Court finds probable cause to try Corona for perjury
Former Chief Justice Renato Corona is expected to receive an unwanted gift on his birthday.
The Sandiganbayan has found probable cause to put Corona on trial for perjury and false declaration in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The antigraft court has set the arraignment of Corona on 16 counts of criminal charges for Oct. 15, which falls on his 67th birthday.
In an interview after the judiciary budget hearings in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said the court voted 4-1 to dismiss Corona’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause to put him on trial.
The Sandiganbayan’s special third division also upheld the legality of the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“There is probable cause that he has committed the crime… My recollection is that there are certain properties that he failed to include in his SALN for a number of years based on the documents submitted,” Tang said.
Tang, who also chairs the third division, penned the resolution and was joined by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Jose Hernandez and Ma. Theresa Dolores Estoesta.
Corona, whose designation as Chief Justice on May 17, 2010, was described by President Aquino as a midnight appointment, was charged with eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violation of Republic Act No. 6713, also known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires voted against the majority and issued a 62-page dissenting opinion, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
The former Chief Justice, who was also sued by the Ombudsman in a P130-million forfeiture case, was unseated by the Senate impeachment court in 2012 for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
In his separate opinion, Martires argued that the cases against Corona should be dismissed for lack of probable cause.
“Firstly, there is no legal basis for the filing of charges against the accused Corona,” Martires said.
“Secondly, the accused cannot be charged with perjury under the Revised Penal Code. Neither can he be charged both for perjury and violation of Section 8 of RA 6713,” he argued.
In addition, Martires said the Ombudsman was “devoid of authority to file these cases” against the former Chief Justice.
The Office of the Ombudsman indicted Corona for allegedly deliberately lying on his true net worth by not declaring properties and several bank accounts as well as undervaluing a number of real-estate properties that he declared.
During its probe, the Ombudsman special panel of investigators said that from 2001 to 2011, Corona and his wife earned a total of P30.4 million.
Of the total, P27.1 million was earned by Corona as a government official.
Impeached in 2011
Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2011 in connection with false declarations of wealth on his SALN.
At the impeachment trial in 2012, the senators, who acted as judges, found Corona guilty of betraying the public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution.
The Senate decision removed Corona from his post, disqualified him from holding public office and opened him to possible criminal cases.
Originally posted as of 3:22 PM | August 13, 2015
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.