MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Chief Justice Renato Corona has branded the Office of the Ombudsman's investigation into his alleged questionable dollar and peso accounts as part of the Aquino administration's "retaliatory moves" following the Supreme Court's (SC) landmark decision to distribute Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita to farm workers.
In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Corona's camp said the probe is only meant to further malign and "demonize" the Chief Justice in the absence of any evidence to prove allegations of culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust against him before the Senate Impeachment Court.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported over the weekend that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, appointed in July last year by Pres. Noynoy Aquino, asked Corona to explain in writing how he "acquired several peso and dollar accounts, allegedly 'grossly disproportionate' to his salary, in different banks."
Morales' order, reportedly dated April 20, was an action on complaints filed separately by former Akbayan Party List Rep. and Liberal Party losing senatorial bet Risa Hontiveros, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, and Emmanuel Tiu Santos.
The Supreme Court ordered the distribution of all of Luisita's agricultural lands to the farmers last April 24th. The high court also junked Luisita's bid to peg the valuation of the lands on fair market value as of 2006, instead ordering the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to assess just compensation for Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) based on real estate values in 1989, the year the vast sugar estate's stock distribution plan (SDP) was approved.
"This is a retaliatory move that is expected after the decision of the Supreme Court favoring the Hacienda Luisita farmers. It's a despicable, deceitful, desperate and definitely malicious attempt to demonize CJ (Chief Justice Corona)... It's a retaliatory black propaganda and mind-conditioning being done by those who cannot prove anything in the impeachment court, preparatory to the resumption of the defense presentation on May 7," the Corona camp said.
The Chief Justice maintained that the anti-graft office does not have any jurisdiction over him since he is an impeachable officer and already facing an impeachment trial, even as his camp insists the report about his alleged $10 million dollar account is false.
"CJ does not own $10 million. It simply does not exist... The CJ need not reply (to the Ombudsman order/letter) since the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice," the Corona camp said.
His lawyers stressed the issue on his bank accounts are already part of the impeachment proceedings.
The Chief Magistrate's camp accused the move as part of "phony, malicious 'exposes'" lodged against Corona and his family in an effort to remove him from office.
Corona accused the President's allies of waging a "well-coordinated" demolition job against him citing the release of a list of his supposed 45 properties by the Land Registration Authority (LRA) which had turned out false and inaccurate, and supposed dollar deposit documents testified to as "fake" by bank officials.