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Senate Oks subpoena of Corona bank records

MANILA, Philippines (Feb 7, 2012) - In a decision arrived at during a closed-door caucus called in the midst of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona yesterday, Senators acting as judges allowed the subpoena and presentation of Corona'a bank account records as requested by the prosecution.

The alleged supicious accounts are held by Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

“After an examination of documents sought to be produced in both requests, this court is of the strong view that the production of documents pertaining to the bank accounts of CJ Renato Corona should be closely related to the filing of his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) inasmuch as the funds in said bank accounts may be considered as his personal properties which are required to be properly and truthfully declared in the SALN,” a resolution of the Senate impeachment court read by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.

“The court would like to emphasize that the non-disclosure of information relating to the bank accounts of individuals is still the general rule and it has no intention of going against the public policy on this matter,” the resolution stated.

“However, the court is only issuing the subpoena relating to the bank accounts of Chief Justice Corona because of the pendency of the present impeachment proceedings and for no other reason,” it added.

The subjects of the subpoena were the PSBank branch on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City and the BPI branch on Ayala Avenue in Makati. Bank officials or representatives are required to present the required documents to the impeachment court on Wednesday.

Based on the resolution, the two banks were required to bring bank statements showing the balances of the accounts as of Dec. 31 of 2005 to 2010 for BPI and Dec. 31 of 2007 to 2010 for PSBank.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, in an interview with ANC, said that he wanted to secure the monthly bank statements from the two banks but the majority of the senator-judges voted to get only the statements for the end of the year.

Osmeña said that securing only the balance as of the end of the year would not give an accurate picture of the movement of the account.

In issuing the resolution, the impeachment court said it has carefully considered existing laws on bank secrecy and the one against money laundering. The senators said an impeachment court, under the law, is empowered to secure bank information.

In the case of foreign currency deposits, RA 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act provides that disclosure can only be made upon the written permission of the depositor.

“However, the court has taken due notice of the fact that the Supreme Court has, in several decisions, relaxed the rule on the absolute confidential nature of bank deposits, even foreign currency deposit accounts,” the Senate stated.

Retired Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas, the lead counsel for the defense, said they would seek a reconsideration of the ruling.

“If the bank deposits have nothing to do with the impeachment case, the mere fact that it is involved in the impeachment proceeding does not justify any court of justice to rule against the rule of privacy,” Cuevas said in his manifestation after the ruling was read in court.

‘CJ undervalued assets’

Earlier during the hearing, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares testified that Corona had undervalued his assets and properties in his SALN from 2002 until 2010. Henares explained that she came out with her computation “based on our own documents and the SALN that was introduced here (impeachment court).”

Cuevas said Henares’ statement should not be admitted as evidence because the chief magistrate is not being impeached for non-filing of his SALN.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also questioned Henares on the credibility of her own testimony.

“You have not completed the investigation. Why are you now talking of this discrepancy and net worth and how did you know how those things should not be justified? That’s why I asked have you issued a deficiency assessment, you said you have not. You have not yet determined whether there is really a tax liability arising,” Enrile said.

Henares explained that the BIR does preliminary study on the tax profile of a taxpayer to determine if he or she needs to be investigated “so that the taxpayers will not accuse us of picking things out of the air.”

For 2002, Henares testified that nine properties were not reported in Corona’s SALN.

In 2003, Corona’s SALN did not show the properties in Marikina and the La Vista property was undervalued at P3 million instead of P11 million. Another property (TCT-N35812) was valued at P821,080 against the actual acquisition cost of P2.508 million.

“Therefore, his net worth is understated because the net worth he reported was P7 million when it should actually be P14 million, not including the unreported Marikina property,” Henares said.

In 2004, Henares noted that Corona’s net worth should actually be P21.65 million and not only P7 million as reported.

In 2006, Corona reported a net worth of P8.3 million when the BIR noted his net worth should have been P31.224 million.

In 2007, Henares said the Chief Justice’s net worth was P11 million when it should have been P24.735 million while in 2008, Corona’s net worth was pegged at P25 million as against P12 milion he reported in his SALN.

In 2009, Corona reported his net worth at P14.5 million when he was supposed to be worth P52 million since the Bellagio condominium unit was supposedly acquired that year.

In 2010, Corona’s net worth went down because of the sale of his property in La Vista, Quezon City. Corona reported his worth at P11 million in 2010.

It was in the same year that Corona’s daughter, Carla, supposedly bought the P18-million La Vista property from her mother, Cristina.


Cuevas, meanwhile, questioned BIR’s investigation of Corona while the impeachment trial was ongoing.

“And you are proceeding with that investigation, notwithstanding the pendency of this impeachment proceedings involving the SALN and income tax returns of the Honorable Chief Justice Renato Corona?” Cuevas asked, to which the BIR chief said yes.

“(You) did not find anything objectionable to that which may smack of persecution to the eyes of the public?”

Henares said no. She said that the BIR would rather do its job than be accused of sleeping on it.

“The tendency of the question madam witness is, are you conducting an investigation of the Chief Justice, and you said, ‘yes’. And are you obligated to inform the Chief Justice that you are conducting an investigation bearing on his income tax position and you said, it is confidential, meaning you did not inform him?” Enrile asked.

To this, Henares explained that the BIR had informed the Chief Justice that he is under investigation and that the notice was issued to Corona shortly after she testified before the Senate some two weeks ago.

Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo, spokesman for the prosecution panel, said Corona was forced to declare his numerous assets at the last minute when he was certain that administration lawmakers were bent on ousting him.

“We saw in the past several days that the Chief Justice did not file or declare (his assets)... but we’re saying that is it acceptable that you declare a P14.5-million property a year after? A P10-million property five to six years later?” Quimbo asked.

“The reality is that he declared those properties when he was about to be caught. Meaning at the time when he filed his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, he was already under tremendous pressure regarding impeachment,” he said.


It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t for senators acting as judges in the impeachment trial of Corona, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday.

“Either way I think will be negative for the country. If we convict him, people will think that Malacañang controls the three branches of government. If we acquit him, the Palace will find other ways of removing him. There will be no end to it,” Estrada told ABS-CBN News Channel.

“I will base my vote on the evidence. Of course, public opinion will matter,” he said. Asked which of the three – proof beyond reasonable doubt, substantial proof, or preponderance of evidence – would the senators use as basis for deciding on Corona’s case, Estrada said, “Wala sa amin ‘yun (We don’t care).”

He said they would have to ultimately make their decision based on their conscience.

While accusing Corona of having played a role in the ouster of his father former President Joseph Estrada, the senator said he would remain impartial. “Time and again, I said even though Chief Justice Corona was one of those who conspired against my father, that is water under the bridge already. I will not take it against him. I will base my decision solely on the evidence presented,” Estrada said. (From