Palace: $1 or more, 82 accounts or less, CJ should declare

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at May 20 2012 02:36 PM | Updated as of May 21 2012 08:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona should not hide beyond technicalities and just explain the alleged dollar accounts supposedly discovered by the Anti-Money Laundering Council and reported in court by the Ombudsman, a Palace official said.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said “the requirement of the [statement of assets, liabilities and net worth] is to include all assets.” He said banking laws do not distinguish between peso-denominated and foreign currencies that should be declared in the SALN.

Lacierda dismissed an earlier statement by a retired Bureau of Internal Revenue official who said Corona is under no obligation to reveal his alleged dollar accounts because of the mandate of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.

Accountant-lawyer Estrella Martinez also earlier said Corona should not violate secrecy laws, from which was anchored the earlier halt order issued by the Supreme Court itself.

Lacierda said no less than BIR Commissioner Kim Henares debunked the statement. “If the law does not distinguish between peso and dollar, people should also not make a distinction.”

The defense earlier said they have made a breakthrough that would quash the AMLC report. Corona also denied the statements of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that he has 82 accounts and at least $10 million in transaction balances between 2003 and 2011.

Impeachable offense?

Until now, however, senator-judges are still debating what constitutes an impeachable offense.

The senator-judges earlier asked the prosecution if their allegations against Corona can be considered a “high crime” and whether these are “impeachable” offenses.

They also posed questions on different circumstances whether a threshold should be imposed in case of a non-declaration of assets.

Under the Constitution, impeachable officers can be removed from office for culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.

What if Corona has deposits way below the allegations of the Ombudsman? Lacierda insisted, however, “let’s not get into hypothetical premises.”

He said there are already pieces of evidence presented in court. He cited, for example, the manifestation of senator-judge Franklin Drilon that at least five dollar bank accounts in the name of Corona, one of which had more than $700,000.

Lacierda also added that even of Corona presents bank accounts with zero balances, “he still needs to explain where the balances went.”

Did gov’t officials declare dollars?

When asked if all government officials should declare also their dollar assets, Lacierda said: “It’s not a question of thinking, it’s an obligation on the part of the government official.”

He did not say, however, if all government officials followed the rule. “It’s an obligation…to declare all.”

Meanwhile, Lacierda said there is no need for a waiver on the part of Corona in disclosing the contents of the alleged dollar accounts.

“He himself said he will disclose to the public all assets in due time…He should just make good his promise…In the same breath, he should face the AMLC documents, whether it’s 82 or four accounts, why did he not declare these in the SALN?” he said.