Looks like the venerable Philippine Savings Bank (PS Bank) is the next hapless chump thrust into the circus spotlight. In the usual tradition of the way the prosecution habitually pre-empts any court order to authorise any of its police activities, an “envelope” delivered by a shadowy “small lady” allegedly containing Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona’s specimen and signature cards has emerged as a key pillar in the prosecution’s request to subpoena Corona’s bank records. In the course of being pressed by Senator-Judge Francis â€œChizâ€ Escudero on the nature of the “anonymous” source of his allegations, flustered former lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr was left with no choice but to hang Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali out to dry.
The serpent made me do it!
Umali, looking like the proverbial unprepared clown shoved in front of a stage facing an audience-packed theatre then reportedly “admitted that a ‘small lady’ handed him a brown envelope not knowing that it contained bank documents”. Umali went on to assert that his main role in this rather dodgy deal was to simply hand over this envelope to his colleagues in the prosecution team to decide on how best to use it in their case.
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The trial is certainly going biblical with Tupas doing an Eve and Umali doing a Pontius Pilate!
Who is the biggest loser here? Who else but the little fall gal. The “small lady”, if identified, could face serious charges for violation of bank secrecy laws.
â€œI raised this [sic] concerns because whoever handed that document violated the bank deposit law. May I inquire who is this anonymous source?â€ Escudero said.
House lead prosecutor Niel Tupas claimed that it was congressman Umali who handed to him the envelope containing Coronaâ€™s customer identification and specimen signature card with Philippine Saving Bank.
Umali admitted that it was him who gave the envelope to Tupas in one of the hotel along Roxas Blvd. on Thursday night last week.
â€œI couldnâ€™t recall who handed to me the envelope. I could recall a small lady but I couldnâ€™t recall who the lady was,â€ Umali said.
Senator-Judge Vicente “Tito” Sotto III suggested a review of recordings from closed circuit television cameras to determine who Small Lady is following Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s ominous reminder to everyone that “no one — not anyone from the legislature, judiciary, or the executive — is exempt from sanctions for violating the law.”
Undaunted, and apparently condoning what could be a serious criminal violation of the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws, prosecution spokesman Rep. Romero Quimbo said in a briefing of the press that “it would be a ‘disservice’ to the country if they do not show the specimen and other bank account details.”
In the impeachment trial of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada in 2001, a small bank run was preciptated after a bank executive testified in the trial and voluntarily provided bank records outside the umbrella of a proper court order. Quite coincidentally (or maybe not), it was lawyer Mario Bautista who presented what at the time was star witness Clarissa Ocampo, an executive at the Equitable Bank Corporation, who testified against Estrada. Quite ironic that Bautista who now heads the private legal team provided by media network ABS-CBN to assist the prosecution was once commended by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo back in 2004…
â€œHe helped turn the tide of history as private prosecutor when he presented Clarissa Ocampo as the key witness in the trial of the century [i.e. the trial of the impeachment of former President Estrada]. Congratulations to you, Mario, thanks for your contribution,â€ Arroyo said in a speech during the 2004 homecoming dinner of the University of the Philippines Class of 1979.
Not surprisingly, the business community in the Philippines — already reeling from dismal economic progress in an economy suffering from a chronic crisis of confidence — is up in arms over the prospect of another blow to their already dim prospects for the year…
An official of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce, who requested anonymity, said granting the subpoena could result in a bank run similar to the one that hit Equitable PCIBank during the 2001 impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada, who was eventually found guilty of plunder.
â€œThe members of the chamber are afraid that it might trigger a bank run, just like what happened … when Equitable PCIBank suffered massive withdrawals,â€ the businessman told the Manila Standard.
Granting the House prosecutorsâ€™ motion to subpoena documents on Coronaâ€™s accounts despite the Bank Secrecy Law would set a bad precedent and hurt the economy, the official said.
Already there is much accounting going on in the public over how much damage is being sustained by Philippine society at large as this impeachment trial drags on. Specifically, the scorched-earth bombardment and fine-meshed dragnet fishing approaches being employed by a desperate prosecution team working with a sloppily-written set of Articles of Impeachment is exacting a toll on the state, the effects of which may take several years to reveal themselves.
The vanity and vindictiveness of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and the possible links of this resolve to stop at nothing to take control of the Supreme Court to the fate of the vast Hacienda Luisita estate of the Cojuangco clan provides a compelling context in terms of what is at stake in this circus. A key question is now emerging as the astounding scale of this vendetta comes to light:
Is the crusade to oust Corona and its now very evident ties to the quest to save Hacienda Luisita shaping a new form of plunder of the country being mounted by the Second Aquino Administration?
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.