Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona said he had $2.4 million in bank accounts that he didn’t declare, less than the $12 million he was alleged to have amassed in earlier testimony during his impeachment trial.
Corona told a Senate tribunal today that his failure to declare the deposits didn’t violate a law requiring public workers to declare their assets, liabilities and net worth because these are secret under Philippine law. He said he would allow the court to probe his accounts. The tribunal instead ruled that it wouldn’t hear more evidence, and the case would be decided following closing arguments on May 28.
“This court is not a producer of evidence, it is a hearer of facts,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in court.
Corona faces charges of hiding his wealth and handing down rulings that favored former President Gloria Arroyo. Philippine President Benigno Aquino says ousting him is crucial to an anti- corruption campaign that has seen the government pursue charges against Arroyo, whom Aquino accuses of rigging elections.
Corona “has proven, by his demeanor and his very own statements, the validity of the charges against him, and provided evidence more than sufficient to determine his fate,” Edwin Lacierda, Aquino’s spokesman, said in a statement today.
Aquino needs 16 votes from the 23-member Senate tribunal to secure a conviction.
The chief justice, in his second appearance before the tribunal, also said he has 80 million pesos ($1.83 million) in bank accounts, not all of which was disclosed in an asset statement because it is jointly owned by relatives of his wife.
Corona said Aquino had used the country’s tax agency, Land Registration Authority, ombudsman and Anti-Money Laundering Council in seeking his removal from office.
Corona testified on May 22 that he has four U.S. dollar accounts that he didn’t previously declare, not 82 as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales alleged on May 14. Corona also has three peso-denominated accounts, not 31 as alleged, he said.
Arroyo appointed Corona to the Supreme Court in 2002 and promoted him to be the country’s top judge a month before her term ended in 2010. Before his trial, Corona vowed to remain in office and accused Aquino of undermining democracy by trying to appoint his own magistrates to the court.