Prosecutors: Coronas amassed 40 properties in 9 years

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2012 04:45 PM | Updated as of Jan 13 2012 08:20 PM

Corona ready to respond to prosecutors' evidence, says spokesman

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Chief Justice Renato Corona and his family amassed some 40 properties in the last 9 years he was in the court, House prosecutors claimed on Thursday.

Impeachment panel spokesman Miro Quimbo said that based on records from the Land Registration Authority, Corona and his family have 45 properties, houses and condo units, mostly in Corona’s name, with others in his wife’s, children’s and in-laws.

Quimbo said that based on Corona’s last available statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in 2002, only 5 of the 45 are registered.

"The question we want to raise there is - when the Chief Justice filed his last SALN in 2002, his net worth was at P13.9 million...The bulk of these properties have not been identified or included in his SALN of 2002. If he was being honest in his SALN, then he acquired these properties after he became a justice of the Supreme Court in 2002," Quimbo said in an ANC interview.

Quimbo said the properties are material to their accusation that the Chief Justice acquired ill-gotten wealth when he joined the Court in 2002.

"There is a property that is in his name. It is not even in the name of a corporation or anybody else but it is in his name or the name of his children, which apparently cannot be supported by his income...There [are] a lot of questions raised as to how or whether the salary of a justice of the Supreme Court can actually buy all these properties over a 9-year period," he said.

The properties are spread out in Makati (1), Paranaque and Pasay (1), Marikina (8), Taguig (12), and Quezon City, (23).

Fourteen of the Corona properties are condominium units while the rest are houses.

The information on the Coronas' properties is contained in the request filed by the House prosecutors today to subpoena the Coronas as well as the documents related to the properties.

(Click here for list of Corona's alleged properties)

Quimbo said the prosecutors requested for the Coronas' documents so that these can be used in the trial when it starts on Monday.

Corona on Thursday said he wants to say a lot about the issue but being  a Christian prevents him from doing so.

"Marami akong gustong sabihing na masakit... isang Christian na naniniwala kay Jesus Christ, ayoko nang magsalita nang masakit o maanghang," he said.

"Kung mahahanap nila, sa kanila na lang. I will sign a deed of donation to them," he added.

His son Francis declined to comment to media about the allegations.

Meanwhile, Corona's lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, said the defense team had anticipated the prosecution's move and will respond accordingly.

"That is nothing new as far as we are concerned. We have anticipated that. We are expecting this will be their move. From experience, you should actually be 2 steps ahead of your opponents so we know papunta sila diyan," he said.

"Let me just say for the record that we are ready to meet these particular evidentiary matters head on," he added.

Esguerra said copies of the titles of the Coronas' alleged properties  as well as their income tax returns can be requested from different government agencies. This, he said, will debunk the prosecutors' allegations that Corona tampered with the documents.

"The apprehension they have, the doctoring and everything cannot be done. There are different repositories of these documents in question," he said.

Bank accounts

Another spokesman Erin Tañada said they will next look into the Coronas' bank accounts to see how they financed the acquisitions.

Quimbo said impeachment trials are exempted from the coverage of the Bank Secrecy Law. He maintained that the evidence against the Chief Justice is strong.

The panel believes the erosion of public trust in the court began when Corona reneged on his responsibilities to the country. They said the impeachment hopes to restore public trust in the Court.

They believe that after the impeachment process, the institutions of government will be left stronger.

Tañada advised Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez to refrain from talking for Corona since the embattled Chief Justice has already appointed his own impeachment spokesmen.

He said Marquez may be part of the reason trust in the Court has also been eroded. -- With reports from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News; ANC