MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – Impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona and his defense lawyers clearly have one thing in mind based on how the impeachment trial went this week. By presenting witnesses who gave irrelevant testimonies, they are seeking to delay further the trial and deviate from confronting the important issue of the magistrate’s failure to declare his properties in the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
The defense asked for a 10-day postponement of the trial only to present later on witnesses who testified on issues that were already resolved by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court. Worse, Corona allowed a Supreme Court employee to appear for the defense without clearance from the Court.
In its February 14 resolution, the Court has prohibited its officials and employees from testifying against the Chief Justice and warned those who would do so without clearance with criminal sanctions under the Revised Penal Code. If this is not double standard, we don’t know what is.
Such self-serving move however could backfire, as the certification on Corona’s allowances presented to the impeachment court can be used by the prosecution to their advantage.
The certification, which shows that Corona had received some P21 million including allowances, is meant to show that the respondent had enough money with which to acquire the assets that were not listed in his SALNs.
But that’s exactly where the dilemma of the Chief Justice lies. He can only claim these amounts as income at the risk of being sued for tax evasion for not declaring these in his income tax returns. He cannot also claim as income the amounts meant for expenses in line with his official functions and use it in buying real properties.
In short, under no circumstances can Corona claim these allowances as legitimate sources of income. He would be digging his own grave if he did.
Further, the defense made a turnaround in their attempt to prove that Corona’s properties came from legitimate sources. It may be recalled that they had barred the prosecution from presenting evidence on the magistrate’s ill-gotten wealth saying this was not stipulated in the impeachment complaint.
Now, why did the defense present evidence on an issue that was already resolved by the impeachment court in their favor? Having been prevented from pursuing the issue of ill-gotten wealth, the prosecution merely asked why the properties in question were omitted in the SALNs, which the defense had tried to evade by dwelling on fair market value, assessed value and other things that have no bearing on the basic issue.
Although he allowed the defense to pursue this line of questioning, presiding Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile rightly stressed that the real issue is the non-inclusion of Corona’s properties in the SALNs.
And by the way, the certification says Corona had received P21 million since becoming a member of the Supreme Court. Granting this was legitimate income how would he explain the P36 million in his bank accounts? The amount does not include his dollar account the record of which has not been made public. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])