On Corona’s walk out

News Release
23 May 2012

Excerpts from interview of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Headstart, ABS-CBN News Channel
Hosted by Karen Davila
8-9:00 am, 23 May 2013

Karen Davila (KD): Your immediate reaction [on yesterday’s ‘walkout’]?
Sen. Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): The Chief Justice having been a judge, is a judge of the highest level, would know that you cannot just say to the court na, ‘Hindi ako babalik.’ It’s a courtesy that we owe the court. Every member of the bar owes that to the court. So I was like, ‘What? He is walking out?’ So right away, to me, that’s a walk out. Because the least you could do is come back and apologize. And honestly, I thought nawala lang sa isip niya na, ‘tapos na kasi ako.’ And he was walking out strongly pa naman. So ako, my interpretation is, really, that was a walkout, without a doubt in my mind. I think it had a big effect because first of all, you have to remember that we gave him the utmost leniency in narrating. You’ve never seen that. I do not even know if the Rules of Court allow a narration of facts, so we gave all of that to him.

KD: You’re a lawyer no?
SPSC: Yes, I’m a lawyer. Under the Rules of Court, the testimony of the witness shall be given in a question-and-answer form. The reason for that is to allow the opposing counsel to interject their opposition if hindi clear yung question, or [kung] leading, misleading, whatever. But we gave the leniency. If you recall, Atty. Bautista questioned it but the Senate President allowed it. Siguro, I’m thinking the Senate President allowed it – and we also allowed it, if you noticed nobody stood up to object because we could have if we disagreed – because we felt that as the accused, give him all the time in the world.

Honestly, it [Corona’s opening statement] was long. Honestly, I think many people would agree with me that, to a certain extent, he was rambling. He was going around back and forth, but we gave that all to him. I was looking at his papers, it was this thick! [gestures] Nung mga one-third pa lang ‘yon, ganyan pa rin siya kakapal. Sabi ko, ‘mahaba-haba ‘to.’ We gave all of that to him. So, ano ba naman ‘yung at the very end na tanungin mo, ‘May I be excused?’ How many seconds does it take? ‘May I be excused? I am really tired. ’ And then you wait for the response. But if you look at his statement, it’s clearly that he wanted to excuse himself, he wanted to be the witness and the judge. He asked to excuse himself and then he stood up. He didn’t wait for the presiding officer to give that. If you asked to be excused, you wait for the response of the presiding officer, right? He did not. It was like a declaration like ‘I am the Chief Justice, I am asking to be excused.’

KD: No, he said ‘I wish to be excused.’
SPSC: So whether ‘I’m asking’ or ‘I wish,’ di ba that requires a response? But he was the one who responded to his own question because he stood up without waiting two seconds for the presiding officer to say, ‘Okay, you may.’ When did the presiding officer not extend this courtesy to our witnesses? Never! He always granted it.

Well it doesn’t sit well with me because we extended so much courtesy. Now, of course, for humanitarian reason, you have to consider the medical condition of a person, right? I mean, that’s a given. But given what happened, tao lang din naman ako. Emotionally, ang instinct ko is like, ‘ang labo naman non. I mean, we bore with your testimony for three hours and then, by my own senses, my own perception as a judge, you walked out on us and didn’t want to come back.’

Again, under the Rules of Court, once a party presents a witness, the other party has a guaranteed right to cross-examine. Hindi pwedeng mag-present ka, ‘yung kalaban mo, hindi pwedeng magtanong. No. In fact the rule says once that the witness makes his testimony, open lahat nung topics na binanggit niya for cross-examination.

KD: Will you still hear closing arguments from both sides?
SPSC: Most likely.

KD: What if he resigns? Will the impeachment trial continue?
SPSC: I think hindi na, kasi from what I recall, in impeachment cases, you’re impeaching a person and ang penalty doon is he loses his right to sit in office. So kung nag-resign siya voluntarily, then what are you doing? I mean, this is not a hypothetical practice. And in fact, that is why many times, there’s really pressure on the defendants to resign: To shorten the process so we don’t go through all that, the expenses, you know, the time consumed, and also to save him from the disgrace of being impeached. So if he resigns, I think for most people, it’s as good as our job is done.

KD: [Reads a comment from Twitter] Actually, Corona referred to himself in the third person. Like Caesar, he said ‘the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused.’ It was more of a declaration, do you think it was that?

SPSC: You know that is the impact it has on me and in fact, the way I looked at it, he was prepared pala, he had expected and assumed, if you think about it, that he would really be allowed to narrate the whole facts of his testimony. Because I thought and I think common sense says, when you say ‘opening statement,’ short lang yun di ba? Introduction. But clearly it was an intent, for his opening statement to be his whole narration. That was the intention, that’s why ganun kakapal yung files nya.

So to end it by saying na para bang, ‘I am the Chief Justice, this is my statement,’ is like saying, ‘This is how you’re supposed to deal with me.’ And me as a judge, and in all humility naman, I’m like, ‘Ok, but we have a set of rules, and our rules say, that we should have done question-and-answer, but we gave leniency.’ So you cannot dictate the rules. And that’s how it turned out to me as a judge, and including the conditions [for the waiver], we haven’t even discussed that. He signed a waiver, I think everybody was surprised with that…

KD: What did you think of that, the ‘conditional’ waiver…
SPSC: My first thought when that happened was, well I guess lumabas na lahat, given that the previous witness was the Ombudsman, she showed all the accounts. So sabi ko, lumabas na siguro lahat, kasi candid sya eh, wala na siguro talaga siyang tinatago. So I thought, good move on his part, as the defendant, good move for him. Good for a Supreme Court justice to do such a thing, an honorable act of a man of power, of a man being prosecuted.

And then, nung biglang, ‘And now I challenge…’ akala ko naman parang friendly challenge, eto na waiver ko and sana gawin n’yo rin yan. Eh yun pala, hindi pala sana, dapat, or else, ibubulsa ko ito [waiver] ulit. Yun pala yun. Kasi he didn’t say it’s conditional, but you put it all together, basically it was a condition. So I was like, ‘You can’t do that.’ When did a witness ever hold the court hostage to their own whatever they want to do. The witness cannot hold the court hostage, and that is what he did. I’m going to present my evidence, if you do it too, kasama pa yung judge, kasama pa si Senator Drilon. Anyway I go back to the basics, what does the rule say? Can you testify and say that the information I give you will be conditional? No. Invalid yun, balewala yun, then it was purely just for show. Yeah, it was purely drama.

KD: How did Corona’s testimony affect your position regarding this case?
SPSC: Of course it had a strong bearing on my overall appreciation of the facts of the case. Because I’m weighing everything, every witness I either add or subtract, from my assessment on the question do we impeach or do we acquit. So it definitely had an impact but it [statement] is not complete without the cross. Because let me go into the content a bit, but again, may I remind the public that as a judge, I have to be neutral and I will only disclose my position at the end… So we weigh all the facts, and part of the facts is the direct and the cross. That always goes together. That’s precisely why we have to throw out the whole testimony kung walang cross, because when the Ombudsman testified, which, supposed to be witness nila yun, but it worked against them, to the extent that it planted in our minds that, ‘Uy napakaraming accounts.’ But it’s not just the number of accounts, because at the end of the day, it’s the value there. May amounts na mga binanggit. So now I was waiting for him to explain what are those amounts, are those true, are those accounts true? Sabi nya, those aren’t verified, those aren’t certified, but he basically affirmed that out of the 82, it’s down to four. So confirmed yan na may four. So my question is simple: Ano yung laman nung four? To see if it’s consistent with the SALN declaration. Yun lang.

KD: But did you hear the part of the testimony when the Chief Justice blatantly and categorically said, under RA 6426… I am not supposed to declare it [dollar accounts]?

SPSC: The Chief justice invoked RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposit Act, which states that all foreign currency deposits are of an absolute confidential nature. And can only be disclosed, can only be examined, upon the written consent of the depositor. So yun yung pinanghahawakan nya na batas. On the other hand, though, you have to look at the Code of Conduct for government employees. Under that law, it states that all government employees, including us, should file our SALN. Well what is SALN? It is your statement of assets and liabilities, and it says, all cash including in banks, and you know, cash on hand, it doesn’t distinguish between dollar and peso. So I have to be candid with you, in my case, whether peso, dollar, yen or whatever, I declare it. Now wala namang details talaga as to how how you will disclose it, but I’ve always interpreted that to mean all. Now so maybe as a lawyer you can argue that, which is the special law? Because the special law governs. But if you ask me, the special law would be the law that requires that we file our SALN, but that is obviously his defense, and now it is up to every single judge to weigh which one has more bearing. The law that says that foreign deposits are of an absolute confidential nature, or the law that will disclose all of our assets?

KD: Do you have dollar deposits? If you have, are you willing to sign a waiver?
SPSC: I do, it’s declared in my SALN. I don’t need to sign a waiver. I declared all my assets, both dollars and pesos. Hindi naman marami eh.

KD: Did you convert your dollar deposits in your SALN, did you convert them to pesos?
SPSC: Yes, I don’t recall na may separate entry ako. It’s a very simple form and marami akong files to help me also remember. I’m in my forties, I have assets, in the millions, so hindi naman yun top of mind, so naka-ayos yan.

KD: Quickly two questions, what’s the status of the RH Bill?
SPSC: I’m just waiting for the Senate President to finish his interpellation. [laughs] But I’m trying to be kind because I know that he’s very busy.

KD: Number two, well it’s news today, that Sen Koko Pimentel and his wife have already parted ways, and yesterday I interviewed Sen. Chiz Escudero, and he said he was single, but not yet legally, I think that was his term. Now you are annulled?

SPSC: I have been separated for eight years.

KD: But are you, are you annulled?
SPSC: I’m in the process.

KD: In the process. Then you have Senator Loren Legarda, who I think is annulled, so there are four of you, and are there others?

SPSC: I don’t know, there might be, I don’t really check.

KD: [Laughs] So the question right now, Jim Paredes on Twitter he brought it up, is there any chance for the divorce bill? I mean you have legislators who are separated, annulled?

SPSC: You know I really think it’s high time for the divorce bill. I’ve talked to lawyers, and psychologists and psychiatrists, and it is so traumatic for people to go through annulment because under our Philippine law, you have to blame someone, you have to say ‘you are incapacitated,’ you are saying, ‘this marriage never existed,’ which is not true.

I mean ask anyone, I’m sure that at some moment in time, whether it was one year, or ten years, or twenty years, they loved each other. So why can’t you call it what it is? We loved each other, something went wrong, it’s done. Why will you say it never existed because, ‘hayop ka, wala kang puso, wala kang capacity?’

KD: Ganun kasi ang annulment, no?

SPSC: It’s not true, it’s not human, it’s not humane. So for me it is high time, let’s bring it to the level where it should be and call it ‘divorce’ and deal. #

Photo: Sen Pia Cayetano on ‘Headstart’ with Ms Karen Davila. Also in photo is actress-host Bianca Gonzales, who dropped by the newsroom to watch the interview.

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