Nothing in Corona's defense to prove his innocence – House prosecution

March 20, 2012 2:02 am 

By Jose Cielito M. Reganit

MANILA, March 19 – The House of Representatives' prosecution panel said on Monday that the evidence presented so far by the lawyers of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona did nothing in any way to prove Corona’s capacity to purchase several properties he owns or used to own.

In fact, they said that reference to such properties, either already sold to other parties or recently purchased, only highlighted Corona’s guilt of omission in the declaration of his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the past nine years.

Prosecution spokesman Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo noted that evidence showed that the chief magistrate acquired five properties worth P43.5 million just in a span of five years, the amount of which was way beyond his income.

He said that the deliberate and repeated failures of the chief justice to declare in his SALN the properties is undoubtedly a violation of the Constitution.

“We must get out of the trap being laid out by the defense panel who are trivializing the SALN and trying to impose standards different from those in the Constitution,” Quimbo said, referring to the defense’s tact of portraying Corona’s omissions as simple negligence.

Corona, Quimbo said, holds a position that exacts greater demand of moral righteousness and uprightness.

“Members of the judiciary must be whiter than white, purer than pure and must appear to be clean,” Quimbo stressed.

To prove their point, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara noted that as per Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s suggestions at the start of Monday's trial, both panels must cite cases in point.

He said that the case of former Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Salvador Pleyto, who was found guilty by the Supreme Court (SC) of simple negligence for failure to disclose the business and financial interests of his wife in his 1999 and 2001 SALNs, is far from similar from the case of the chief justice and cannot be used as his defense.

“In the Pleyto case, the business interest of the wife was actually mentioned but never specified. More similar cases, both also recently decided upon by the SC, would be the Ombudsman vs. Racho and the Flores vs. Montemayor cases,” Angara said.

Nieto Racho, a former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employee in Cebu, was dismissed from office for dishonesty for allegedly having P5.7 million in three bank accounts that he failed to mention in his SALN.

“Racho claimed then that the P5.7 million did not really belong to him but to one of his brothers who contributed the amount and agreed to deposit the money under his name for a business venture,” Angara said, noting the similar defense put up by Corona.

In the case of Atty. Antonio Montemayor, another BIR official, he was also dismissed for dishonesty for failure to mention in his SALN two expensive cars.

Angara noted that both Racho and Montemayor were dismissed for accumulating wealth disproportionate with their income and for their failure to declare such wealth in their SALN, cases that are actually similar to the case of the chief justice.

In which case, Quimbo said, Corona should be convicted and removed from office, especially since his office, he reiterated, exacts greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness.

“His failure to declare in his SALN his properties for several years, his P31 million in bank deposits and the dollar accounts that he has yet to disclose undoubtedly proves Corona’s guilt,” Quimbo said. (PNA)



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