Defense wants to stop ‘ill-gotten’ wealth issue

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Expect fireworks over this issue on Tuesday, when trial resumes

MANILA, Philippines –  The alleged ill-gotten wealth of Chief Justice Renato Corona is not part of the Articles of Impeachment filed against him and should not be tackled in the impeachment court.

If the prosecution insists, they should amend their complaint and get members of the House of Representatives to again sign it. As it is, the complaint contains mere allegations about the Chief Justice’s alleged ill-gotten wealth, not “ultimate facts.”

This is how the defense panel of Corona intends to present its case to the impeachment court on Tuesday, January 24, when the trial resumes after a 4-day break. They’re bracing for battle over this.

Ramon Esguerra, one of Corona’s counsels, told Rappler that their memorandum seeks to ask the impeachment court on whether or not the prosecution “should be allowed” to “continue” presenting evidence on the alleged ill-gotten properties of Corona. 

This is beyond the spirit of Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, according to Esguerra. The title of Article 2 says, “Respondent committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth as required under Sec. 17, Art. IX of the 1987 Constitution.”

However, the complaint does not end there. It adds the following:

1. It is also reported that some of the properties of Respondent are not included in his declaration of assets, liabilities, and net worth, in violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

2. Respondent is likewise suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits. Has this been reported, as he is constitutionally-required under Art. XI, Sec. 17 of the Constitution in his SALN? Is this acquisition sustained and duly supported by his income as a public official? Since his assumption as Associate and subsequently, Chief Justice, has he complied with this duty of public disclosure?

Fishing expedition?

Tranquil Salvador, a spokesperson for the defense panel, argued: “All they used were the words ‘suspected’ and ‘reported,’ which, according to former Sen. Francisco Tatad, are words used by journalists and reporters if they do not want to be sued for libel. These are not ultimate facts.”

Jose “Judd” Roy, another defense lawyer, explains: “You cannot just say you suspect of having committed graft and corruption and take it to court on that basis. You have to show how he committed graft and corruption. You cannot just say i suspect you, I suspect you and expect that the court give you all these subpoenas.”

These, Roy added, constitute “fishing expedition” on the part of the prosecution.

But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the prosecutors, said the defense panel is splitting hairs. He noted that the entire Article 2 in the complaint, not just the title, should be taken into consideration. 

“Amassing ill-gotten wealth is intrinsically contained in Article 2 because he (Corona) refused to disclose his SALN because he wants to hide his ill-gotten wealth. But presuming that amassing is not in the title, the amassing of wealth is in the body,” he told reporters . “Don’t tell me that if the title is motion to dismiss but the content is a motion to postpone, the court will still treat is as a motion to dismiss.”

This week, the prosecution will zero in on his SALN and crucial matters related to it. This includes the taxes he has paid and where he sourced the money that he spent in buying the 3 properties he has acquired in the 9 years that he was in the Supreme Court.

Among the subpoenaed witnesses is Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares, who needs presidential clearance to disclose Corona’s tax declarations. –

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