By Rey E. Requejo
Manila Standard Today
CHIEF Justice Renato Corona on Friday rejected insinuations that he had acquired assets through illegal means and put them under his wife’s and children’s names.
It would have been “careless and stupid” of him to do so, he said.
House prosecutors had claimed earlier this week that Corona failed to declare all his property in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. They presented several witnesses who claimed he owned pieces of property in Taguig City and Quezon City.
Among those who took the witness stand to provide the documents of Corona’s supposed real estate assets were register of deeds Sedfrey Garcia of Marikina, Carlo Alcantara of Quezon City, Randy Rutaquiao of Taguig, and Constante Caluya Jr. of Makati.
The prosecutors claimed that the documents were for property that Corona had acquired illegally, a claim he denied.
During the impeachment hearing Thursday, Corona’s counsel, retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, questioned the relevance of the land titles to Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, which accuses Corona of failing to file his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Cuevas said the titles were not connected with the issue of Corona’s statements of assets, “but a different aspect of impeachment regarding illegally acquired wealth, to which we have a standing objection.”
The House prosecution panel earlier said the titles were material to the impeachment case.
On Friday, President Benigno Aquino III accused Corona of using “squid tactics” and deflecting the public’s attention from the impeachment proceedings by bringing up the Hacienda Luisita issue.
“He should just answer the issues leveled against him. That is what experts call squid tactics,” Mr. Aquino said.
“What is the connection of Hacienda Luisita to his impeachment? He was being asked if he [had] filed his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth, and if had disclosed this publicly. He should have just said yes, it was filed on this date and it came out in this publication, meeting the public disclosure requirement of the Constitution.”
Corona had earlier bared a conspiracy against him by three powerful people whom he did not name, but he clearly referred to President Aquino as one of them, whom he said did not wish the land in his family-owned Hacienda Luisita distributed to farmers as ordered by the Supreme Court.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda claims that Corona’s conspiracy theory is “a desperate ploy” to deflect attention from himself.
Mr. Aquino on Friday expressed confidence that the House prosecution team would perform better after drawing criticism for their lackluster performance.
“I believe in the coming days our panel will show how good they really are,” he said.
The watchdogs in the impeachment trial are questioning the prosecution’s claim that proving the discrepancies between Corona’s actual assets and the assets he disclosed in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth will be enough to convict him.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, which has put up an “impeachment watch,” said the burden of the prosecution was beyond proving that the chief justice’s salary was not commensurate to the property he owned.
“Under the law on ill-gotten or unexplained wealth, it is not only the salary but also ‘other lawful income’ that is considered in explaining whether the wealth acquired by an official is not commensurate or is unexplained,” said group spokesman and Northern Luzon Gov. Dennis Habawel.
The Prosecutors claimed in Thursday’s hearing that Corona did not declare some property and understated the value of the others.
They questioned why the 303-square-meter unit at the Bellagio Tower in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, that Corona and his wife Cristina acquired in 2009 for P14.5 million was not in the chief magistrate’s 2010 statement of assets and liabilities, which declared assets of P22.9 million and no liabilities.
Corona’s assets include a condominium unit in Taguig City that was acquired in 2004 on installment with an assessed value of P1.4 million and a “current fair market value” of P2.4 million.
He has a second Taguig condominium unit acquired in 2010 on installment with an assessed value of P3.5 million and a market value of P6.8 million, but it wasn’t clear if this was the Bellagio Tower unit. With Joyce Pangco Pañares