JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima handpicked a prosecutor to finally indict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) following the P150.68-million tax evasion complaint filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
The Manila Times obtained a copy of a three-page resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) wherein de Lima sacked Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Roseanne Balauag and replaced her with Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edna Azurin-Valenzuela.
De Lima issued Department Order 774, dated October 10, 2013, designating Valenzuela as the new Chairperson of the Task Force on BIR.
“On account of the reconstitution, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edna A. Valenzuela was designated as the Chairwoman of the Task Force, and concomitantly, the new head of this special panel tasked to conduct the preliminary investigation and/or prosecution of the instant case,” the order said.
The resolution of the Valenzuela panel effectively denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the former chief justice. It was signed and approved by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
The motion, Valenzuela said, stated the same rehashed arguments from Corona.
“After a careful perusal of the arguments raised in the motion for reconsideration submitted by the respondent [Corona], the undersigned resolves to deny the same for utter lack of merit. The respondent merely reiterated his defenses averred in his counter-affidavit and rejoinder-affidavit. However, the undersigned panel of prosecutors already ruled on these claims in the issued resolution, dated 26 April 2013,” the Valenzuela panel stated.
“Wherefore, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that the instant motion for reconsideration filed by respondent Renato C. Corona be Denied for lack of merit,” it avers.
The tax case stems from Corona’s alleged misdeclarations in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN).
From the original panel of prosecutors who investigated Corona, the only remaining members in the current resolution are Prosecution Attorneys Mark Roland Estepa and Jayvee Laurence Bandong.
According to a well-placed Manila Times source, de Lima pressured the prosecutors to immediately file the Information before the CTA, and have an arrest warrant issued against Corona.
It was learned that Corona had already posted bail on Tuesday for all the several counts of tax evasion filed against him by the DOJ. The tax raps against him were raffled off to different Justices of the CTA.
Corona, who was ousted as chief justice in 2012, considers the tax case part of the Aquino administration’s political persecution and that he expects no justice from the government.
He said there could never be any ounce of fairness under the Aquino government who has ordered his people, particularly De Lima and BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares, to persecute him.
“Wala akong magagawa kundi labanan ito. Alam ko naman noong umpisa na lahat ng panggigipit ay gagawin sa akin,” he has said.
The former chief magistrate has always maintained that Aquino wanted him impeached because the Supreme Court under his watch ruled in favor of the distribution of land to tenant-farmers in Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the family of President Aquino.
In the BIR Complaint, it was alleged that Corona did not include in his SALN his condominium unit at The Columns in Ayala Avenue, which he bought for P3.6 million in 2004 and his property at Fort Bonifacio worth P9.16 million which he acquired in 2005.
The revenue agency claimed that for nine years Corona did not pay taxes worth P120.5 million.
In a complaint filed before the DOJ, Henares said that Corona and his kin failed to file their income tax returns from 2003 to 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Worth P150.68 million of tax charges were filed against Corona, son in law Constantino Castillo 3rd and his daughter, Ma. Carla Beatriz Castillo.