82? Corona only has '4 dollar accounts'
MANILA, Philippines - Eighty-two dollar accounts? More like 4.
This is what the counsels of Chief Justice Renato Corona said Friday, May 18.
Just like the list of 45 properties allegedly owned by Corona which the prosecution exposed but which the defense said it narrowed down to 5, the list of the chief magistrate's reported 82 dollar accounts is only 3 or 4, they said.
Corona himself will prove this when he takes the witness stand on Tuesday, May 22, they added.
Counsels of the Chief Justice have consistently questioned the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report used by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in her testimony, which indicated that Corona owns 82 dollar accounts.
The defense has said the report is "grossly exaggerated" and "unreliable," saying the number 82 might refer to transactions, not accounts. They also criticized the process in which the Ombudsman, with the aid of the Commission on Audit, came up with the US$12-million amount, which was by adding the transaction values over time.
Corona's testimony, lawyers said, will prove how large the discrepancy between that figure and the actual amount of the Chief Justice's dollar deposits.
Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III, however, refused to say what Corona's explanation would be for the dollars that were not declared in his statements of assets, liabilities and net-worth, citing attorney-client privilege.
Salvador also expressed qualms about the PowerPoint presentation that assisted Morales' testimony, saying the group was surprised Monday, May 14, because of the complicated nature of the presentation.
He said the question is simple: how many dollar accounts are owned by Corona and how much money is in those accounts now? The answer to this, he said, should have been the amount reported and not the "transactional balance" which the report was based on.
In her testimony before the impeachment court, Morales said the AMLC report was based on dollar deposits and withdrawals made by Corona from 2003 to 2011.
The investigation by AMLC was based on complaints received by the Ombudsman accusing Corona of ill-gotten wealth. The Ombudsman's letter to Corona, on the other hand, cited the complaints as well as reports she received about Corona's alleged US$10-M dollar deposits.
She admitted to the impeachment court that she chose not to mention in her letter that she based the $10-M on the AMLC report.
"Kung wala siyang ebidensiya, bakit naging ganun ang aksyon ng Ombudsman (If they don't have evidence, why did the Ombudsman decide to act the way she did?)," defense spokesperson Rico Quicho asked.
Salvador assured media that Corona would be able to disprove the report, but said that because of the questionable report, "the damage has been done."
Dollar accounts sacred
Corona's counsels said that at least 3 accountants and other lawyers are analyzing the AMLC report, reducing numbers, and tracking transactions, all in preparation for Tuesday.
The defense team will grill the chief justice in the following days and simulate the possible questions they expect the senator-judges to ask Corona.
"We expect the worse," said Salvador. "No mercy."
He reminded the media though that Corona taking the stand would not necessarily mean the senator-judges could ask whatever they want and that the Chief Justice is required to answer all questions.
He said Corona would not be stripped off his constitutional rights once on the witness stand, and will likely invoke them if necessary, but expressed confidence that as promised by the senator-judges, the Chief Justice would be given courtesy on the stand.
Lead counsel Serafin Cuevas has said that Corona is not legally obliged to include the dollar accounts in his SALN, as foreign accounts cannot be examined and therefore need not be declared.
Corona's counsels said that some interpret the Foreign Currency Deposit Act as absolute and that accounts cannot be looked into for any reason unless authorized by the depositor. - Rappler.com
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