MANILA, Philippines – Malacanang urged Chief Justice Renato Corona to bare the “naked truth” and make good of his earlier promise to “declare all” and not hide behind the technicalities, especially regarding the reported multi-million foreign-currency deposits.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on dzRb on Sunday, May 20, that it does not matter if there are 82 dollar accounts – as alleged by the ombudsman – or 4, as claimed by the defense.
“Malacanang’s expectation is no different from the expectation of the people….The people are clearly asking for the truth, the whole truth. Show the naked truth. That’s the only thing, the simple request of the Filipino people,” he said.
“He should face the AMLC (anti-money laundering council) documents, whether it’s 82 or four accounts, why did he not declare these in the SALN?” Lacierda said.
Lacierda was referring to the report of Corona’s ‘transactional balances’ that the Anti-Money Laundering Council provided to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Morales testified on May 15 that, according to the AMLC data, Corona had 82 dollar accounts in 5 banks. The defense said the report was exaggerated and erroneous, as Corona himself will prove on May 22 that he only has 4 foreign currency-denominated bank deposits.
Chief Justice Renato Corona will testify in his own impeachment trial on Tuesday, May 22, to defend himself against allegations that he failed to disclose $12 million in fresh deposits in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth, among others.
However, officials of the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), one local banks where Corona maintains dollar deposits, said in February that the chief justice has 5 dollar accounts. The SC, however, issued a temporary restraining order stopping the prosecution from compelling PSBank from disclosing these in the impeachment trial.
The PSBank account was said to contain $700,000 and was allegedly opened in 2008, but was closed in 2011. Lacierda said the year-end balance of this account should have been declared in Corona’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 SALN.
Lacierda added they are waiting for Corona’s explanation on why he did not declare his dollar accounts in his 2002-2010 SALN. (Corona was appointed associate justice in 2002 and became chief justice in 2010).
Lacierda said that Corona should “not hide in technicalities or the opinion of a former BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] official,” referring to former BIR official Estrella Martinez who had claimed that Corona need not declare his dollar deposits in his SALN under the bank secrecy law.
Martinez had said that Corona could not disclose his dollar accounts of because these are supposedly covered by the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
But Lacierda said current BIR commissioner Kim Henares did not agree.
“The law does not distinguish whether your cash is in peso or in dollar. They are all considered as assets and being assets po, lahat po ‘yon ay kailangang ideklara sa SALN,” he said.
Political observers said even as Corona faces the impeachment trial on May 22, he can invoke the Foreign Currency Deposit Act when asked about his dollar deposits. Some senators said Corona should sign a waiver allowing the examination of his bank accounts.
He said that it should not also be an issue if Corona’s dollar accounts are less than that of the $12 million reported by AMLC, even as senators have previously discussed before if there is a need to determine first a threshold amount before failure to disclose assets can be considered an “impeachable offense.”
But Lacierda himself admitted that the amount can be “arbitrary” and will be decided by legislators. “We will leave it with the legislature,” he said. – Rappler.com