MANILA, Philippines (Jan 29, 2012) - Believing that the conclusion that Chief Justice Renato Corona amassed ill-gotten wealth shall surface as a matter of course, the prosecutors in the on-going impeachment trial of the chief magistrate say there is no need to ammend the complaint as suggested by some senators.
By the ruling of the impeachment court, prosecutors are barred from presenting evidence of Corona's ill-gotten wealth for reason that it is not properly alleged in the Article 2 of the complaint. However, the senate tribunal also ruled that evidence of properties and other assets not declared in Corona's Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) may be presented.
The controversial Article 2 accuses the Chief Justice of failing to disclose his SALN as required by law and of non-declaration of certain assets. The defense argued that the impeachment court should go no farther than this in tackling the said article and he Senate ruled that it would allow the introduction of evidence of ill-gotten wealth only if the prosecutors can "lay the basis."
The House of Representatives will not amend its impeachment complaint against Corona if the purpose is only to specify ill-gotten wealth issue as a separate charge.
“No, we have no intention to amend the charges. We are satisfied with the ruling of Senate President Enrile and we accept it,” lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo said on Friday.
He said that while the impeachment court has barred the presentation of evidence linking Corona to ill-gotten wealth, it has allowed testimonies and documents showing that the Chief Justice and his wife had acquired certain assets not declared in his SALN.
Documents and testimonies presented before the impeachment court also showed that the combined incomes of Corona and his wife Cristina did not match the value of their properties.
“Despite repeated objections from CJ Corona’s lawyers, we were able to present his SALN for 2003-2010, the testimony of BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) Commissioner Kim Henares on the income of the Corona couple and their daughter Carla, and documents and testimonies relating to their properties. That was a major breakthrough for us,” he said.
“The presumption of law will now come into play. Under the law, if a public official acquires an asset that is not proportionate to his income, that asset is deemed ill-gotten. We have already shown that the value of the multimillion-peso assets that the Chief Justice and his wife had acquired over the last 10 years are grossly disproportionate to their combined income,” he said.
Henares told the impeachment court on Wednesday that in 2006, Corona earned a gross income of P465,597 on which P109,706.60 in income tax was withheld; P488,156.57 in 2007 with P117,399.31 in withholding tax; P604,388.46 in 2008 with P155,556.20 in tax; P621,528.62 in 2009 with P155,556.20 in income tax; and P657,755.57 in 2010 with P176,577.32 in withholding tax.
As for Mrs. Corona, her gross earnings as head of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. amounted to P623,157.30 in 2007, P1.24 million in 2008, P1.106 million in 2009, and P469,986 in 2010. She also earned director fees amounting to P400,000 in 2007, P220,000 in 2008, P318,000 in 2009 and P240,000 in 2010.
Henares also testified that Mrs. Corona bought a 1,200-square-meter lot at the La Vista subdivision in Quezon City in September 2003 for P11 million, and which she sold to her daughter Carla Castillo for P18 million in October 2010.
Based on documents presented by the BIR chief, the Corona couple also bought a condo unit at One Burgundy Plaza on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City in December 2003 for P2.5 million; a condo unit in The Columns, Ayala Avenue, Makati in October 2005 for P3.6 million; another condo unit in Global City, Taguig in November 2008 for P9.2 million; and a 303.5-square-meter penthouse at Bellagio 1 in Global City, Taguig in December 2009 for P14.5 million.
Besides the La Vista lot, they sold another lot in Pansol, Diliman, Quezon City in March 2010 for P8 million.
On Thursday, the BIR chief testified that Carla Corona-Castillo did not have sufficient income to buy the La Vista lot for P18 million from her parents as she earned only about P8,500 in 2009, for which she paid less than P500 in income tax.
Henares said she is now looking into whether the Coronas actually donated the lot to their daughter, even though they had signed a deed of sale.
She said if it was a donation, the Chief Justice and his wife should have paid a 20 percent donor’s tax, or P3.6 million based on the P18-million selling price.
She said if the Coronas insist that they sold the property, the BIR would most likely charge Carla with tax evasion for accumulating a huge income that she obviously failed to declare and from which no taxes were paid.
She also revealed that she would conduct a “net worth investigation” of the Chief Justice based on his SALN in 2003-2010.
In barring the prosecution from presenting evidence to prove the ill-gotten wealth charge against Corona, Enrile said this accusation “is a conclusion.”
“The factual matter that requires evidence is in (paragraphs) 2.2 and 2.3 (of Article 2 on non-disclosure of SALN and failure to declare certain assets). Let’s see if they can do that. Then later, the burden proof will be on the defense side,” he said.
He said senator-judges could later on assess based on the evidence presented whether Corona had indeed acquired ill-gotten wealth.
Prosecution spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo of Marikina said the prosecution is confident that when Enrile and his colleagues sit down to weigh the evidence, “they would have no conclusion other than the Chief Justice had amassed ill-gotten assets.”
“Based on BIR records, Chief Justice Renato Corona’s total salary as member of the Supreme Court from 2002 to 2010 cannot support his real estate-buying spree during the same period. The most that he earned in 10 years was P5 million, which is just a fraction of what he paid for the condominium units that he and his wife bought,” he said.
He said the Bellagio 1 penthouse in Global City, Taguig alone was purchased by the Coronas for P14.5 million.
“A simple arithmetic would show that what they spent to accumulate properties was grossly disproportionate to what they earned,” he said. (From Philstar.com)