by AMLC pursuant to its mandate under RA 9160, as amended. It is considered suspicious activity if:
“x x there is no underlying legal or trade obligation, purpose or economic justification.” Sec. 3(b-l)(1),
CJ Corona is not a money trader, but a chief justice engaged full-time in dispensing justice, (wink, 😉 ) hence there was no underlying legal or trade obligation that would justify the abnormal inflows-outflows of dollars in his accounts. Red flags were hoisted on these accounts. Flags that were furnished to the Ombudsman upon her request. The sharing of this report to the Ombudsman does not require a court order. If the AMLC’s acquisition of this report was legal in the first place under the amended law, it does not become illegal simply because it was shared with the very institution tasked to investigate the crooks!
The Ombudsman asked the Chief Justice to validate those reports but he ignored her request. He wanted her to reveal, instead what she knows before the impeachment court. He called her his ‘hostile witness.’ Now that she did talk, CJ Corona and others are tearing her apart.
Was it a part of a bigger scheme to let the Ombudsman assert her authority to investigate all corrupt officials to incense them and drive them all to Corona’s defense? – Well, let us keep watch if this ploy triggers an avalanche of rescuers other than those who already did because they felt threatened.