Anger over $2M claim prompted CJ to decide to testify, says defense lawyer
MANILA, Philippines - A possible explanation for Chief Justice Renato Corona's dollar accounts is that the money isn’t his but that he's holding it in trust for someone else, one of his defense lawyers said on Wednesday.
“We are not saying that he has no dollar accounts…Let’s say he admits he has 10 dollars. He can say it’s not mine. He can say he is holding the money in trust for somebody. Mahirap lang pangunahan. What he is saying is – you keep accusing me of $10 million, $2 million, $3 million. Prove it first and then I will give my own explanation,” former Justice Undersecretary Ramon Esguerra told radio dzMM.
Esguerra said the impeachment court has already established that Corona has dollar accounts. He said it is now up to Corona to explain why he has dollar deposits and why he did not declare them in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The lawyer also pointed out that some of the witnesses subpoenaed by the Senate should skirt paragraph 2.4 of the impeachment complaint, which accuses Corona of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth. The Senate earlier ruled it will not accept evidence on paragraph 2.4 of the complaint on alleged ill-gotten wealth.
SALN disclosure is issue, not ill-gotten wealth
However, Enrile said Tuesday the impeachment court will tackle any asset that is supposed to be included in Corona's SALN.
"Any asset not included, regardless of its characterization whether legally or illegally obtained, is the function of the SALN and it must be included," he said.
Esguerra denied that the defense team has not presented enough evidence to prove Corona’s innocence. He pointed out defense lawyers have shown that Corona’s properties were reflected in his SALNs and that they were purchased using a loan from Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc (BGEI) plus proceeds in the sale of other properties.
“For every accusation, there has been an explanation,” he said.
Anger over Harvey Keh's allegation
Esguerra also revealed that Corona decided to testify in his own impeachment trial after being angered by accusations that he owns secret multimillion-dollar accounts in several local banks.
He said Corona attended the defense panel’s meeting Tuesday because he is fed up with accusations that he owns $10 million in different banks.
He said the chief magistrate was particularly incensed over the accusation of Kaya Natin Movement convenor Harvey Keh that Corona has at least US$2 million in several accounts in 7 banks.
He said Corona was able to read some of the documents that Keh forwarded to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, which were uploaded on the Internet.
“Nakakuha tayo sa Internet niyan. Naka-print namin at inisa-isa niya at medyo namula ang mata sa galit, yung mukha sa galit dahil ang sabi niya ‘Ano ba itong pinagsasabi nitong mga ito? E wala naman ako nito. Wala naman ako niyan.’ Sabi niya ‘Panahon nang tapusin ito. Sobra na yan. Sobra na. Sukdulan na.’ Yun ang kanyang naging reaksyon,” Esguerra said.
No conditions to CJ testifying
The lawyer said the chief magistrate’s promise to testify in his impeachment trial is not conditional. He said he merely wants his accusers and the Ombudsman to testify under oath so he could refute the accusations directly.
“Basta tumayo na si Chief Justice, itanong niyo na ang gusto niyong itanong at sasagutin niya,” he said.
He also said the issue of opening Corona’s dollar accounts was discussed during their meeting Tuesday.
Last February, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping the opening of Corona’s dollar accounts in Philippine Savings (PSBank).
“Kasama na yan sa pinag-usapan, sa naging diskusyon sa paglilitis. Yan naman lininaw sa amin ni Chief Justice, wala namang dapat itago dito. Ang mahalaga lang sa akin, sabi niya, mapatunayan nila na sila ay nagsasabi ng katotohanan,” he recounted Corona as saying.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday signed the subpoenas for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who ordered Corona to explain his alleged possession of $10 million in various bank accounts, and some of those who complained against him before the Ombudsman: Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Harvey Keh, and Emmanuel Santos.
Aside from testifying in the impeachment trial, the subpoena orders them to bring the original and certified true copies of the complaints against Corona, and of the documents where they based the allegation that Corona keeps $10 million in different bank accounts.