House prosecutors believe Corona will use Basa-Guidote to explain wealth | Inquirer News

House prosecutors believe Corona will use Basa-Guidote to explain wealth

The House prosecutors have their own theory as to the possible strategy that Chief Justice Renato Corona would adopt in explaining the estimated P677 million in unexplained wealth that he is alleged to have amassed as claimed by a report of a special Ombudsman panel.

It is possible Corona will claim that the funds were owned by his daughter and came from the assets of his wife’s family corporation, Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc., but this would not be enough, said prosecution spokesperson Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.

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“That may be a possible strategy of the defense although it may not carry weight given the evidence regarding financial capacity that we have seen so far. The burden is on the CJ and the defense to come up with a credible explanation that is supported by documents and other corroborative evidence,” said Angara.

Tiglao column

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Angara also referred to the May 17 column of Inquirer columnist Rigoberto Tiglao which he said could be a preview of Corona’s defense.

Tiglao wrote that Corona may have engaged in “usual overnight money market placements or documentation requirements on certain transactions” to explain the sheer number of accounts—a total of 82—recorded by the Anti-Money Laundering Council from 2003 to 2011.

But Angara said Tiglao’s explanation would not exculpate the Chief Justice from his failure to declare his business dealings in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

“Then, he did not pay taxes on his trades, if that is his claim. Also, that would be easy to corroborate if true—receipts of transactions, etc. But the question still remains—why was it not declared either as investments or other personal property?” he said.

“It is easy to compose a storyline, what is difficult is making it credible, and substantiating it with evidence,” he said.

Asked if this could expose Corona to other criminal liabilities, Angara said: “Possibly.”

Prosecutor and party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said failure to explain any portion of the P677 million would suffice to convict Corona.

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“It is still assets that have to be declared. The sources of the funds are important in just adding additional evidence to convict,” he said.

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, another prosecution spokesperson, said the impeachment case would not rise or fall on the testimony of Corona.

“We don’t see our case dependent on the testimony of CJ Corona. With or without his testimony, we believe that we have presented enough evidence to convict,” said Tañada.

Ex-BIR official wrong

According to Angara, Corona can testify on the dollar accounts he is alleged to own without committing a “heinous crime” contrary to the opinion of Estrella Martinez, a former Bureau of Internal Revenue official.

All Corona has to do is to issue a written permission for disclosure of all his foreign currency deposits, as he had promised at the beginning of his trial in January, he said.

According to Angara, Martinez’s opinion doesn’t take into account the fact that assuming for argument’s sake that the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) does not allow disclosure in cases of impeachment, “the depositor is always free to give his consent to any disclosure of the accounts.”

“The voluntary disclosure of accounts is his right and the exercise of such will not give rise to penalties,” he said.

The Chief Justice and his panel of lawyers know this legal doctrine by heart so “someone seems to be laying the basis for the Chief Justice testifying while evading the dollar accounts issue,” Angara said.

Legal obstacles

Martinez, a lawyer accountant who served in the BIR for 32 years, said Corona was under no obligation to reveal his possession of dollar accounts, if any, because of the FCDA (Republic Act No. 6426) on the confidentiality of dollar deposits. The FCDA makes the revelation of foreign currency details unlawful, except upon a written permission of the depositor.

She also cited the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court preventing the impeachment court from looking into the alleged Corona dollar deposits while it decides on a petition from the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), invoking RA 6426, to stop the impeachment court from compelling it to reveal information on Corona’s foreign currency deposits.

Martinez said Corona would be committing a “heinous crime” if he violates the TRO and could be cited for contempt by the high court justices who voted for the issuance of the TRO.

Martinez is also of the opinion that foreign currency deposits have “no place in the SALN” because of the strict rules of RA 6426.

She also said that Corona’s decision to take the witness stand and disclose his supposed dollar deposits could not be considered an “expressed consent” as required in RA 6426. Such testimony could be considered a “coerced consent,” she said.

To appear evasive

Angara said any attempt to skirt the issues surrounding the dollar deposits would be detrimental to the Chief Justice’s defense.

“He will appear evasive, as if he is hiding something, and it may adversely affect his cause,” he said.

Malacañang on Friday said an official’s dollar accounts are not exempted from the requirement to declare his or her assets in his SALN.

“They are assets, they are no different from peso deposits. The SALN law does not distinguish between deposits in local currency nor in foreign currency. It just says it should be included in assets, all assets,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. With a report from Norman Bordadora

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TAGS: Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Basa-Guidote Enterprises, BGEI, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Corona Impeachment, Estrella Martinez, INC
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