MANILA, Philippines—After managing to wiggle himself out of more questions on the non-inclusion of his dollar and peso accounts in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, Chief Justice Renato Corona is headed for acquittal, defense lawyers said Saturday.
Corona’s testimony that his $2.4 million accounts were covered by confidentiality under the Foreign Currency Deposit Act and his P80.7 million peso accounts were “co-mingled” funds was his best defense yet, defense lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho said.
“He had been forthright and candid. With candor, he faced all the questions of the senators. All the signs lead to his acquittal,” he said on the phone.
Responding to claims that the unconditional waiver he executed on the secrecy of his bank accounts was an afterthought, Quicho said this was Corona’s response to the “clamor for accountability and transparency.”
“The chief justice showed he was open to public transparency and accountability,” he said.
After he executed the waiver, the impeachment court was prepared to subpoena the bank managers for Monday’s hearing, but the defense did not request it, Senator-judge Franklin Drilon said.
During their hastily-called caucus Friday afternoon, prompted by the waiver, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago inquired from lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas if they would request a subpoena, but the latter said no, Drilon said.
“Why did Cuevas not request it? You know why. If they ask for a subpoena, whatever the bank managers will testify on or whatever bank documents they will produce will be binding on Corona. That indicates they were not prepared to be bound by what the bank records will show,” Drilon said by phone.
Quicho scoffed at this: “Why do we need to subpoena the bank managers? To prove that there was no ill-gotten wealth? If the prosecution wants to really confirm that testimony of the chief justice, they could use the waiver, but they opted not to because they’re afraid of the truth.”
Santiago said the bank managers could have bridged the gap between the claims by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that Corona kept $10 million to $12 million in 82 accounts, and Corona’s counter-claims he had $2.4 million in four accounts.
“If the defense had requested a subpoena, the bank managers would have been able to settle easily the dispute between the defendant and the Ombudsman,” she said by phone.
She wondered: “Who is telling the truth? This is important because each one of these two antipathetic parties is still in government position. The liar should be removed from office and prosecuted at least for perjury. But without the bank managers, if Corona is acquitted there will always hang a cloud of doubt over the heads of these protagonists.”
In his testimony Friday, Corona claimed that Morales was used by Malacañang to investigate him over his alleged dollar accounts. Morales vehemently denied this, calling him a “certified liar.”
“She’s a pathetic liar,” Quicho shot back. “Where did she get the $10 million to $12 million? She needs to resign.”