Corona, wife accused of ill-gotten wealth

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio Morales on Wednesday ordered the filing of cases against former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, Cristina, before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth worth P130.3 million from 2001 to 2011.

The couple is accused of violating Republic Act 1379 (forfeiture law) while Corona is facing eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violation of Section 11 of Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, according to a 22-page resolution approved by Morales on Tuesday.

The special panel of investigators determined that from 2001 to 2011, the couple earned a total income of P30,369,120.13, of which P27,145,472.68 was earned by Corona as an official at the Office of the President, a Justice of the Supreme Court, member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

Cristina, on the other hand, earned P3,223,647.45 for the period 2007-2010, based on the document submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) by the John Hay Development Corporation (JHDC) where she was employed.

The Ombudsman said Corona’s actual cash deposits grew from P1,337,072.28 to P137,937,207.88 from 2002 to 2010. By 2010, the discrepancy between his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) declaration and his actual cash deposits amounted to P134,437,207.88.

The resolution also cited the Land Registration Authority (LRA) records on several properties owned by the Corona spouses in Quezon City, Makati City and Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, which were established to be “significantly” undervalued by P17,297,145.00.

Certifications from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) show that the couple has no existing business registered in their name even if Corona stated in his SALN that his wife is connected with the Basa Guidote Enterprises, Inc.

“The amount of P130,336,212.88 is a conservative estimate as it includes their cost of living allowance commensurate to their social stature and expenses entailed by their travels abroad,” the Ombudsman said.

For the perjury charges, the resolution stated that Corona lied in his SALNs as he allegedly failed to include the numerous peso and dollar bank accounts (2003-2010 SALN), a condominium unit at The Columns, Makati City (2004-2009 SALNs), and a condominium unit at Spanish Bay Tower in Taguig City (2005-2009 SALN).

Corona was also found to have only declared P6.8 million as the acquisition cost of a condominium unit in Bellagio I in Taguig City in his SALN for 2010, when the true acquisition cost is P14.51 million.

In his SALNs from 2003 to 2009, the former top magistrate also undervalued the property located at La Vista in Quezon City by P8 million.

Corona was also charged with violation of Republic 6713, for not filing true and detailed SALNs for 2003-2010, when the value of his declared cash assets and the actual bank deposits had substantial discrepancies and his real assets in Makati, Taguig and Quezon City were not declared.

Sought for comment, Corona said they have already expected the cases as these were allegedly part of the Aquino administration's "merciless persecution."

"Malacañang and its attack dogs were not content with removing me from office. They have been filing all sorts of baseless and contrived cases against me and members of my family. I will fight this persecution to the very end, knowing that truth is on my side," he said.

The ex-chief justice also blasted Morales, saying she can never be fair since she testified against him in the impeachment trial in 2012. Morales and Corona were colleagues at the High Court.

"Whatever we have is the product of 45 years of hard, honest work. I have never been involved in any anomalous or illegal transaction in my life," said Corona.

Tax evasion charges were filed before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) against Corona a year after his ouster by the Senate in May 2012, which stemmed from his alleged non-filing of income tax returns from 2003 to 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

He was removed from office for understating cash assets. (Sunnex)

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