BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘Unfortunately, he only succeeds in sinking himself deeper in the hole every time he talks.’
CHIEF Justice Renato C. Corona charges the Philippine Savings Bank with leaking his dollar accounts as early as September last year.
The charge is stupid.
He publicly accused the bank of leaking his peso and dollar accounts, an imputation of a crime that could very well be interpreted as having severely damaged the reputation of PSBank.
It is for this reason that the bank may consider the withdrawal of a petition for a TRO. Instead, the bank should release to the impeachment court all the records of deposits of the Head Magistrate. The impeached magistrate should know that all banks and financial institutions are examined periodically by the Bangko Sentral.
In every examination trip, the BSP is accompanied by a member of the Anti-Money Laundering Council whose eyes are trained solely on undeclared deposits of foreign currencies.
It is not correct for Mr. Corona to say that it was the PSB which leaked the details of the dollar accounts. Leaked to whom, he did not say. The fact is the $700,000 account turned up during a regular examination.
The dollar deposit was not leaked. It was discovered by the BSP and the AMLA in the course of routine examination of all financial institutions.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has a duty to determine the source of the dollars so that after close examination the council may make the conclusion on whether or not the money is laundered. If the council believes the funds are laundered it goes to court to prove its case and forfeits the amount if it gets a favorable ruling.
It is now the duty of the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral to turn over the dollar deposit records to the Office of the Ombudsman who shall determine whether information should be filed with the Sandiganbayan.
The AMLA works very quietly. It has been reasonably successful in the sense that it has forfeited ill-gotten money in the billions of pesos.
Laundering covers all currencies, pesos included.
It is not good business practice for any bank, in this case Philippine Savings Banks, to leak deposits to anybody. But it cannot refuse to open its books for examination by the Bangko Sentral and the anti-money laundering council.
At this stage the Chief Justice is wasting time making so much noise and accusing PSB of leaking the details of his peso and dollar deposits. The point is the deposits do exist. The Head Magistrate has not explained why the money is not listed in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. The amounts are well over his income as Chief Justice.
His own ruling in a case involving dollars of the Marcoses deposited in Swiss banks states that any amount not listed in the SALN and not justified by income is presumed to be ill-gotten.
Is the Chief Justice trying to exempt his case from his own ponencia? That’s what it looks to all of us.
His lawyers told the impeachment court the deposits will be explained in due time. Let’s see how they can do it. Let us figure out the oxymoronic act of saying the deposits will be explained but at the same time the defense wants the submission of the evidence covering the deposits suppressed.
From the very beginning the Chief Justice was on a media war on his impeachment case.
Yet he charges the prosecutors of trying his case by publicity when they take to media to explain evidence they obtain.
Unfortunately, he only succeeds in sinking himself deeper in the hole every time he talks.
Does he think that the “leaks” of his deposits in two banks diminish his responsibility of not listing them in his SALN? We think not.
As Chief Justice, we presume that Mr. Corona knows the laws on money laundering and the law that makes mandatory the disclosure of assets and liabilities and net worth.
The Chief Justice must have known from the very beginning that hiding wealth not justified by income is criminal, at least questionable.
But it seems he sat in comfort not ever suspecting that his position as Chief Justice would be questioned in an impeachment trial. Now that the hidden wealth has been discovered, he cries foul and goes as far as saying his impeachment is the cruel way of President Aquino’s revenge over Mr. Corona’s ruling on Luisita.
Whoever leaked or discovered the deposits and other assets not in the SALN and submitted them to the prosecutors in the impeachment trial did a patriotic act. They want to help the Court right a wrong.
But the Chief Justice claims in television appearances that he has been wronged. By whom? Nobody but himself because he documented his own fraud. None of that is related to how he gave justice to the poor tenants of Luisita.