CJ Has 82 Dollar Accounts

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales told the Senate impeachment court yesterday the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) provided her with information that Chief Justice Renato Corona maintained 82 dollar accounts in several banks.

Morales detailed the Corona's dollar transactions when she testified as a "hostile witness" of the defense panel in Corona's trial.

With the help of a Powerpoint presentation, Morales, drawing from the AMLC report, tracked a total inflow of $28,740,497.93 and total outflow of $30 million in the supposed dollar accounts from April 2003 to December 2011.

She said that in all, there were 423 transactions on the 82 accounts, and there were multiple accounts spread over five banks.

Morales dropped the bombshell as the trial of Corona entered its 37th day.

At a caucus earlier in the day, the Senate decided to finish the trial by the end of May, so it could attend to other legislative matters before Congress adjourns sine die on June 8.

Morales told Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment court, she sought the help of the AMLAC after her office obtained the first of the complaints filed against Corona, believing the council has jurisdiction to determine whether the case is strong enough.

Debunking assumptions made by Corona's camp that reports of the dollar account were baseless, Morales said the 17-page AMLC report contained a four-page summary of the peso and dollar accounts of the Chief Justice that AMLC has marked "strictly confidential."

Responding to a question from lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, Morales said her letter to the Chief Justice asking him to submit within 72 hours a written answer to the complaints were part of the Ombudsman's "case build-up" or a "fact-finding investigation" being conducted by her office.

"Whenever we receive a complaint, we determine first if it merits docketing, for purposes of factual investigation or case build-up," Morales said.

Asked by Cuevas why her letter, dated April 20, 2012, did not mention any AMLAC report, Morales said she did not find it necessary to mention the source.

Morales said the investigation of Corona was within the ambit of her mandate as Ombudsman which is provided under the 1987 Constitution and the Ombudsman Law (Republic Act 6770).

At the start of the trial, the prosecution said Cuevas was asking questions that were irrelevant to the issue at hand, Corona's the alleged dollar account.

But Enrile allowed Morales to answer Cueva's questions.

"I suggest we hear Ombudsman first. There is no need for the other witnesses if they will not give substantial presentation or no presentation at all," Enrile said.

The defense maintained that the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the chief justice, since he is an impeachable official that can only be removed from office by Congress.

During the caucus, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada said it was agreed to put on hold the motion of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III that the Senate allow him to change his vote respecting a Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) until after Corona has testified.

The TRO stopped the Senate from looking into the foreign currency deposit of Corona with PSB.

Yesterday, the Senate impeachment rejected a request of former Party-list Rep. Riza Hontiveros Baraquel asking for clarification on her supposed testimony that she would give before the Senate on Corona's alleged dollar account.

Baraquel was one of the 10 complainants that filed a case with the Ombudsman that Corona maintains a dollar account.

(Additional reporting by Mario B. Casayuran)

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