Prosecution to revive issue on Corona’s ‘ill-gotten wealth’

The prosecution said it will present rebuttal evidence on Corona's alleged ill-gotten wealth after the defense supposedly re-opened the issue.

ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH? The prosecution and some senators accuse the defense of presenting witnesses on ill-gotten wealth but the defense panel denies this. Photo by Manny Marcelo/Philstar/Senate pool

MANILA, Philippines – Is it the resurrection of a dead allegation?

The prosecution team announced that it will revive the charge that Chief Justice Renato Corona amassed ill-gotten wealth in its presentation of rebuttal evidence. On Day 29 of the impeachment trial, prosecutors disclosed the plan after the defense panel supposedly opened up the issue.

Senators have ruled against the presentation of witnesses and evidence for the charge of ill-gotten wealth or Article 2.4 of the impeachment complaint. Article 2 now only covers Corona’s alleged failure to disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), and to include some of his properties in the SALN.

In a press conference after the trial, prosecution spokesperson Rep Romero “Miro” Quimbo said the defense re-opened the ill-gotten wealth allegation through the witnesses it presented.

The defense witnesses from the Supreme Court, Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) testified on the allowances of Corona.

“They have effectively reopened that matter by their own waiver. When you present a witness or evidence about ill-gotten wealth, it’s like you’re opening it up and that’s what happened today. We will seriously include as part of our rebuttal items pertaining to 2.4 or ill-gotten wealth,” Quimbo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Quimbo said the prosecution will argue that based on the presentation of the defense counsels, it was the latter who brought up the issue.

‘No other purpose’

During the trial, senators asked lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas if the defense was presenting evidence and witnesses on Article 2.4. (Read the story here.)

“We have to do everything for purposes of at least, [to] explain the position of the Chief Justice,” Cuevas explained. “It may not jive with your perception, postulation or articulation but decidedly we needed it because the impeachment court is not made up of one judge solely. It is an impeachment court.”

Sen Francis Escudero also asked a clarificatory question on what the defense intends to do. Escudero said that if it is proven that Corona’s assets are disproportionate to his income, the burden will shift to the defense to explain how he got his wealth.

Ballooning cash vs explaining income

In the press conference, Quimbo said that the defense witnesses and evidence were irrelevant if the panel strictly followed the exclusion of Article 2.4

“By their own admission, here is his money, here is how much he received. Is that in the SALN? No.”

PUBLIC PERCEPTION. Rep. Quimbo says the defense witnesses did not address the complaint but were meant only to cater to public perception.

Quimbo added that the tack of the defense is to show Corona’s sources of income to cater to public perception.

“What they are trying to do is they are going to balloon as much cash as [Corona] has so that he can eventually release his dollar accounts … He said he will release his dollar accounts at the right time. When is the right time? When they are able to present all the supposed sources of funds to be able to justify why they have so much cash in the banks. That is the direction.”

Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III, however, insisted that the defense is not addressing the ill-gotten wealth charge.

“That is not what we are defending. It is clear that our explanation pertains to their (prosecution) allegation that the alleged 24 properties, they are saying that money was stolen.”

He added in Filipino, “They are saying that even without 2.4, you cannot count why there is property disproportionate to the income. We are wondering why they are inserting 2.4 when we are able to show the hefty income of the Chief Justice.”

Salvador said the defense started with the P5-M basic salary of Corona as Chief Justice from 2002 to 2011. It then showed that with all his allowances from the Supreme Court, SET and HRET taken together, Corona has received about P26-M during that period.

“In the coming days, let us see if there is more income or money of the family.” – 

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