Corona summoned to initial probe over tax evasion raps-A A +A
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona and two others to appear at a preliminary investigation on the P150.68 million tax evasion charges filed against them.
The proceeding, which is set on September 25 and October 5, would determine whether there is probable cause to indict the Coronas in court.
Corona, his daughter Carla and her husband Constantino Castillo III were also directed to submit their respective counter-affidavit duly subscribed before a public prosecutor.
The preliminary investigation will be conducted by a three-member panel composed of Senior State Prosecutor Roseanne Balauag, as chair, prosecution attorneys Mark Roland Estepa and Jayvee Laurence Bandong.
"Personal appearance is required in case of preliminary investigation. They can always send their lawyer but there should be a valid reason for that but personal appearance is preferred," said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
As for Cristina Corona, wife of the impeached magistrate, de Lima said it would still be determined during preliminary probe whether she should be included in the charge sheet.
Last August 30, Corona was slapped with six counts each of violation of Sections 254 (attempting to evade the payment of taxes) and 255 (failing to file an income tax return) of the National Internal Revenue Code for failure to pay taxes totaling P120.5 million for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said Corona acquired two real properties that he did not declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), from the time he was appointed justice in 2002 until his appointment as Chief Justice in 2010. During his eight-year tenure at the Supreme Court, Corona’s SALNs ranged between P7 million to P22 million.
Among these properties were a condominium unit at the Columns, along Ayala Avenue, that he bought for P3.6 million in 2004, and a property in Fort Bonifacio, which he bought for P9.16 million in 2005.
During the impeachment trial, Corona admitted having bought the Columns property in 2004 but said he only started paying taxes for it in 2010 after the renovations in the unit were completed, while the certificate of title for the Bonifacio Ridge property was turned over to them only in 2010.
Using the net worth method, the BIR said there was a discrepancy between the cost of acquisition of the properties declared in his SALNs and with what was in the certificates authorizing registrations.
By comparing his income with his assets, the BIR computed Corona's total tax deficiency to reach P120.5 million, inclusive of surcharges and interests for the nine-year period.
As for Corona's daughter and son-in-law, the BIR said Carla attempted to evade the payment of taxes and to file an income tax return for the year 2010, while her husband evaded taxes in 2003 and 2009, and did not file a return in 2003.
Carla only filed income tax returns in 2008 and 2009, and declared a total income of only P228,040.
Castillo, a doctor at the Asian Hospital in Alabang, declared a total income of only P1.933 million between the period 2005 and 2009, even though he had registered with the BIR in 1998.
While the Castillo couple's declared income amounted to less than P3 million, they were able to acquire three properties: a P10.5-million property in Project 3, Quezon City, a P15-million commercial property in Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City and an P18-million mansion in La Vista, Quezon City.
Using the expenditure method, the tax bureau computed the tax liability of Castillo at P20.25 million, while Carla's tax deficiency amounted to P9.93 million.
The method is based on the theory that if a taxpayer's expenditure in a given year exceeds his reported income, the excess spending represents unreported income.
Henares also said that Corona had revoked the waiver of confidentiality on his bank accounts after his impeachment. The BIR found out about this only when a local bank (Banco de Oro branch in Makati) refused to give a certification on Corona's bank accounts.
However, she said the BIR already received bank certifications from the Philippine Savings Bank and Bank of the Philippine Islands on Corona's peso and dollar accounts that were covered in the impeachment trial.
Corona issued an unconditional waiver at the close of his impeachment trial last May in a bid to convince senator-judges that he had complied with the constitutional requirement for public officials to declare their wealth in their SALN.
He also admitted that he had $2.4 million in dollar deposits and P80 million in peso deposits.
He was subsequently removed from office on May 29 after majority of the senators voted to convict him for failure to disclose the content of his peso and dollar accounts in his SALN, acts that constitute culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
By lifting the waiver, the banking institutions where Corona is a client would bar the government from scrutinizing his accounts. (JCV/Sunnex)