MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A Malacañang official on Sunday declined to comment if the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona is imminent, stressing only that evidence is already there against him.
Asked, however, if an acquittal is possible, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told dzRB, “you have to look at the evidence …again, you have to go back to the charges. That’s something you have to consider.”
She said the prosecution has raised the allegation of the non-disclosure of assets in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth which, she said, Corona himself already admitted last Friday.
She cited the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”
Asked if President Benigno Aquino III is ready to work with Corona in case the latter is acquitted, Valte only said: “That’s hypothetical at this point.” More than the votes of the senator-judges, she said the evidence against Corona is paramount.
On Friday, Corona said he has US$2.4 million, including interest earnings since the early 1970s, plus P80 million in commingled funds.
“I never, at any time, had 10, 11 or 12 million [US] dollars,” Corona said, denying a claim by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that he had "transactional balances" of $10 million to $12 million in his dollar accounts.
He defended his non-disclosure of his dollar deposits by citing the Foreign Currency Deposit Act, which provides absolute confidentiality in foreign currency-denominated assets. He also cited a study by a former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official, which supposedly found that not one government official has declared any foreign currency asset in his or her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth over the years.
Corona then signed an unconditional waiver opening all his bank accounts. In a brief manifestation before the impeachment court, the chief magistrate said: “I’m submitting this without any conditions whatsoever.”
Last Tuesday, he signed a waiver allowing government agencies to probe into his accounts as long as the 188 impeachment-complainants and Senator-judge Franklin Drilon sign similar waivers for the sake of accountability and transparency.
Drilon and lead prosecutor Niel Tupas, Jr. refused to take the challenge, saying it is the chief justice who is on trial.
Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano subsequently challenged all government officials to sign a waiver similar to what Corona did.
“I have appealed and I am appealing to [President Aquino], ask your Cabinet members to start by signing a waiver opening up their bank accounts to the Ombudsman, for example,” Cayetano had said.
Valte said, however, that it is not Aquino nor the prosecutors who are on trial.
“The SALNs of the President have always been made public, and the mandatory waiver is there [that Ombudsman can cross-check the truthfulness of the contents]. Lagi ho itong nasisikatan ng araw, hindi lang 'yung naka-lock sa Cabinet,” she said.
She said Corona’s SALN was only revealed via compulsion.
Reporters pointed out to her, however, that it is not the SALN that is being challenged, but the bank accounts of officials.
Valte then answered: “It will be the personal decision of the Cabinet member if they want to sign the waiver under the bank secrecy laws…if applicable."