What's the unbelievable tale and retraction of Cuevas all about?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-02-02
The tale of impeachment trial lead defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas that Malacanang Palace is pressuring him to quit from the defense panel was simply unbelievable. To a political and marketing communications strategist — the Cuevas tale appears to be directed at winning the public relations battle of the impeachment trial rather than exposing an irregularity.

Cuevas could not name names after Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda challenged him to do so. That’s untypical of a top caliber lawyer like Cuevas who would know the difference between a factual assertion and a tall tale. It’s also something we would not expect somebody like Cuevas to state sans any other details that would protect him from being called to account.

Last Tuesday’s dailies carried the subsequent denial of Cuevas. He was emphatic in saying that nobody representing the Palace ever approached him to ask that he quit from the defense panel. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, which broke the “Palace pressure on Cuevas” story last Monday, countered in the face of the Cuevas denial that the tape and transcript of the interview with Cuevas says otherwise — meaning that Cuevas did tell the tale. Hearing that tape in the Inquirer website prevents us from giving Cuevas the benefit of the doubt.

As a public relations ploy, it would undermine the prosecution case as well as blemish the credibility of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy). This impeachment trial is being projected by the camp of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona as an assault by P-Noy on the CJ. To distract from the real issues against the CJ, the Corona camp has been trying to make this appear as an act of vendetta for the SC verdict on Hacienda Luisita, which belongs to the family of the president. As a public relations ploy, this tale also gives the impression that the camp of Cuevas is winning in the CJ impeachment trial.

Respected Solar Talk TV resource person Dean Amado Valdez doesn’t think that the defense is enjoying the upper hand. Valdez is seeing a buildup of the evidence against the CJ, with Day 8 considered as a big accomplishment for the prosecution. Thus far, many Filipinos see Cuevas as having accomplished nothing but impede the trial’s progress. Thus far, the prosecution — despite their fumbles — has managed to bring out very damaging information against the CJ.

It’s unthinkable that the P-Noy administration would negotiate on the basis of what Cuevas said on tape — that if he quits from the defense panel, the Palace would order the dropping of criminal charges against former NBI (National Bureau Investigation) Director Magtanggol Gatdula.

Political concessions on the basis of appointments and pork barrel releases are negotiable. Clearing a suspect from accountability isn’t considered as negotiable because that involves dereliction of duty. 

Both Cuevas and Gatdula are closely connected to the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) — that’s their common denominator. It’s well known that the INC takes care of their allies in government. However, it’s unimaginable that Cuevas would find the Gatdula offer a worthy trade and for that matter, neither would the INC. Who would you want to save, an NBI Director, whose return to his old job is certainly out of the question, or a CJ who is still an incumbent? Thus, it’s also unimaginable that the P-Noy administration would conceive such an offer that will surely not entice the INC and Cuevas.
There’s another wrinkle though in this Cuevas tall tale that bothered your Chair Wrecker. It could be the planting of the seeds for an impeachment case against the President. The idea of setting a suspect free for political leverage is a betrayal of public trust. The retraction could have been the result of lack of traction. The Congress minority has been threatening to impeach P-Noy for sometime now. Cuevas could tarnish his reputation by echoing the propositions of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) camp.

Over at the impeachment trial, the prosecutors had a much better day last Monday. Their private lawyers succeeded in establishing the sale details of the expensive condos in Makati and Taguig that were acquired by the CJ and his wife. Some of these were eventually “sold” to their daughters. Dean Valdez, over at the Solar Talk TV coverage, accurately predicted last Monday that the defense might not want to do an extensive cross examination of the witnesses because they could end up producing more evidence for the prosecution. 

Last Tuesday, during the presentation of the Senior Vice President of Megaworld, several Senator-Judges probed the big discount for the Bellagio unit — seemingly acquired at a 40 percent discount. That opens the transactions to more questions, that there could be more in these deals than meets the eye.

Last Monday and Tuesday, Presiding Officer Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) was more resolute in not allowing defense objections that further delay the trial. JPE reflected the public mood, the mark of a good politician. Last Monday, the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) issued their consensus to support the impeachment process and even encouraged the participants to expedite the process. This was verbalized by CBCP vice president, Bishop Soc Villegas.

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