Corona signs waiver opening bank accounts

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at May 22 2012 05:27 PM | Updated as of May 23 2012 07:31 AM

Vows to submit it if 188 complainants and Drilon also sign waivers

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Chief Justice Renato Corona signed a waiver in open court allowing government agencies to look into his bank accounts to show he is not hiding anything.

In the conclusion of his lengthy opening statement, he authorized all banks accounts under his name and that of his wife Cristina to disclose whatever is needed by the government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA), and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

He challenged all 188 impeachment complainants and Senator Franklin Drilon “in a moment of truth in a gesture of sign and join me [in dislosing bank accounts], let us face people together. The nation is at a stand still. The people are watching us."

“Isusumite ko po ang aking waiver sa kinauukulan kapag kumpleto na ang 189 waivers,” he said.

If they do not, he said he will direct his defense team to finally close his case. He said he does not want any more arguments, and asked his accusers to show "unity."

Reading the waiver, Corona said: “I hereby authorize BIR, AMLC, SEC and LRA [to look into] any and all information that will show my assets, net worth, business interests and other financial transactions.”

The accounts include those of his spouse, Cristina.

He also said he is willing to direct the Supreme Court clerk of court to disclose his most recent Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN), for year 2011.

A round of applause greeted him after he made this statement, and he suddenly left the room causing confusion and commotion.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile asked lead counsel Serafin Cuevas to ask Corona to return to the witness stand since he had not yet been discharged.

He warned that if the court was disrespected, the Senate will right then and there decide the case. He ordered that all doors of the Senate closed to prevent people, including the chief justice, from walking out.

Defense lawyers said Corona suffered from low blood sugar level.

3-hour opening statement

In his “preliminary” statement, Corona denied he has 82 dollar accounts with at least $10 million as alleged by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales last week.

He said, “wala ako kilala na may 82 bank accounts. Ewan ko kay Ombudsman, baka sya meron.”

He admitted to having only 4 dollar accounts, and that he did not declare these in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs) due to the absolute confidentiality clause in the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA).

These four dollar accounts are:

Account number 324410814 in Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) San Francisco Del Monte branch;
Account number 1582002676 in Allied Bank; and,
Account numbers 0141024292 and 0131002826 in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Katipunan.

Corona said a former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official, Estrella Martinez, has never seen dollar assets declared in any government official’s SALN.

He said his multi-million peso deposits were also not declared because the money is being held in trust only. The money is from the proceeds of the sale of a Basa-Guidote Enterprises (BGEI) lot in Manila for P34 milion.

Corona also said he had a reason in pushing his defense team to present Carpio-Morales as a witness, even though some experts say it was a wrong move and damaging to his case.

He said the evidence Carpio-Morales used, sourced from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), was not backed by any “investigation, no court order…it’s clearly a polluted source.”

After Carpio-Morales' testimony last week, he said he called a team of accountants to show that Ombudsman’s PowerPoint was a deception.

Co-mingled funds

In his own PowerPoint presentation, Corona said some in his peso accounts are co-mingled funds, including the proceeds from the sale of a BGEI lot, which is why he also did not declare it in his SALNs.

He also said some money in his peso deposits came from his mother, who suffered and died from colon cancer.

“Sabi niya ikaw na ang mangasiwa ng pondong iyan, ikaw na ang bahala sa pagbayad ng mga doktor ko, ospital ko at lahat ng funeral expenses ko,” a teary-eyed Corona said, forcing another silence in the hall.

He said the funds were used also for his brothers who are also suffering from health problems.

“Nandiyan rin po ang interes na kinita ng mga account na ito sa BPI. Pera po ng aking dalawang anak si Carla at Francis na kinomingle po diyan para makuha kami na magsama-sama, makakuha ng malaking interes at ang peso savings po ng anak kong si Charina na iniipon namin para pagpagawa niya ng bahay sa McKinley Hill,” he said.

Not impeachable offense

“I have come here to disclose the information regarding these accounts especially the dollar accounts. I must declare, however, that as I said, there are good and valid reasons why I have no obligation or duty to execute the waiver which some people have been asking me to execute because I am guided by the letter of RA 6426 [Foreign Currency Deposit Act] which, as you know, affords all depositors of foreign currency full and absolute confidentiality,” he said.

He said even the Supreme Court already affirmed the secrecy afforded by the law. “Certainly I should not and cannot be penalized by abiding and relying on the letter of the law.”

He argued that the alleged inaccuracies in the SALN do not constitute an impeachable offense.

“Not every omission, not every inaccuracy is an impeachable offense. In this case, the prosecution itself admitted in open court right here that an omision or inaccurate declaration in the SALN, while it may constitute perjury, is not a high crime,” he said.

He said the accusations against him sprung from the “propaganda and surveys manipulated and timely released to create a popular perception that I am no longer morally fit to remain in public office.”

“Those who claim unfitness on my part [are] but the very same accusers who have done everything to destroy me and my family from the very beginning. At this point, I would like to thank all those who stood by me and the cause I'm fighting for. Win or lose, we shall continue fighting because we know right is with us and no one can take that away from us,” he said.