Apology, absolute waiver won’t save Corona–prosecution
A subdued and contrite Chief Justice Renato Corona on the witness stand may have appeased some of the senators he had angered by abruptly leaving the court on Tuesday, but the prosecution said on Saturday that his apology was not enough to turn the tide in his favor.
Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, a spokesperson for the prosecution team, said deciding the case still depended on the evidence, and those who may have it in their minds to convict the Chief Justice had not seen enough to reverse their positions.
Quimbo said Corona “crossed the Rubicon” when he walked out of the court on Tuesday. And the Chief Justice’s testimony on Friday showed that he did not declare a big chunk of his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), as the prosecution alleged, he said.
The prosecution also said the unconditional waiver that Corona submitted on Friday had no more value at this point. Quimbo said the prosecution was confident that it had made its case against the Chief Justice.
Corona’s return may have made some senators forgive him, but it does not mean it actually made them change their mind, Quimbo said.
The senators, he said, will vote on the basis of the evidence and what’s best for the country.
Quimbo described Corona’s return as an “afterthought” intended to repair the damage he had done to his case.
“But in our mind, the damage was irreparable,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo noted that Corona admitted having four US dollar accounts with $2.4 million in deposits and three peso accounts containing P80 million in deposits, P76.5 million more than the cash and investments declared in his 2010 SALN.
Corona explained that he did not disclose his dollar accounts because they were confidential under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act. He also said he did not declare other peso accounts because these were “co-mingled funds” and included funds from his wife’s family’s business.
Quezon Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, another spokesperson for the prosecution, said the senators may have an open mind about Corona’s apology, but his appearance and testimony did not bolster his case.
“No matter how nice a person is, how congenial he is, I think the senators will be looking at the evidence,” Angara said.
By disclosing how much his undeclared bank accounts contained, Angara said, Corona only gave details to the charge that he violated the law.
But the prosecution doubts Corona’s disclosures, Angara said, because of the Anti-Money Laundering Council report that showed the Chief Justice had $10 million in “transactional balances” in 82 accounts from 2003 to 2011.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Corona’s explanation for not reporting his dollar accounts was unacceptable. The foreign currency deposits law does not prohibit the account holder from disclosing his own account, Colmenares said, and the law provides for many exceptions.
“His insistence that the [disclosure] prohibition is absolute is not only legally baseless, but also politically disastrous because it allows corrupt public officials to hide ill-gotten wealth by merely stashing them in dollar accounts,” Colmenares said.
Quimbo said that if Corona was convicted, he should be removed from office.
“As far as we are concerned, a penalty that is not removal is tantamount to acquittal,” Quimbo said.
“Admonition or whatever, that’s an acquittal for us,” he said.