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Corona lashes at Ombudsman for 'merciless persecution'

MANILA, Philippines – Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona cried foul over what he termed as "merciless persecution" – a day after the Office of the Ombudsman denied his bid to review a resolution that approved the filing of criminal and civil charges against him over unexplained wealth.

In a statement Thursday, March 27, the former magistrate lashed out at Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for her "unusual hostility" and "irresponsible accusations" that dates back to his impeachment trial in 2012.

"The denial of our Motion for Reconsideration (MR) by the ombudsman only proves that there was no possibility of getting justice... My right to due process was denied because here the ombudsman is the accuser, complainant, prosecutor, investigator, judge and executioner, all rolled into one and the same ombudsman," Corona said. (READ: Ombudsman orders filing of criminal charges vs Coronas)

Morales ordered on Wednesday, March 26, the immediate filing of charges against Corona and his wife Cristina for allegedly amassing more than P130 million in ill-gotten wealth. (READ: Criminal charges set vs Corona, wife)

The P130 million in unexplained wealth is "a conservative estimate as it does not include their cost of living allowance commensurate to their social stature and expenses entailed by their travels abroad," said the Ombudsman.

But Corona said Morales "should have inhibited" herself in approving the said resolution, as she testified against Corona "with unmasked hostility" during what he called a "sham, bribe-laden persecutory impeachment trial."

The January 2014 resolution that Morales approved was by a special panel of investigators that found probable cause to indict the Corona couple for ill-gotten wealth and Corona for falsification of public documents.

Perjury charges 

The filing of perjury charges against Corona as ordered by Morales is based on his "false" sworn declarations.

He allegedly "failed" to include, among others, his peso and dollar bank accounts in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALNs) from 2003 to 2010.

In his defense, Corona said Morales arrived at an "arithmetically exaggerated" amount of his income as she "maliciously" included redeposited income in the calculation.

Corona said Morales "counted the same deposits repeatedly as new deposits."

"This 'error' of the ombudsman was something we have called her attention to over and over again in our pleadings, only to be cavalierly ignored and waved away by the office of the ombudsman," Corona said.

"A fair and intelligent review of my SALNs within the context of the law, and even simple arithmetic, will prove that I committed no perjury. Moreover, there is no proof of wealth beyond what I could truthfully earn from honest hard work... in addition to my (and my wife's) family resources, and a frugal lifestyle," he said.

Corona maintains that whatever he owns "is the product of 45 years of hard, honest work."

"I have never even once ever been linked to any illegal transaction or anomaly, nor even rumored to have been involved in one. Not even in the impeachment court was I charged or accused of ill-gotten wealth," he reiterated.

Corona was dismissed in 2012, the year senators who declared him guilty of violating the Constitution supposedly received millions of pesos through the Aquino administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The DAP is now the subject of deliberations by Supreme Court justices, after its constitutionality was questioned before the High Court. –