Issue vs Corona is non-disclosure of dollar accounts–prosecution
MANILA, Philippines – It does not matter if Chief Justice Renato Corona had 4 or 82 dollar accounts. In the end, according to the spokesman of the prosecution in his impeachment trial, it will all boil down to the question: Why did he not declare these in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth?
Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III, the prosecution’s spokesman, said in a telephone interview Saturday he also thought it curious that Corona’s defense lawyers, while debunking the number of dollar accounts attributed to their client, were silent on the amount that belongs to the embattled chief justice.
The defense said that it had found that only three to four dollar accounts—out of the 82 dollar accounts that were supposedly in Corona’s name—actually exist, but it was not necessarily admitting that they belonged to the Chief Justice.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, citing records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, had alleged that Corona had some $12 million in five banks where he kept 82 accounts.
Tañada said it was possible that there were now fewer than 82 accounts in Corona’s name, but the fact remained that money moved through all 82 of them.
“They’re saying there are not 82 accounts. Maybe that’s true, but all these money moved out or moved from a mother account,” Tañada said.
And there remains what he believes to be the crucial question that Corona would have to face: “Why did he not declare in in his SALN?”
Tañada said he was not worried that the defense would pull the rug out from under the prosecution when Corona makes his much-awaited appearance on the stand on Tuesday.
“If they’re saying it’s another LRA fiasco, it doesn’t erase the fact that there is a question of was it declared in the proper time, was it declared in the SALN?”
The “LRA fiasco” referred to the declaration from the Land Registration Authority that there were 45 properties in Corona’s name, a report that the prosecution made public. But it turned out that Corona only had five. The defense said the erroneous claim was part of a “pattern of lies” meant to destroy Corona.
Tanada also said that aside from the bank accounts, there were also other properties that Corona failed to include in his SALN, as the prosecution had shown earlier in the trial. It is not just the cash that is material to the case, but also the properties, he said.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, a member of the prosecution team, said in a separate interview that even if the amount in Corona’s dollar accounts totaled just $100,000, or significantly lower than the amount found by the AMLC, the chief justice still was required to declare it.
“It’s not good legal philosophy that just because it’s dollars, it would not be declared in the SALN. It’s difficult to acquit the chief justice on that ground,” Colmenares said.
He also said it was unacceptable for Corona to claim that he did not include certain properties in the SALN because he has complaints about their roof or their doors, or with the developer. If that were allowed, then all unexplained wealth would be easily explained, he said.
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