Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Thursday asked the Sandiganbayan to freeze the assets of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina amounting to P130.59 million.
This developed after Morales filed a forfeiture case against the Corona couple who were accused of using their position to amass ill-gotten wealth. She asked the anti-graft court to issue a writ of preliminary attachment which will freeze the couple’s assets, whether in peso or in dollar deposits, in banks and real estate properties in Quezon City and Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
Corona vowed to face the perjury and ill-gotten wealth charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against him before the Sandiganbayan.
To support the forfeiture case, Morales submitted voluminous documents to the Sandiganbayan yesterday.
The evidence gathered by the Office of the Ombudsman showed that Corona’s legitimate earnings amounted to P30.37 million during his tenure as a legal officer in the Office of the President (2001), chief justice of the Supreme Court (2002 to 2011), a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (2008 to 2009) and the House Electoral Tribunal (2009 to 2010).
Corona, however, only posted a P13.97-million net worth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in 2001.
The amount increased by P8.97 million over the next 10 years.
In 2010, he recorded a P22.94-million net worth in his 2010 SALN.
Mrs. Corona’s legally acquired income, on the other hand, was pegged at P30.37 million during her term as an official of the John Hay Development Corporation from 2007 to 2010. But this was not in her husband’s SALN.
On top of the forfeiture case, Ombudsman Morales also found probable cause to file eight counts of perjury charges and eight counts of violations of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees against the former top jurist.
Morales is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court and was one of the associate justices of the High Court when Corona was still the chief justice.
Corona was ousted in 2012 after he was convicted by the Senate impeachment court for not listing all his assets in his SALN.
But Corona maintained that he did not commit perjury and that his assets were acquired from years of hard work.
“A fair and intelligent review of my SALNs within the context of the law, and even simple arithmetic, will prove that I committed no perjury. Moreover, there is no proof of wealth beyond what I could truthfully earn from honest hard work of 45 years, invest and save, in addition to my [and my wife’s]family resources, and a frugal lifestyle,” he said.
“Whatever we own is the product of 45 years of hard, honest work. I have never even once been linked to any illegal transaction or anomaly, nor even rumored to have been involved in one,” Corona asserted.
The former chief justice said the denial of his motion for reconsideration by the Ombudsman “only proves that there was no possibility of getting justice from the present Ombudsman who, from the beginning exhibited unusual hostility towards me.”
He accused the Ombudsman of denying his right to due process. “The Ombudsman is the accuser, complainant, prosecutor, investigator, judge and executioner, all rolled into one.”
“Her fingerprints were all over the place from beginning to end of this so-called ombudsman’s investigation, even signing the resolution herself when she should have inhibited, inasmuch as she testified against me with unmasked hostility during my sham, bribe-laden, persecutory impeachment trial in 2012,” Corona said, referring to Morales.
“She maliciously counted the alleged principal as income when it was redeposited or ‘rolled-over’ and worse, counted the same deposits repeatedly as new deposits so as to arrive at an arithmetically exaggerated and bloated alleged ending balances,” he added.
Corona vowed to face his accusers.
He said he will not back out from the fight “because I know I am telling the truth.”
“I also know that this charade is just a diversionary propaganda to take away public attention from the indefensible illegal use of public funds which has destroyed the last remaining fabric of morality in public service and any semblance of whatever remains of the Rule of Law,” he said.