SOUTHERN COMFORT: Finally, smoking guns?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/9 February) – The decision of the Senate impeachment to push through with the opening of the bank accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona despite vehement objections from him, his counsels and PSBank officials is providing the court and the public snippets of the true net worth of the besieged ‘primus inter pares’ of the country’s highest tribunal.

Against the Chief Justice’s chagrin, PSBank President Pascual Garcia III calmly stated which bank accounts contained what deposits on the days indicated in the subpoena issued by the Senate impeachment court. There were five bank accounts, all in peso denominations, brought before the court but only two contained balances as of December 31, 2010, the rest being already closed accounts. The amounts contained therein were no mean loose changes. They were substantial enough but were (again!) omitted by the Chief Justice in his 2010 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth for which he is not charged for failing to disclose. The non-disclosure also included one closed bank account which contained an available balance as on December 31, 2007.

It was a pity the impeachment court did not allow a perusal of these bank accounts on the daily or even monthly balances in the years that these were in existence or active. These bank accounts would have painted the true liquidity and cash position of the Chief Justice during those periods. Those may not be relevant to the Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, but these will bear out the true character of Corona before the eyes of the public.

There are still the bank accounts in the Bank of the Philippine Islands that will need to be opened and the dollar accounts of Corona in PSBank will still have to be acted upon by the Senate impeachment court.

The public, as well as the Senator-Judges, would likely welcome full disclosures of these other accounts.

Be that as it may, a pattern is slowly being established by the ongoing trial of Corona.

Of course, the defense still has to present its case and it is interesting to know how it will justify these accounts without calling the Chief Justice to the witness stand.

But an interesting observation has been made in regards to dollar accounts of Corona, which if not opened, even in limited scrutiny, will provide public officials with ill-gotten riches safe havens to hide their crimes. Any grafters in government can just stash away their ill-gotten wealth in dollar accounts and they will be beyond the reach of the justice system.

The Senate impeachment court will have to weigh on the consequences of its action or non-action to the clamor of the prosecution to open Corona’s dollar account to scrutiny as stipulated in its own subpoenas.

This is not more so to provide the prosecution the smoking guns needed to convict the Chief Justice. It is to preserve the integrity of the whole impeachment process. After all, not all are covered by the said judicial function of the Senate. This only covers impeachable officials whose continued stay in office will only undermine public interests and the institutions of governments they swore to serve and protect.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin G. Espejo writes for the