Senators zoom in on Corona money, SALNs

Posted at 05/16/12 2:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator-judges tightened the screws on Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial on Tuesday, saying he did not mention all of his money in his annual statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN), despite being required by law.

Quoting the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report revealed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III said Corona purchased P27.9 million worth of mutual funds in 2004 but did not declare them in his SALN.

Morales confirmed that Corona purchased P27,933,000 worth of mutual funds from the Fil-Am Bank Dollar Fund on May 17, 2004, based on the AMLC report.

The Chief Justice then sold them for P28,377,000 on April 6, 2005.

Guingona has moved for the Senate to subpoena records of the mutual fund transactions of the Chief Justice.

Senator Franklin Drilon also noted that Corona failed to disclose his alleged dollar accounts in his SALNs.

He said the testimony of a Philippine Savings Bank official who earlier appeared in the impeachment trial confirmed the existence of one of the dollar accounts mentioned in the AMLC report.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said based on the AMLC report, Corona owned at least $3,388,323.14 in various bank accounts as of December 22, 2011.

Lacson said withdrawals from Corona's dollar accounts as of December 22, 2011, as shown in an Anti-Money Laundering Council report, totaled $3,388,323.14 or 147,866,400.00 pesos based on December's exchange rate.

"Where did he put that money? I do not know, the Ombudsman does not know. Only he knows," he said.

Article 2 of the impeachment complaint against Corona accuses the chief justice of failing to declare and disclose to the public all of his assets, liabilities, and true net worth.

Corona only declared P3.5 million in cash in his 2010 SALN.

Corona amassed P600 million, House leaders say

However, he may have amassed at least P600 million in cash during his 10-year term in the Supreme Court, according to House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales.

Belmonte said the AMLC documents submitted by the Office of the Ombudsman to his office last Friday showed around US$39 million worth of transactions that were made in Corona's name.

As of February 2012, only US$10 million was left as ending balance. At 42 pesos to a dollar, that’s worth 420 million pesos.  Gonzales said the same report shows Corona also had some P240 million in cash for a total of some P660 million.

He said the amount excludes other assets like real estate properties and automobiles.

Gonzales said the same report of the Ombudsman showed that Corona's legitmate income for that period should only be at around P36 million.

Hidden wealth?

Senator Sergio Osmeña, meanwhile, believes that Chief Justice Renato Corona tried to hide his money by spreading them out into 82 dollar accounts in 5 different banks.

“Well, there was an attempt to hide because it was divided into so many accounts. What was the total? 82 accounts? Normally, you only need 1 or 2 accounts to keep those sums safe and in place, earning interest. Mukhang may attempt na taguin ito, pinapaliit tapos linalagay sa iba’t ibang accounts," he told ANC on Tuesday.

Morales returned to the witness stand on Tuesday and gave more details of transactions on Corona's alleged bank accounts.

She said several dollar deposits were made in Corona's foreign currency accounts during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

The deposits include: 

  • $500,000 deposit at BPI Acropolis on May 12, 2004
  • $500,000 deposit on May 14, 2004
  • $293,635.43 in BPI San Francisco Del Monte on May 3, 2007
  • $27,039.80 in BPI San Francisco Del Monte on May 3, 2007
  • $134,603.28 in BPI San Francisco Del Monte on May 3, 2007
  • $63,345.61 in BPI San Francisco Del Monte on May 3, 2007
  • $53,572.71 in BPI SFDM on May 3, 2007

Morales also detailed several withdrawals, debit memos and encashment converted to pesos of dollars during the period of December 12-22, 2011, or the week when Congress impeached him.

She said the transactions involved PSBank, BPI and Allied Bank.

Corona on Monday night disputed the AMLC report, and called Morales' presentation as a "lantern of lies."

He denied the figures mentioned by Morales and said the Ombudsman should resign if she is proven wrong.  

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

His lawyers have promised that the chief justice will take the witness stand to dispute the allegations made against him.  - with reports from Ryan Chua and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; ANC

Chief Justice Renato Corona's 2010 SALN