Corona admits withdrawing millions of pesos after House impeachment in December

May 25, 2012 10:00 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, May 25 — Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, at the ongoing impeachment trial at the Senate, admitted on Friday that he withdrew millions of funds deposited in banks after he was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 12, saying he had received a tip that authorities would move to freeze his accounts.

Corona, upon questioning by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, said "friends from Malacanang" called him up and told him that his bank accounts would be frozen.

"I still have friends working in Malacanang. Some of them called to warn me that my accounts will be frozen," he told Pangilinan.

The chief justice said he just wanted to protect what was his and what he earned throughout his career.

Corona also said he started depositing in dollars between 1972 and 1973.

"Kung tinatago ko yun bakit ko ilalagay sa pangalan ko?" he told the impeachment court.

Pangilinan, however, questioned the chief magistrate saying, "if earned legitimately, why not declare?"

Meanwhile, congressmen-prosecutors said they were not surprised at all by the chief justice's admission that he owned peso and dollar deposits totaling to about P183 million because it merely confirmed what they thought all along.

"Although we were not certain of the exact amount, we knew from the start that the chief justice has bank deposits way beyond the amount he declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN)," said prosecution spokesman and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara.

Angara said Corona’s confession before the Senate impeachment court that he had US$ 2.4 million in foreign currency deposits and another P80 million in his peso accounts "further reinforced the prosecution’s contention that he lied in his SALN when he excluded a huge chunk of his assets to avoid public scrutiny."

He said the prosecution was not biting the top magistrate’s alibi that the money in his peso accounts was "co-mingled funds" he (Corona) shared with his children thus he excluded it in his annual net worth declaration.

Angara also noted that the chief magistrate's admission in open court that he deliberately omitted in his filing SALN his dollar deposits in four banks on grounds that the provision on confidentiality of Republic Act 6426, or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act, prohibited him from declaring foreign currency accounts.

"Does he (Corona) think the public is that gullible? He is the chief justice, he must be the best person to know the law," the Aurora solon said, noting that the Constitution, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for Public Officials and Employees mandate all people in government to declare all their assets and liabilities to ensure that they do not enrich themselves while in office.

Corona only declared P3.5 million as cash and investment in his SALN for 2010.

For his part, Marikina City Rep. Romero Federico "Miro" Quimbo, another prosecution spokesman, said the chief justice's explanations were "hard to believe and quite absurd."

"How can he (Corona) justify P80 million in his name and only declare P3.5 million? He was holding P76.5 million for his children and family? That’s absurd," Quimbo said.

"Also, I am amazed of the chief justice’s financial skills. He should have become a fund manager. Perhaps he would have made the best secretary of finance our country could have had," he said. (PNA)

RMA/LGI

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