House prosecution says Corona's salary does not support declared assets

January 25, 2012 11:09 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Jan. 25 — The prosecution team of the House of Representatives on Wednesday said it has proven that the salary of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was not enough to afford his acquired properties, citing the testimony of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares.

Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, one of the prosecution’s spokesmen, in a press briefing, claimed the chief justice accumulated P200 million worth of properties "that are not supported by his compensation income."

"Malinaw na umabot ang assets (sa halagang) hindi naman kaya suportahan ng kanyang sahod… Sa kabila ng pagpapababa ng value, malaki pa rin ang disparity sa salary niya at sa assets na accumulated niya," he said.

In today's impeachment trial, Henares testified that the chief justice earned up to P657,000 during his tenure at the Supreme Court.

She also said that Corona did not file income tax returns (ITRs) from 2002 to 2010, but stated there was nothing wrong with this as the chief justice was on the "alpha list" of the Supreme Court.

Henares said that the Alpha List was being submitted to the BIR at the end of every year. It enumerates all employees of an employer and how much tax was withheld from their income.

Based on the testimony of the BIR chief and the documents submitted to the Senate impeachment court, Quimbo said the House prosecution was able to establish that the chief justice has no other means of income besides his earnings at the SC, since his assets are declared through the alpha list and not through ITRs.

He noted that under Republic Act 1379, or the Forfeiture Law, assets that are larger than one’s income are "presumed to be ill-gotten."

"Nahuhuli na po namin ‘yung isda na napakalaki na sa tingin namin ay wala ng karapatan na umupo sa Supreme Court," the Marikina solon said.

The BIR chief also said that the chief magistrate declared no other source of income other than his salary from 2006 to 2010 as associate justice and later as chief justice of the High Tribunal.

She said that based on the records of the BIR, Mrs. Corona only acquired a tax identification number (TIN) in 2003 when she applied for a one-time TIN for the purchase of an P11-million lot in La Vista subdivision in Quezon City.

The BIR chief noted that Mrs. Corona did not report any other legal income prior to 2003.

She also testified that Corona solely derived his income from salary as member of the Supreme Court.

Based on BIR records, the chief justice received the following net income — P370,756.69 in 2006; P355,890.40 in 2007; P450,330.71 in 2008; P465,972.40 in 2009; and P481,178.25 in 2010.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said that the revelations made in today’s trial would make it difficult for the senator-judges not to allow the discussion on the chief magistrate's alleged ill-gotten wealth.

He said that for the prosecution team, the Senate impeachment court only ruled to "set aside" discussions on the ill-gotten wealth for the mean time and not completely disregard them.

Meanwhile, Henares said they would investigate Cristina Corona, wife of the chief justice, for the purchase of an P11-million property in La Vista, allegedly with no clear source of income.

Enrile earlier expressed surprise why the BIR did not take action as to how Mrs. Corona was able to acquire the La Vista property without any income support.

"I am quite surprised… why was it no action was taken by the agency if this is an income earned and for which no tax was paid?" asked Enrile during the trial.

Henares responded by saying they would investigate the matter.

Cristina only filed ITRs beginning 2007 under John Hay Development Corp. (JHDC).

In 2007, Cristina had a taxable income of P623,157.30 with P154,170.34 taxes withheld. In 2008, Cristina had a gross income of P1,024,303 with P279,656.96 tax withheld; in 2009, P1,106,201.15 gross income with P302,984.37 tax withheld; and in 2010, P469,986 gross income with tax withheld of P100,995.80, aside from an expanded withholding tax for director’s fees given to her from 2006 to 2010.

House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, another spokesman for the prosecution panel, underscored the importance of piecing together the chief justice's SALNs, ITR and bank deposits in order to prove the prosecution’s allegation that the chief magistrate amassed illegal wealth.

"The ITR, SALN and bank deposits are the jigsaw pieces which if put together will solve the puzzle. These are the ingredients that will provide the big picture. Taken together, they provide the sequence by which income are turned into assets," said Tanada.

"If one would invoke the defense that his other income comes from interests from bank deposits and thus need not be reported in the ITR as they are treated as final tax, then the existence of these can be crosschecked in the SALN. That’s the beauty of presenting the three documents as one contiguous terrain of evidence because they validate each other," he said. (PNA) RMA/LGI

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