MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Karen Jimeno on Monday said Chief Justice Renato Corona did not lie when he said that he did not own $10 million in dollar accounts in several local banks.
Speaking to ANC’s “Headstart”, Jimeno said Corona informed his defense team that he did not have $10 million.
“I just want to clarify I don’t think he lied or that he meant to lie. It was more of the question that we asked him was that – is it true that you have $10 million and that you have an account with $10 million? And he said, ‘No.’ So it was even the Chief Justice during our meeting who said that he wanted us to subpoena the complainants and the Ombudsman herself. I think someone who could say it, who could make that kind of request knows that he does not have 10 million dollars or he is not hiding 10 million dollars,” she said.
Jimeno said she understands why the Chief Justice is careful about not giving a categorical statement on whether or not he owns dollar accounts especially since he is about to testify in the impeachment trial.
She admitted, however, that the defense team was surprised by the Ombudsman’s testimony that Corona owned 82 dollar accounts when the chief magistrate had already denied owning any.
“We were also confused with what it meant. Of course, they mentioned 82 accounts and we were overwhelmed with that number because prior to that we had confronted Chief Justice Corona himself and asked: ‘Are these reports true? Is there basis for this?’ And he said, ‘No. I don’t have accounts.’
“That’s why when we were there, we were trying to reconcile what he said with what we were seeing at that time. And when we heard transactional values, we immediately knew this would be an overstatement. Of course, we wanted to understand this document and that is what we have been working on in the past few days.”
Jimeno admitted that the defense team was surprised that the information on the dollar accounts had come from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
She said the AMLC’s involvement was surprising since the Ombudsman did not get a court order to reveal information about Corona’s dollar accounts.
“The surprise was more about the manner of how the information came out. We would have been more surprised actually if the Ombudsman showed up without any basis for saying $10 million and the notice to explain that she gave to the CJ. So the fact that she had an AMLC report to support her requirement for the notice to explain is not very surprising but we were more surprised with the involvement of the AMLC because under our Anti-Money Laundering Act, it requires there should be a court order to investigate bank accounts,” she said.
“That was one surprise there because we kind of felt all the agencies of government were being used just for this one case,” she added.
For his part, House prosecutor and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said the defense team’s admission only shows that Corona was not being completely honest with his own lawyers.
He said he believes Corona’s denial that he owned $10 million referred only to the total balance of his dollar accounts, and was not a denial that he did not have any dollar accounts.
“Maybe his asset is only 1 million dollars na lang so definitely no $10 million. When the Ombudsman told the media the $10 million, the Chief Justice thought: ‘Wala siyang alam.’ [She] was fishing dahil mali. Ang layo eh - $1 million or $2 million to $10 million. That is why he said no to the lawyers. ‘I don’t have $10 million.’ Ang hindi pala nila napansin, the Ombudsman was describing transactional balances. Kasi ang AMLC is only triggered by transactions. The AMLC will not know how much is left in your bank accounts. The AMLC will only know if you withdrew or deposited P500,000 or above,’ he said.
ANC Headstart, May 21, 2012