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How CJ can explain his immense wealth

Is there really an Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) lobby to have Chief Justice Renato Corona acquitted by the Senate impeachment court? Malacañang doesn’t believe so, but I think it is very likely. The Palace said “it wouldn’t be surprised” if some people affiliated with the INC would lobby for Corona, but it doubted that the lobbying would be instigated or have the approval of INC’s leadership.

The evidence so far indicates that there indeed was lobbying by the INC, at least by some of its members. Some senators confirmed that a few influential members of the religious sect have talked to them at a dinner and lobbied for the acquittal of Corona. Others said there were similar feelers to them but they did not accept the invitation to dinner.

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Curiously, there is no denial from the INC itself, only silence. If there is no such lobby, wouldn’t the INC leadership issue a vehement denial? So why is there only silence from the INC?

Some observers say that Corona would use every help and every trick to have himself acquitted. And the INC, because of its reputed clout in elections, would be a very strong help. I am not saying that he actually asked for INC’s help, but it is very likely that some members sympathetic to Corona would, on their own, try to help.

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Names of some senators have been mentioned as having been approached, particularly Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Majority Leader Tito Sotto. Enrile refused to be interviewed on the subject and Sotto denied he had been approached. Other senators also said they had not been lobbied, but how much value can we put on the words of politicians?

Anyway, how much effect would an INC lobby have on the senator-judges? Senators who will be running for reelection in 2013 would surely be affected. After all, INC’s block voting could spell the difference between winning or losing in the polls.

Reports say that the candidates of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s UNA have been targeted by the lobbyists. This is not surprising. There is an apparent link among the propagandists of Binay and Corona. The same mouthpieces are working for both Binay and Corona. A breakfast forum in Quezon City is blatantly pro-Corona and pro-Binay. Only lawyers of Corona’s defense team are being invited to the forum, although a media forum is intended primarily to give members of the press a balanced view of any issue. Prosecution lawyers are seldom invited. It is left to members of media to provide a balance between the prosecution and the defense in the forum.

How many reelectionists are there in the UNA senatorial ticket? So far, only Senators Koko Pimentel and Gringo Honasan. So we will know whether or not there was indeed such an INC lobby and how effective it was by how Koko and Gringo would vote.

On the other hand, how can there be a vote for Corona’s acquittal when the evidence against him is so damning, especially the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales? The defense was obviously caught flatfooted by Morales’ testimony that Corona had a number of dollar bank accounts. It didn’t know that the Ombudsman had the numbers on it. Television footage showed the shocked faces of the defense lawyers. Chief defense counsel Serafin Cuevas was caught with his mouth open in shock for several minutes. The usually voluble Cuevas didn’t know what to say.

Obviously, Corona didn’t tell the truth even to his own lawyers. He didn’t tell them he had those dollar accounts. If he did, they could at least have been prepared. Remember, the Ombudsman is the defense’s own witness. It was the defense who asked the impeachment court to subpoena her to testify as a hostile witness for the defense. It had her summoned because it thought she had nothing on Corona. It was confident that the Supreme Court’s restraining order could not allow the opening of the dollar bank accounts. It turned out that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) had already done its job, opened the bank accounts, and gave a copy of its report to the Ombudsman.

Its findings: Corona had at least 82 dollar bank accounts with total deposits of $12 million. Investigators of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that Corona’s wealth totaled P677 million! Wow!

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The defense says that Corona could not have 82 dollar bank accounts but perhaps only four.

Corona is not accused of having many dollar accounts. He is accused of not declaring under oath all his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as mandated by law, and he has very clearly not declared all of them. Even if he failed to declare only $10, that is already a violation of the law.

Corona will testify tomorrow on where and how he acquired his fabulous wealth. How he will explain them is anybody’s guess. On account of the great weight of evidence against him, I can see only a few tricks that Corona can pull to explain them:

1. He can use the “Mike Arroyo trick”: that the dollar accounts are not really his but that of his brother given to him for safekeeping.

2. That he won in the lotto.

3. That he won in the casinos.

4. That he bet on Pacquiao in his boximg matches.

5. That he found a bagful of money in a taxicab. He wanted to return the money to its owner like a good citizen but didn’t know who the owner was. So he deposited the money in several banks. Why did he deposit them in so many accounts in so many banks? With so many bank robberies in the Philippines, he was afraid that if he kept the money in one bank, that bank might be robbed, or closed by the Bangko Sentral, and all the money would be gone. Kawawa naman ang rightful owner. With the money distributed in many banks, there would be some left even if some of the banks were robbed or failed.

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TAGS: bank accounts, featured column, Iglesia Ni Cristo, lobbying, ombudsman, opinion, Renato corona
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