Corona couple asks SC to stop cases at Sandiganbayan

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Friday, April 25, 2014


FORMER Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, Cristina, recently asked the Supreme Court (SC) to block the cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan in connection with their alleged unexplained wealth.

In a 48-page petition, the couple said the Ombudsman has built an "erroneous finding" to prosecute them.

"The Ombudsman’s blatant disregard of the law and facts surrounding this case is a serious, if not dangerous and oppressive, error calling for (High Court’s) supervisory power to uphold the legal doctrine that ’it is better for one hundred criminals to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted,'" the petition read.

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They said that the Ombudsman's reliance on illegally obtained bank certifications where they allegedly had "substantial peso and dollar deposits" could not be used as basis of probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against them.

The petition also pointed out that the bank certifications were neither provided nor attached to the complaints.

"It was the Ombudsman herself, through the investigators-turned-complainants, who procured these bank documents purportedly supporting the information which are considered as ‘fruits of the poisonous tree,'" he said.

The couple is accused of violating Republic Act 1379 (forfeiture law) while Corona is facing eight counts of perjury and eight counts of violation of Section 11 of Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (Republic Act 6713).

Corona was also charged with violation of RA 6713 for not filing true and detailed Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 2003-2010, when the value of his declared cash assets and the actual bank deposits had substantial discrepancies and his real assets in Makati, Taguig and Quezon City were not declared.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the P130,336,212.88 of supposed ill-gotten wealth is a conservative estimate as it does not include the Coronas' cost of living allowance commensurate to their social stature and expenses entailed by their travels abroad.

But Corona maintained that they acquired legitimate wealth after 45 years of working in the public and private sectors.

Corona was kicked out of the SC in May 2012 when the impeachment court composed of senators found him guilty of betrayal of public trust for understating assets.

The former top magistrate attributed his ouster to President Benigno Aquino III's supposed desire to have a malleable judiciary after he led the High Court in a 2011 decision ordering the transfer of ownership of the vast Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the chief executive's maternal relatives to farmers. (Sunnex)

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