MANILA, Philippines - Where did Ombudsman base her order to Chief Justice Renato Corona asking him to explain his supposed $10M in bank deposits?
It's not only the public and the media who want an answer to this; the defense also wants to know where the Ombudsman got the figure of $10 million since even the complaints filed against the chief justice do not mention $10 million.
In a phone interview, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador told ABS-CBNnews.com that they are also curious as to where Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales based her order asking Corona to explain why he has money in bank accounts that can't be justified by his official income. He insisted that Corona does not have $10 million.
Salvador, however, agreed that the Ombudsman can launch a probe into the complaints filed against the chief justice.
“It’s her right and it’s her prerogative. She can even base it on media reports,” Salvador said. Ideally, however, the probe should have factual basis, he said. “Maybe she has other sources."
Ombudsman: $10M based on media reports
Carpio Morales on Wednesday said she is willing to face the Senate impeachment court.
The subpoenas for Carpio Morales et al, which were requested by the defense, were issued early Wednesday.
Asked for the basis of her order to Corona, Carpio Morales said: “We just walked through all the reports gathered from the media and we thought the impeachment is already going on, it was the best time to initiate investigation when we received the complaints.”
She said her office is mandated under the law to evaluate the complaints, “and if there are enough leads and there’s a reasonable ground – there is the word reasonable and I again emphasize it – to believe that investigation is warranted, then the Ombudsman is mandated to request or direct the impeachable official to answer within 72 hours. It’s in the law. It’s not my choice.”
Complaints vs Corona don't mention $10M
The three petitions filed before her office do not allege that Corona has $10 million.
Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said on Wednesday morning she and her co-petitioners never mentioned the amount.
“What we mentioned there were real estate properties and dollar accounts and a couple of accounts that had already been presented in the impeachment court in the offer of evidence of the prosecution," she said.
In another petition filed by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, he asked that Corona’s properties be forfeited in favor the state. He argued that Corona's assets cannot be justified by his salary as a member of the Supreme Court.
“The properties he has acquired in his SALN, taken together with the other real and other personal properties whose ownership has been attributed to him based on the evidence presented at the impeachment trial, are thus manifestly out of proportion to his salary...,” the petition states.
Another petition, filed by a certain Emmanuel Tiu Santos, is based on media reports on Corona’s assets.
All three complainants, including Kaya Natin convenor Harvey Keh, were asked to appear before the Senate on Monday when trial resumes.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered all the “hostile witnesses” of the defense to bring copies of their complaints as well as proof from which their accusations were based.
In a separate interview with ANC, Salvador said now that Corona has decided to testify, “he also deserves some sort of face-to-face confrontation.”
Like the LRA’s 45 properties list?
Salvador said the allegations about Corona's dollar accounts could turn out to be like the erroneous list of properties which House prosecutors announced and distributed to media before the start of the trial.
“Remember the 45 properties [alleged against the CJ]? They had to run around it like fire…until they decided there were really no 45 properties,” he said.
The defense, last month, presented Land Registration Authority administrator Eulalio Diaz III. He said the list he produced, as requested by the prosecution, was computer-generated. He simply punched in the names of Corona and his family members, and the computer made several “hits” that were traced back to the names.
Diaz signed and certified the list, which included 45 titles, as “under the name” of the chief magistrate and his family. Prosecutors later denied they fed the media with information that Corona had 45 properties to his name.
The prosecution then said it has presented evidence to show the Coronas have 21 titles. The defense, on the other hand, said Corona only has five properties.
CJ on witness stand unconditional
Salvador also dismissed claims that conditions have to be implemented before Corona takes the witness stand.
Asked what Corona’s testimony would contain, Salvador said: “I would expect…on all matters alleged against him.”
He said the defense cannot comprehend why some sectors would raise questions about Corona's intention in facing the Senate. “Let’s just welcome this development.”
Salvador said the decision was arrived at after Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada asked the defense on Monday to finally bring Corona to court and explain the $10 million alleged by the Ombudsman. He said this came as a surprise considering that the amount was never included in the prosecution’s verified impeachment complaint.
This is also why defense lawyer Judd Roy directly asked Enrile if the amount, alleged to be ill-gotten, is within the scope of the impeachment court, he said.
Enrile answered, “we are not categorizing any asset as illegally required asset or not. But is still an asset that must be included in the SALN, if it exists? The issue whether it is legal or illegal is of no moment. The question is: Does this asset exist? And if it does exist, was it included in the SALN? If it was not included in the SALN, ergo it will be a violation. Hindi ba?”
On criticisms Corona will raise his right against self-incrimination during his testimony, Salvador said: “Let’s also give him some level of respect. Sinabi naman na nyang haharap sya. That constitutional right should not be removed.”