MANILA, Philippines – Who deposited the alleged millions of dollars in Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank accounts?
This could be the next line of questioning in Corona’s impeachment trial after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales revealed an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report showing Corona had $12 million in “fresh deposits," spread out into 82 accounts in 5 banks from 2003 to 2011.
Dean Antonio La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government said the AMLC could provide more information on who deposited the money into Corona’s accounts.
“Malalaman natin kung sino ang nagdeposit ng pera na yun so malalaman natin kung ito ay may kaugnayan sa mga kaso,” he said in a radio DZMM interview.
Morales earlier told senators Corona’s dollar deposits grew from just one dollar account in 2003 to 82 accounts by the end of 2011.
She said there were “significant deposits and withdrawals on various significant dates including the 2004 and 2007 elections as well as the week he was impeached specifically December 12,13, 15, 19, 20, and 22, 2011.”
She said on December 12, 2011, the day he was impeached, Corona pre-terminated a US dollar time deposit account amounting to $418,193.32 and then added to another bank in Bank of Philippines Islands (BPI) San Francisco del Monte branch. Corona then deducted $417,978.80 from the account and placed in a regular trust fund placement.
AMLC credible, won’t doctor records
In the interview, La Viña said he is surprised that Corona’s defense team summoned Morales as a hostile witness in the trial.
He said it was obvious from the reaction of the defense team that they did not know that the Ombudsman had already contacted the AMLC about Corona’s bank records.
"If they read the Constitution, they would know the Ombudsman can ask help from any government agency to do her job. So simple lang, she wrote the AMLC and then asked for help from Heidi Mendoza of [the Commission on Audit]. The defense should have expected that," he said.
He said the defense’s move “paved the way for the AMLC document to be included in the evidence.”
La Viña said the AMLC report is particularly damning since it comes from a very credible agency.
“This is the AMLC. That is a very believable agency because it has international [standards]. It was created to tame money laundering. Napakataas ng standard at napaka- independent ng mga taong nagpapatakbo. Hindi yan mga political na tao,” he said.
“No question that the AMLC would doctor its own records. Napaka-credible na agency, napaka-independent na agency,” he added.
‘CJ defense by text, press release’
La Viña said Morales’ testimony only heightens the need for Chief Justice Corona to testify in his trial and air his side.
“I don’t understand why he let Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to present his bank accounts… This is what he should have done the first place. He should go to the court and say voluntarily I will waive my privilege to bank secrecy and say these are my accounts,” he said.
“He has to present himself. He has to defend himself. Hindi pwede text message lang. Hindi pwedeng press statement lang or press conference lang,” he added.
He also said he sees nothing wrong with the Ombudsman’s decision to write Corona to explain his $10 million foreign currency accounts, without revealing the AMLC report.
“She did the right thing, she asked Corona to explain first. Ang mali ni CJ, he did not ask about the $10 million. He thought it came from complaints of Walden Bello. So we are now forewarned. That is a very good development for accountability,” he said.