Chief Justice Renato Corona, in the end, will be convicted, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a member of the House prosecution panel, predicted yesterday.
Colmenares, who was in Bacolod City, said the people will not understand an acquittal by the Senate of a public official who has unexplained wealth, which he failed to include in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman reportedly have found that Corona may have accumulated a total of P677 million in unexplained wealth, including “more or less” $10 million, from 2001 to 2012.
Corona, in a text message sent to reporters Tuesday, called the testimony of the Ombudsman a “lantern of lies”, and denied he was resigning, saying the fight will continue.
Colmenares said he is glad Corona is scheduled to take the witness stand at the Senate impeachment trial on Tuesday to answer the allegations against him, but he will believe it when he actually appears.
“It has become exceedingly difficult for the chief justice to explain the evidence presented against him so far,” Colmenares said.
The chief justice will rise and fall with his testimony on Tuesday, he said. The testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on his dollar accounts was devastating and unrebutted, he added.
“As a lawyer I see no way that he can explain the evidence presented so far. The chief justice’s answer is negative pregnant – he is denying but actually admitting,” Colmenares said.
That is because while the chief justice is saying that the number of dollar accounts are bloated and there are mathematical and auditing miscalculations, he is not saying there are no dollar accounts, Colmenares said.
He may have $12 million or $100,000 in the banks, the fact is he did not declare the amount in his SALN and he can be convicted for that, Colmenares said.
“Whatever happens on Tuesday, the end of the impeachment trial is near, it will be probably be finished next week, and a verdict will be out by the end of May,” he said. In fact “the prosecution is already preparing its summary of arguments,” he added.
Colmenares said he was expecting Corona’s defense team to call the Anti-Money Laundering Council and bank officials to rebut Morales testimony.
“For me that is really telling, that they did not, if the testimony of the ombudsman were not true the best evidence is to call the banks,” he pointed out.
In the end it all boils down to did Corona declare what he has in the banks and owns in his SALN, and whether it is unexplained wealth, Colmenares said.
“A public official must have assets that match his income,” he said.
He noted that the bulk of the transactions in Corona’s reported dollar accounts occurred between the 2004 and 2007 elections when there were a lot of big cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Supreme Court.
It’s important that the Ombudsman traces where all the money came from, and the AMLAC has the capacity to do this, he said.
“The problem with the Philippines is impunity, there are crimes but no criminals,” he said.*CPG