Former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina have asked the Sandiganbayan to throw out a forfeiture complaint filed against them that seeks to seize their assets worth P130 million.
In their 29-page answer filed on Friday before the anti-graft court’s Second Division, the couple maintained that all their pieces of property and bank accounts were earned through legitimate means and hard work.
“Petitioner maliciously disregarded the fact that respondent Renato Corona acquired considerable savings over the 45 years that he has worked, both in private and public sector. Wherefore, respondents Renato C. Corona and Cristina R. Corona respectfully pray that this Honorable Court lift the writ of preliminary attachment and dismiss the amended petition [for forfeiture]…for utter lack of merit,” they said.
The Coronas added that their cash assets come from the Basa Guidote property expropriation, conjugal funds, children’s funds and roll-over earnings from co-mingled funds.
Last March, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of the forfeiture case against the couple. The Sandiganbayan issued a freeze order against their assets in connection with the case.
The Ombudsman said from 2002 to 2010, the former Chief Justice’s cash deposits ballooned from P1,337,072.28 to P137,937,207.88. By 2010, the discrepancy between his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) and his actual cash deposits amounted to P134,437,207.88.
Several pieces of property owned by the Coronas in Quezon City, Makati City and Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City were undervalued by P17,297,145, it alleged.
In sum, the Office of the Ombudsman determined that the Coronas’ unexplained wealth is at least P130 million.
But the couple said the forfeiture complaint “is nothing but an offshoot of the vindictive desire to continuously harass and persecute the former Chief Magistrate of the land under the cloak of a supposed crusade against corruption.”
Corona attributed the filing of the case to an SC decision in November 2010, when he was still Chief Justice, which ordered the distribution of land titles to farmers of Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
He said the ruling was also the reason for the impeachment complaint against him in 2011 that led to his removal from office in 2012.
“The amount of P137,937,208.88 allegedly reflecting the respondents’ supposed actual cash assets was erroneously computed and simplistically arrived at by merely adding amounts in the respondents’ bank accounts,” the couple said.
They argued that their assets and earnings before 2002 were not included and that the P137 million was arrived at without considering “redemptions, maturities, withdrawals and integrations of cash placements.”
The Coronas also denied owning 82 bank accounts.
“As early as the impeachment trial, respondent Renato Corona already clarified that there were only several accounts under his and Mrs. Corona’s names, contrary to petitioner’s voluminous bank records supposedly showing eighty-two bank accounts,” they said.