Sandigan freezes Corona assets

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan issued Thursday a freeze order on the assets of former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina in connection with the P130-million forfeiture case over his alleged abuse of public positions to amass ill-gotten wealth.

In a resolution released by Sandiganbayan Second Division Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos, the court issued a writ of preliminary attachment against the Corona couple since “it satisfies the requirements” set under Rule 57 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

The writ of preliminary attachment will effectively freeze all the assets of the former high judge and his wife, including their peso and dollar deposits in different banks and real estate properties.

The couple is facing eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Citing evidence gathered by a panel of investigators, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales determined that Corona couple's legitimate assets only amounted to P30.37 million.

Former Chief Justice Corona is a legal officer in the Office of the President in 2001, a member of the SC from 2002 to 2012 and a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (2008 to 2009) and the House Electoral Tribunal (2009 to 2010).

Former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina
Former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina (File photo/Alex Badayos)

Cristina, on the other hand, is an official of the John Hay Development Corp. from 2007 to 2010.

Morales noted, though, that the former high judge only declared P13.97 million as net worth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in 2001 and P22.94 million in his 2010 SALN, or an increase of P8.97 million over a 10-year period.

“Records reveal that respondent Renato Corona has cash deposits, in various peso and dollar accounts in different banks, that he failed to declare in his SALNs. As summarized, such cash deposits total P137,937,207.88… (and) as borne by authentic bank records, far exceed those he declared in his SALNs,” the Ombudsman said in the complaint.

Morales also cited the former chief magistrate's testimony during his impeachment trial before the Senate and his admission of a “deliberate effort to conceal his actual cash assets from public scrutiny.”

In addition, the Ombudsman said it found evidence that the Corona couple's two condominium suites and a prime residential properties in La Vista, Quezon City were undervalued by P17.55 million.

“The undervaluation of respondent Renato Corona’s real properties is another indicium of his intent to conceal the true state of his wealth. In sum, the evidence shows that respondents accumulated wealth that is manifestly out of proportion to their lawful incomes,” it said.

Corona was appointed SC Associate Justice in April 2002 and Chief Justice in May 2010 before he was ousted in an impeachment trial in May 2012.

The Sandiganbayan earlier issued a hold departure order against the couple, which means they have to secure court clearance first before they can travel overseas. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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