Corona widow, children ask court to affirm nullification of subpoenas over forfeiture case

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MEMBERS of the family of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona is asking the Sandiganbayan Second Division to reverse its ruling on the nullification of subpoenas in connection with a P130-million civil forfeiture case.

Corona’s widow, Cristina; daughters, Ma. Carla Beatrice Castillo and Charina Salgado; and son, Francis Corona, sought the reversal of the ruling that was promulgated on October 23.

“Clearly, petitioner’s Requests for Subpoenae were not filed on the basis of its prospective witnesses’ unjustified refusal, but were, in fact, anchored merely on its baseless and erroneous assumption that these witnesses will only execute judicial affidavits and produce the requested documents if this Honorable Court will issue subpoenae in its favor. Petitioner’s Requests for Subpoenae are therefore violative of the Judicial Affidavit Rule,” the respondents said in part.

It added that “in the absence of any written permission from the depositor, the alleged dollar deposits subject of the Request for Subpoenae remain absolutely confidential, without exception, under R.A. No. 6426 and may not be inquired into in any proceeding. Neither petitioner nor this Honorable Court has the authority to inquire into said deposits, or to compel any witness to produce documents relating thereto, without respondents’ written permission.”

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Republic Act (RA) 6426 is the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.

The respondents thus asked the court to affirm its resolution dated April 28, 2016, which voided the subpoenas.

According to the October 23 resolution, the court, upon request of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), issued subpoenas duces tecum (to bring documents) and ad testificandum (to testify) on January 18, 2016 to Anthony Chua, who was then from the Allied Banking Corporation; Maybelen Villareal, who was then from the Land Bank of the Philippines; Pascual Garcia, 3rd who was then from PS Bank Center; and Francisco Burgos Jr., who was then from the Land Bank of the Philippines.

“The subpoenas directed them to appear for a conference at the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Office of the Ombudsman and to testify pursuant to the Judicial Affidavit Rule under A.M. 12-18-8-SC,” the court said.

On January 28, 2016, the court issued subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum ordering Enrico Cruz and Celia Orbeta, who were then from Deutsche Bank AG Manila, to appear for a conference at the OSP.

They were ordered “to testify on bank statements pertaining to” the respondents’s supposed “US dollar deposits and…bring certified true copies thereof,” according to the court’s April 28, 2016 resolution which was quoted in its October 23, 2017 resolution.

Corona filed an omnibus motion dated February 9, 2016, asking the court to quash the subpoenas and to “[s]uppress, exclude and expunge from the records of this case all documentary evidence produced pursuant to the” subpoenas.

The court granted the omnibus motion in the resolution dated April 28, 2016, saying in part that “[i]t cannot assist either party in building up a case or putting up a defense” and that “[t]he petitioner should instead rely on its own resources to summon its potential witnesses and to secure through lawful means the documents that it will present in court, and not use court processes to facilitate its task.”

This prompted the Republic of the Philippines, through the OSP, to file a Motion For Clarification And/Or Reconsideration (Re: Resolution dated 28 April 2016) dated May 16, 2016.

“There can be no infraction of the policy of secrecy of bank deposits. Bank deposits can be inquired into upon order of this Court if said deposits are the subject of litigation, like in this case,” the court said in its October 23 resolution.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case at the Sandiganbayan in 2014.

Corona passed away on April 2016.

 

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