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BIR probes Corona family for possible tax evasion

MANILA, Philippines (Feb. 11, 2012) - Chief Justice Renato Corona and his family have to contend with a tax evasion probe even as the impeachment trial against the chief magistrate continues.

BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares sent separate summons to the Chief Justice, his wife Cristina, their daughter Ma. Carla and her husband Constantino Castillo III, to answer separate tax evasion inquiries.

Henares sent the summons days after taking the witness stand for the prosecution in the impeachment trial of the chief magistrate.

The BIR chief told the Coronas to submit their individual books of accounts and other accounting records for investigation and assessment by a team of three tax investigators from the bureau’s National Investigation Division.

“It is requested that all required documents, books and records be provided to the Revenue Officers in order to expedite the examination. You will be duly informed of the results of the examination upon approval of the report submitted by the aforementioned revenue officers,” read the documents obtained by The STAR from a source.

The letters dated Jan. 25, 2012 were sent to the Coronas just a couple of days after the BIR chief testified in the impeachment trial.

Henares said the probe is part of the Run After Tax Evaders program of the Aquino administration.

When asked by The STAR if he considers BIR’s issuance of summons a political persecution considering Malacañang’s determination to have him ousted, the Chief Justice replied: “The thing speaks for itself.”

Subject of the BIR probe are tax records of the Chief Justice from Jan. 1, 1997 to Dec. 31, 2010.

Mrs. Corona, for her part, was asked to submit records of her books of accounts and other accounting records for all internal revenue taxes from Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2010.

Their daughter and son-in-law, on the other hand, were told to present tax records from Jan. 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2010 and Jan.1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 2010, respectively.

Henares had admitted earlier that BIR’s investigation into the Coronas’ possible tax violation started only late last month this year or days after the start of the impeachment trial.

During the defense’s cross-examination, Henares revealed before the impeachment court that the BIR started investigating Corona sometime on Jan. 25 or 26. She said the Chief Justice is being investigated for alleged discrepancies in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) and his income tax returns.

Supporters of the Chief Justice earlier decried what they called “concerted effort” by the Aquino administration to remove him from office. The President himself publicly derided the Chief Justice’s performance in the latter’s presence during an official event in December last year.

Aquino had been vocal in his opposition to the midnight appointment of Corona as chief justice by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Supreme Court, then under retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno, upheld Arroyo’s appointment of Corona.

Prosecutors: Corona has P31.74 million

Corona has total undeclared bank deposits of P31.74 million as of 2010, prosecutors of the House of Representatives said yesterday.

The prosecutors said the testimony of bank manager Leonora Dizon revealed a secret checking account of Corona in the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) containing P12.02 million in 2010.

Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, a prosecution spokesman, said the contents of Corona’s BPI peso checking account widened the discrepancy between his peso accounts and declared cash in his SALN for 2010.

“We were correct in saying that the chief magistrate’s PSBank peso deposits were just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“If we are to examine the ending balances in the two banks as of 2010 – PSBank is P19.73 million while the BPI is P12.02 million – the total would be around P31.75 million and what he declared on his SALN is only P3.5 million.”

Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, another prosecution spokesman, said the discovery of the new cash deposit in BPI validated their suspicion that Corona was not faithful in his declarations on net worth.

“In 2010 alone, and this was the time when he was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as chief justice, Corona’s money in the bank ballooned to more than P31 million in spite of his condominium-buying binge,” he said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Angara, another spokesman for the prosecution, said they were puzzled at how Corona acquired assets of high value and at the same time kept bank accounts with huge deposits.

“What is surprising was his cash on hand at the time kept climbing up instead of being dissipated because of purchases of a number of high-end properties,” he said.

“Where did he get all this cash when his lawful income for the entire year of 2010 did not even reach P500,000?”

During the impeachment trial, Dizon said that Corona had an ending balance in BPI of P5.07 million in 2007, which grew from P153,395 as of Dec. 31, 2006.

This amount, plus the P5.07-million cash deposit with PSBank, reached P10.08 million as opposed to the P2.5 million Corona declared in his 2007 SALN.

In 2009, Corona’s deposit in BPI was P678,501 and when combined with his PSBank deposit would amount to P9.18 million versus the P2.5 million cash he declared in his SALN for the same year.

BPI’s certification also showed that Corona held cash deposit of P1.52 million in 2008. (From