Recto to Ombudsman: Probe Corona quietly
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Don’t conduct an investigation by publicity.
An ally of President Benigno Aquino III warned Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales against conducting a public investigation into Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar accounts.
In an interview on Monday, April 30, Sen Ralph Recto reacted to reports that the Ombudsman is asking Corona to explain his dollar accounts amounting to at least US $10 million. (Read: How Ombudsman got access to CJ's dollars)
“I think the Ombudsman has jurisdiction but having said that, I think it would have been more prudent had they waited for the Senate [to finish the trial]. But they can do it. They can do the investigation but better if it were done quietly.”
Morales wrote Corona asking him to explain the dollar accounts in a letter he received on Monday, April 23. The letter became public only days letter after the Philippine Daily Inquirer obtained a copy and ran the story.
The Liberal Party member said it may be confusing for the Ombudsman to probe Corona’s assets while the impeachment trial is still ongoing. He said this might result in an overlap between the two.
Recto added that he has read about the $10 million in newspapers but said the accuracy of the report has yet to be determined.
“Let’s find out during the trial. Will that come out? [The defense] promised that they will release [the dollar accounts] or whatever. Let’s see,” said Recto.
Recto said reports on the Ombudsman investigation will have a bearing on public perception of Corona.
“When we took our oath here, [we promised to decide] based on the evidence presented in the impeachment court. But does that have weight on the public? I’m sure there will be some weight on the public.”
The impeachment trial is on a long break and will resume on May 7, next week.
Corona’s two-pronged battle
Recto echoed the sentiment of his fellow senator-judge, Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Santiago told radio dzBB on Sunday, April 29, that while Morales has the jurisdiction to look into Corona’s assets, the investigation can complicate the issue because this will result in two simultaneous probes.
“I would think that it is unfortunate at this time because he is being asked to fight a battle at two fronts – first, in the impeachment where the penalty is removal from office and disqualification from public office, so he should be allowed first to defend himself on that front.”
Corona's lawyers also questioned the Ombudsman investigation.
More detailed SALNs
Recto also told reporters that the impeachment trial made public officials like himself more careful about filling up their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
The deadline for submission of SALNs for the year 2011 is today, April 30.
“We tried to be more detailed because I’m sure everyone really looked at their own SALN,” said Recto. “I think we were detailed enough before but let’s say certain assets like clothing, jewelry, okay, you want it more detailed, let’s do it a little more detailed.”
But where are the SALNs?
Despite Recto’s statement, the SALNs of senator-judges have yet to be released.
The Office of the Senate Secretary said it will not yet release the SALNs of the senators to the media. This may be done either next week or the week after.
Sen Antonio Trillanes IV, however, has already posted his SALN on his website. Senators Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson and Manny Villar have also given reporters a copy of their SALNs.
Rappler is still trying to get in touch with other senators to obtain a copy of their 2011 SALN.
The offices of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Lito Lapid said their SALNs have already been submitted. Their staff though has not yet given a copy to the media.
The SALN has become a crucial document in the impeachment trial, being the basis of allegations Corona undervalued his properties and failed to disclose his assets.
Public officials are required by law to submit and disclose their SALNs to serve as a measure against graft and corruption. with reports from Ghio Ong – Rappler.com