Morales’ solid ground
Three strains of adverse reactions greeted Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ revelation Monday that impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona owns at least US $12.3 million in 82 bank accounts.
Corona’s lawyers manifested a desire for the Senate sitting as an impeachment court to summon the members of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), so that the body’s method in delving into their client’s accounts may be scrutinized.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. questioned the authority of the AMLA to provide information about the dollar accounts to the Ombudsman and her publicizing of the data, all minus a court order.
Corona himself branded Morales’ PowerPoint presentation summarizing the accounts as a “lantern of lies,” saying her numbers were chaotic, the reported number of accounts alone “ridiculous.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, impeachment court presiding officer, said he was loathe to summon the members of the AMLC.
Indeed, Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 states that the AMLC is empowered to “require and receive covered transaction reports from covered institutions,” or, among others, “banks, non-banks, quasi-banks, trust entities, and all other institutions and their subsidiaries and affiliates supervised or regulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.”
As for Senator Marcos’ concern, he, more than the man on the street, must be aware that the Ombudsman or her representative is authorized by every government employee like him who is required to file a statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), “to secure and obtain from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents” that may help the Tanodbayan verify the contents of the statement.
In addition, Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 states: “The Office of the Ombudsman shall inquire into acts or omissions of a public officer, employee, office or agency” whose accounts appear to be anomalous.
The issue is neither how much money is being kept in the accounts nor how many accounts exist. The Chief Justice asserted otherwise in a statement, a textbook example of the the fallacy of the red herring, soon after the Ombudsman first appearance in court. Notwithstanding Corona’s missive, the issue is the mere existence of any of these dollar accounts in light of their non-disclosure in his sworn SALN.
As Ombudsman Morales herself said in yesterday’s episode of the trial, the “lantern of lies” were lit not by her but by Corona himself. More precisely, it is the Chief Justice’s duplicity that looks like a clear dousing of the light of truth.
Let the sun soon rise on the Chief Justice’s day in court. He has the unenviable task of proving that his secrecy about his dollars is untainted by malice.
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