'Disrespect, undeclared wealth to bury Corona'

by David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 28 2012 10:18 AM | Updated as of May 29 2012 02:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines – A pro-impeachment lawmaker believes a guilty verdict against Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial is inevitable because of the disrespect he showed to the senator-judges and because he admitted he has undeclared wealth.

“It is inevitable that it will be a guilty (verdict) and convicted si Chief Justice,” Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello told ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda.”

“First is the disrespect that he showed last Tuesday but more important is that he became the best witness against himself. Basically, he admitted that the P80 million he did not declare and the $2.4 million in dollar accounts,” he added.

Bello said Corona only declared about P29 million worth of assets in his 2010 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) when his actual net worth was about P211 million or 9 times bigger. “Malaki talaga yung discrepancy,” he said.

He noted that the SALN law is very strict in mandating all public officials to declare all assets in their SALNs.

He also debunked Corona’s argument that he would violate the foreign currency deposits act if he declared his dollar deposits. Both the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Civil Service Commission earlier said Corona should have declared his dollars in his SALNs.

“He could have just translated the $2.4 million at the exchange rate of P43.5, which would have shown the actual peso amount,” he said.

“There was, in fact, an effort to escape the requirements of the SALN law and the Chief Justice should not be doing this. Impeachable yan,” he said.

'Some senators don’t declare dollars

For his part, Supreme Court Employees Association president Jojo Guerrero said Corona was correct when he did not declare his dollar accounts in his SALNs.

In the same interview, Guerrero said he is sure that some of the senator-judges do not declare their foreign currency deposits.

“I’m sure may mga senador na hindi nagdedeklara,” he told ABS-CBN.

He also said it is unclear whether the conversion rate to be used should be at the time of declaration or the time of acquisition of the dollars. “I think tama lang yung bank secrecy law. Kung hindi, baguhin nila,” he said.

Guerrerro said that as chief justice, Corona was following the “letter of the law” when he said declaring his dollar deposits would violate Republic Act 6426.

He also denied that Corona planned to walk out of his trial last Tuesday, saying that the chief magistrate was feeling unwell at the time and wanted to be excused.

The SC employee said the senator-judges should consider how the impeachment complaint was rushed at the very beginning, and that evidence was only gathered after the complaint was filed.

“We urge the senator-judges to be fair and to do it for the country and not just think about the coming elections,” he said.