P131-M forfeiture case filed vs Corona, wife

MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman on Thursday, March 27, filed before the Sandiganbayan a P130.59-million forfeiture case against former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, former John Hay Development Corporation president and board chairperson Cristina Corona.

The 27-page petition – supported by a 3-foot pile of attachments and documents – was filed two days after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied the Coronas’ motion for reconsideration. In a January 2014 resolution, a special panel of investigators found probable cause to charge them for abusing their public positions to amass ill-gotten wealth.

The Ombudsman is asking the graft court to immediately issue a writ of preliminary attachment. This will effectively freeze the couple’s assets, including peso and dollar deposits and real estate properties in Quezon City and in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Corona had branded the denial of their motion for reconsideration as “merciless persecution.” He said, “My right to due process was denied because here the ombudsman is the accuser, complainant, prosecutor, investigator, judge and executioner, all rolled into one.”

The Ombudsman also found probable cause to file 8 perjury charges and 8 counts of violation of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees against Corona, but the case was not filed Thursday.

According to investigators, the former chief justice should have acquired assets worth P30.37 million, based on his salaries from various government posts from 2001 to 2010. His wife, meanwhile, had an income of P30.37 million as JHDC official from 2007 to 2010.

However, Corona only declared P13.97 million net worth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth in 2001 and P22.94 million in 2010.

"Records reveal that respondent Renato Corona has cash deposits, in various peso and dollar accounts in different banks, that he failed to declare in his SALNs. As summarized, such cash deposits total P137,937,207.88…[and] as borne by authentic bank records, far exceed those he declared in his SALNs," the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman said it also found evidence that the Coronas undervalued by P17.55 million their  two condominium units and a prime residential property in La Vista, Quezon City.

All these indicated “his intent to conceal the true state of his wealth,” the petition said. “In sum, the evidence shows that respondents accumulated wealth that is manifestly out of proportion to their lawful incomes.” – Rappler.com