'It's game over for CJ if AMLC report is verified'

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 14 2012 11:37 PM | Updated as of May 15 2012 03:22 PM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE)  - If the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report on Chief Justice Renato Corona's dollar accounts and transactions is verified, then it's game over for him in his impeachment trial, analysts said late Monday.

Reacting to the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) School of Government Dean Tony La Viña said that if it is proven that the AMLC report is true, then the chief justice is finished.

"If the AMLC report is verified, I would think it is all over but the formalities. Of course, this can be dragged on by questioning authenticity of documents/transactions but is disservice to public if purpose is delaying inevitable," he said on social media network Twitter.

ANC analyst and veteran journalist Teddy Locsin Jr. also believes that Morales' testimony, if proven correct, means the end for Corona. 

"It isn't even a bombshell but a careful reconstruction that seals CJ's coffin," he said on Twitter.

"Corona must explain; he cannot, unless Morales lent herself to wholesale fraud, which I do not believe," he said. "I believe she (Morales) has done it already. I hope no one credits [the] prosecution."

"Non-disclosure [is] perfectly legal and proper, it is the gigantic sum that is horrifying," he added.

Locsin, a former Makati congressman, said that if Corona does not have an explanation for his multi-million dollar transactions, he should be removed from office.

"If Corona [is] guilty even of [an] uncharged crime like this, he should be removed. Too much," he said.

On Monday night, Corona issued a statement denying the figures mentioned by Morales. He said Morales should resign once proven wrong.  

However, he did not categorically deny the existence of the dollar accounts.

'At least $10M in 82 dollar accounts'

Carpio-Morales testified that Corona allegedly had at least $10 million in transactional balances in 82 US dollar accounts in 5 banks from 2003 to 2011.

Gasps and stunned silence met the testimony of Morales, who has launched a fact-finding investigation into Corona's alleged dollar accounts.

The Ombudsman said "significant deposits and withdrawals" on the dollar accounts were made during the 2004 and 2007 elections, as well as the week Corona was impeached in December last year.

Morales said on December 12, 2011, the day he was impeached, Corona pre-terminated a US dollar time deposit account amounting to $418,193.32.

"This amount was added to a BPI [Bank of Philippine Islands] account and from this, $417,000 was deducted from this account and transferred to a regular account," she said.

COA helps Ombudsman analyze AMLC report

She said she got her data from Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) records, and analyzed it with the help of the Commission on Audit (COA).

COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, a member of the COA team that analyzed the figures, briefly took the took the witness stand in the Senate impeachment trial Monday.

She said there were more than 400 transactions under Corona's name.

Mendoza said, based on transactions reported to the AMLC, dollar accounts in Corona's name had a total inflow of $28 million and total outflow of $30 million from April 2003 to December 2011.

She said peso transactions involving Corona's bank accounts also reached P242 million.

Corona only declared P3.5 million in cash in his 2010 SALN. Article 2 of the impeachment complaint accuses the Chief Justice of failing to declare and disclose all of his assets and his true net worth.

Conspiracy to bring down CJ: defense

In response, the defense dismissed Morales' testimony as "proof" of an alleged conspiracy among government agencies to bring down the chief justice.
"May motibo talaga na sirain ang pangalan ni Chief Justice. May malinaw na motibo para siya ay tanggalin," said Atty. Rico Quicho.

The defense also claimed that the Ombudsman's testimony was not damaging, and only muddled the issue further.

Quicho admitted earlier in the day that they were caught flatfooted by Morales' revelations.

Morales will continue her testimony on Tuesday.

Checkmate after failed gambit?

Political analyst and University of the Philippines professor Prospero de Vera last Saturday described the defense's decision to present Corona and Morales as witnesses in the impeachment trial as a gambit.

He compared it to a chess match and said the defense's move is "make or break."

Based on the reactions of people who watched the proceedings in the Senate on Monday, the defense's gambit may have failed.

Prosecutors said Morales' testimony seriously damaged the case of the defense, with House lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas saying the inflows and outflows in Corona's dollar accounts indicate "professional money laundering." -- with ANC