House prosecutors insist Corona’s bank information genuine

February 14, 2012 11:07 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Feb. 14 — The House of Representatives’ prosecution panel said on Tuesday although they cannot vouch on the authenticity of the bank documents involving Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona with the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) when they requested the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court, for subpoena, they insist that the bank information on the chief magistrate is genuine.

"We need to establish a very important point here — there’s no attempt on the part of the prosecution to mislead the impeachment court and the public. If you read our supplemental motion on our request for subpoena for the bank records, we even say with great caution that we cannot vouch for the authenticity of the documents…," said panel spokesman Marikina City Rep. Romero Federico "Miro" Quimbo.

From the very beginning, Quimbo explained, House prosecutors have been transparent and forthright in the supplemental motion for subpoena they filed with the Senate impeachment tribunal on Feb. 3, 2012 in connection with the chief justice's alleged several secret bank accounts.

Quimbo said the existence of Corona’s bank accounts was confirmed by no less than PSBank president Pascual Garcia III and bank manager Annabelle Tiongson of PSBank Katipunan Branch in Quezon City when both testified during the trial.

Both bank officials testified that Corona kept almost P20 million in two accounts alone with the PSBank as of Dec. 31, 2010. The chief justice only declared cash worth P3.5 million in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the same year.

"While it cannot vouch for the authenticity of the said documents, the prosecution believes that it is its duty to submit the documents to this honorable Impeachment Court, as they may have bearing on the Court’s resolutions of the pending request for subpoena," said lead prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. in the request for subpoena.

Tiongson, however, in her testimony on Monday, said that the documents attached by the prosecution in its request for subpoena on Corona’s bank records were "fake" and did not come from their branch.

But Quimbo stressed that the bank documents that were turned over to the prosecution by an anonymous source "would only come from the bank."

"The best proof that it came from the bank is that the accounts precisely matched. The bank officials confirmed the existence of the accounts that they were owned by the chief justice," he pointed out.

Quimbo said the PSBank, particularly Tiongson, had "every incentive or motivation that the documents are fake because these could only come from them."

On the other hand, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, member of the House prosecution panel, stood firm on his earlier statement that a "small lady" handed him the photocopies of bank documents allegedly owned by the chief justice but admitted he cannot prove of his source’s existence.

"I have no proof, I have no proof but my word as an officer of the court," said Umali in a chance interview.

The Oriental Mindoro lawmaker earlier said that a "small lady" handed him the documents in an envelope between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 2 as he was about to leave the Senate Building.

The Senate impeachment court ordered the CCTV cameras of the Senate Building reviewed to determine the identity of the woman, who might be held liable for illegal possession of the documents.

While Umali cannot verify the small lady’s existence, he maintained that the documents his source turned over were "authentic" and that he himself could not have forged it.

"Sabi ko nga sa inyo napakahirap namang manghula ng mga numero ng mga bank accounts na yan at peke-in yung mga dokumento gaya ng signature ni Corona (As I’ve told you it would be very hard to invent bank account numbers and fake the documents including Corona’s signature)," he said.

Umali said "some people" might be the ones lying to protect their interest, especially as these documents are prohibited from going public unless permitted by the owner.

"They are scared of the liability because under the law it is the bank officers who may be liable. Some people to my mind are lying and are being made to lie if only to protect their own skin," he said.

Meanwhile, in view of the issues with regards to the foreign bank deposits of the chief magistrate, Camarines Sur Rep. Salvio Fortuno has filed a bill seeking to open up the dollar accounts of public officials to scrutiny.

"The amendatory Presidential Decrees (PD) 1034, 1035 and 1246, to Republic Act (RA) 6426 were designed to draw deposits from foreign lenders and investors and not from government crooks and criminals," he noted.

Fortuno said the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) has provided and will effectively provide a safe haven for corrupt public officials and criminals since they could escape liability for their wrongful acts by merely converting their loot to a foreign currency and depositing it in a foreign currency deposit account beyond the reach of the authorities.

HB 5838 allows the Impeachment Court, Courts of competent jurisdiction and the Ombudsman to examine, inquire or look into the foreign currency deposits of all public officials and employees or when the account is the subject matter of litigation. (PNA)

scs/LGI

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