Thursday, May 3, 2012

CORONA: The $10-Million Man

We are aware of the dollar bank accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona.  Thanks to thesubpoena duces tecum issued by the Philippine Senate acting as an Impeachment Court (IC). By admission of bank executives, CJ Corona not only has several peso deposits but dollar accounts as well.

However, the IC failed to see the details of the foreign currency accounts because Corona’s associates in the Supreme Court issued a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) to the former re opening of the secret dollar accounts.

The IC did not have to comply with the SC order but majority of the Senators opted to “respect” it giving due regard to the SC as a co-equal branch of the government. Whether these Senators realize it or not, by seeking to know the details of the relevant dollar accounts in the exercise of their constitutional powers, they admittedly implied that they have “abused their discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

By “respecting” the TRO, the Senators have weakened their own institution not only presently but that of the future generation of Senators.

The Constitution empowered the Legislature to impeach, try and decide on erring impeachable officials that include the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the Philippines. This specific and exclusive Constitutional impeachment power is unquestionably supreme. It serves as a check and balance to the other two departments. Not even the highest Chief Judicial Official or Chief Executive can question or intervene in the exercise of this power. To do it would be “disrespecting” the Legislature in the exercise of its proper jurisdiction.

Ironically, by allowing the TRO to prosper, the Senators actually “respected” the “disrespect” that SC showed the Senate as an independent and co-equal branch of the government. Fortunately, the order is temporary and could still be changed by the SC itself, or by a change of heart by the Senators in asserting the powers of Senate as an Impeachment Court by disregarding the order.

Will we ever see the dollar accounts of CJ Renato Corona?

In a media blitz earlier, he had indicated that he would voluntarily open his dollar deposits in due time. The implication is that he would do it during the trial when it resumes. In this case, the choice as to what accounts and its details would be shown remains his. Whatever he decides, it is still worthwhile knowing what he would do and what he would reveal. He also has to show that the revealed amounts were included in his SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth) or if not, why not?

It was recently revealed that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had asked Corona to explain the $10-million worth of bank deposits allegedly owned by the latter. This is in response to complaints filed separately by former Akbayan Party List Representative Risa Hontiveros, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, and Emmanuel Tiu Santos.

Corona responded by saying “I do not own $10-million...It’s part of black propaganda.” He also said that the order of the Ombudsman is as phony as the Land Registration Authority (LRA) list, U.S. property list, phony surveys. Of course, he asserted that the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.

Based on the pattern of his defense presentation re the deposit of the sales proceeds of the Basa property and his claim that the deposits he withdrew and closed on impeachment day were not his, he would also probably claim that the dollar deposits were not his but were just entrusted to him by some relative or company owned by another relative or friend. $10-million is a large sum of money to accumulate over a short period with a SC Justice’s annual income.

On the property list, Corona and his defense lawyers earlier countered that the prosecutors submitted proofs of only 21 and not 45 real properties as published, hence, failing to prove their case.  Corona would probably show that part of the $10-million was not his. So using the same logic, since it was not $10-million but less, then the prosecutors (if they use the findings of the Ombudsman) also failed to prove their case. Humans including lawyers understandably err and differ on how they infer!

Does the Ombudsman have jurisdiction over Chief Justice Corona?

The investigatory powers of the Ombudsman as provided by both the Constitution (Sec. 13(1), Article XI, 1987 Constitution) and by Republic Act No. 6770 (Sec. 15(1) are quite clear with respect to all government officials, employees and/or offices or agencies.

Section 22 of R.A. No 6770 is even more specific. “The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed byofficials removable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted.”

How about the Ombudsman’s power to access bank accounts and records?

Section 8 of R.A. No. 6770 also states that the Ombudsman has the power to “Administer oaths, issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum and take testimony in any investigation or inquiry, including the power to examine and have access to bank accounts and records.”

How about the dollar bank accounts that are covered by the Foreign Currency Bank Secrecy Law?

The law allows access to the foreign currency accounts only with the consent of the depositor. 

At the back of form of the SALN is a paragraph on top of a filer’s signature, which reads,

            “I hereby authorize the Ombudsman or his duly appointed representative to obtain and secure from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections, to include those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age living with me in my household covering past years to include the year I first assumed office in the government.”


_____________________________                                 _______________________________
Signature of Spouse                                     Signature of Employee

The SALNs signed by CJ Corona were declarations of his true and accurate assets, liabilities and net worth. They also included the above-mentioned waiver to verify his declarations including his dollar bank accounts.

The Ombudsman is also empowered to “Request any government agency for assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents”  

For this, Ombudsman could actually request the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which under the law is empowered under R.A. 9160- Anti-Money Laundering Act, to “inquire into or examine any particular deposit or investment with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution” of public officials.

There is no law prohibiting the Ombudsman from sharing whatever documents or records including foreign currency bank accounts with the prosecutors in the impeachment trial, if warranted.

Be it voluntary on the part of CJ Corona, by order of the Impeachment Court in asserting its powers, and/or by the Ombudsman’s cooperation with the prosecutors, the public should be able to witness the uncovering of the secrets of a $10-million man.


  1. Hello, Im Bebang Siy, Executive Officer for Membership and Documentation of FILCOLS. I am looking for the contact details of Mam Pacita Manglapus. FILCOLS would like to get in touch with her for the DepEd's use of Raul Manglapus literary work for the K to 12 program. We really wish you can help us, Sir. Thank you very much. Our email address is

    1. Hi Ms. Bebang Siy, regarding Mrs. Pacita Manglapus, let me refer you to this previous blog of mine:

      I will forward your message to their son in the Philippines who will get in touch with you.

      Best regards,

  2. The Corona impeachment is over. But abject poverty is still
    a sad reality to millions of our countrymen. Let's all help our fellow countrymen NOW.

    1. EQ, I did not mean to ignore your comment. In fact, because of it I plan to write an article devoted exclusively to it. Poverty alleviation requires Commitment. But the amount of Commitment is always commensurate to the amount of Responsibility that one has. Likewise, the degree of Responsibility is commensurate to the degree of Power that one possesses. Correspondingly, the amount of Power is commensurate to the amount of resources available to enforce that Power to meet that Responsibility in order to fulfill that Commitment. Rightly appealing NOW denotes and connotes urgency and necessity because as we write and speak, many of our countrymen could be losing their lives due to sickness, hunger, poverty. Thanks for your comments.