Sandigan denies Corona’s appeal on perjury indictment
(UPDATE) The Sandiganbayan has denied the appeal of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona on the court’s indictment to try him for false declaration of wealth.
In a resolution promulgated Wednesday, the anti-graft court Third Division said Corona’s motion for reconsideration on the court’s finding of probable cause lacks merit and only reiterates the same arguments.
“The Court denies the accused’s motion for reconsideration dated Aug. 27, 2015, for lack of merit and for being pro-forma,” the court’s Special Third Division said.
The court then set his arraignment on Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m.
The court said whether or not Corona’s banking documents and other pieces of evidence used to charge him were valid should be tackled in a full-blown trial.
“It is premature to determine the admissibility and weight of the prosecution’s evidence against the accused since the trial of these cases has yet to start… The validity and merits of the party’s accusation or defense, as well as admissibility of testimonies and evidence, are better ventilated during the trial proper,” the court said.
It added that the arguments raised were already considered when the court found probable cause in its decision on Corona’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
“The Court finds the accused’s motion for reconsideration devoid of merit.…To be sure, the aforesaid issues have been previously raised by the accused in his motion for judicial determination of probable cause. They were thoroughly considered and passed upon by the Court in its assailed Resolution,” the court said.
The court also said Corona’s counsels merely reiterated their previous defenses that the information against Corona is defective because the prosecution wants it amended.
The court said the prosecution’s amendments were merely formal defects and does not change the information against Corona substantially.
The court formed a special division of five because Associate Justice Samuel Martires voted to grant the motion for reconsideration. Martires was also the lone dissenter in the finding of probable cause.
Four others voted against it. They are Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Jose Hernandez and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
Corona was impeached by Congress in 2012 on false declarations of wealth in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities Net Worth (SALN).
As a result of his impeachment, the Ombudsman charged Corona before the Sandiganbayan of eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violations of Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, which require public officials to file truthful SALNs.
The Ombudsman indicted Corona for allegedly lying about 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 investigation, the Ombudsman said from 2001 to 2011, Corona and his spouse earned a total of P30.4 million, of which P27.1 million was earned by Corona as an official at the Office of the President, a Supreme Court justice, member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
On the other hand, his wife Cristina earned P3.2 million for 2007-2010, based on the Alpha List submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) by the John Hay Development Corp. (JHDC) where she was employed.
But from 2002 to 2010, Corona’s cash deposits ballooned from P1.34 million to P137.9 million, the resolution said.
By 2010, the cumulative discrepancy between his SALN declaration and his actual cash deposits had amounted to P134.4 million.
The resolution also cited records of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) on several properties owned by the Corona couple in Quezon City, Makati City and Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, which were found to be significantly undervalued by P17.3 million.
Because of these allegations, the Ombudsman also slapped the Corona couple with a P130.59 million civil forfeiture case. TVJ
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