Renato Corona Bank Scandal Delays Impeachment Trial

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Feb. 19 (PNA) – As the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona enters its sixth week on Monday, the Senate will meet anew in a caucus to discuss the leaked documents which the prosecution attached in its supplemental subpoena for Corona’s bank documents.

The House prosecution submitted its written explanation last week but the court decided to tackle it in a caucus set at 11 a.m. on Monday.

The prosecution, however, expressed confidence that the Senate impeachment court would not throw out the pieces of evidence pertaining to the top magistrate’s multimillion-peso secret bank accounts.

For the last two weeks, the impeachment proceedings have revolved around Corona’s huge bank deposits, which, according to testimonies and records, reached P32 million in 2010 alone. On Dec. 12, 2011, the day the chief magistrate was impeached by 188 congressmen, he closed three bank accounts with a combined worth of close to P37 million.

Counsels for the defense are fighting to have the bank documents declared as inadmissible evidence, claiming these were obtained in violation of the bank secrecy law.

“What has been established so far is the fact that the respondent chief justice has millions stashed in secret bank accounts that he did not disclose in his net worth declarations and that there is a huge discrepancy between his tax declarations and his hidden wealth uncovered by the prosecution,” said Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo, prosecution spokesman.

“We are confident that the senator-judges will not allow the evidence to go down the drain,” he said.

Besides, Quimbo said, the bank accounts being contested by Corona’s camp had already been confirmed by bank officials before the Senate impeachment court and validated by existing bank records.

Fellow spokesman Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada strongly feels the senator-judges themselves are convinced the bank documents are authentic and have evidentiary value insofar as the Article II of the impeachment case against Corona is concerned.

“We have reason to believe that the Senate will admit the bank documents as evidence once offered by the prosecution. The fact that the senator-judges are asking for additional information on Mr. Corona’s other bank accounts and those of his wife’s, shows the amount of interest they have in finding out how much money did the couple keep in their bank accounts,” Tanada said.

Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, another prosecution spokesman, said they were confident the Senate would give due weight to the testimonies and documents provided by officials of the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and the Bank of the Philippine Island (BPI), where the chief magistrate kept his millions.

“Our evidence on Mr. Corona’s huge bank accounts are sufficient and strong enough to stand in the impeachment court,” Angara said.

In his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) for 2010, Corona declared he only had P3.5 million cash assets.

However, the impeachment tribunal discovered he had close to P32 million in unreported cash deposits as of end-2010.

Also in 2010, Corona’s two bank accounts with the PSBank yielded P19.73 million, while another bank account with the BPI had some P12.02 million.

During the last hearing on Thursday, PSBank president Pascual Garcia III and Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson likewise testified that Corona had P36.7-million worth of peso time deposits under three accounts that he withdrew and closed on the same day the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach him.

The prosecution viewed this as a “clear sign of guilt” on the part of the chief justice, who repeatedly claimed he has nothing to hide although he has filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking his colleagues to stop the impeachment tribunal from looking into his dollar deposits and nullify the entire impeachment proceedings.

The PSBank president is expected to reveal the other bank accounts of Corona and his wife Cristina when the impeachment trial resumes on Monday. Earlier, Garcia disclosed the chief magistrate opened seven peso accounts and five dollar accounts with them.

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