Filing charges against Corona is a duty
The philosopher Confucius was not confused when he said: “In a country that is well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of; in a badly governed country, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
Not all the time, but almost always, in a graft-ridden country like the Philippines, behind every enormous wealth (especially of public officials) is an enormous crime.
By his own admission, ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona possesses P80.7 million and $2.4 million in bank deposits. He is, therefore, in possession of enormous wealth.
In an earlier decision of the Supreme Court on a forfeiture case against PLDT shares “beneficially” owned by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, then Justice Corona, who penned the decision (citing Section 2 of Republic Act 1378), showed that by using the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth and income tax returns of the Marcoses, he was able to prove the PLDT shares to be ill-gotten. And, therefore, forfeited in favor of the government, including the dividends thereof.
The SALN forms used by the Corona couple, in the same breath, confirmed that they had no other source of income from 2003 to 2010 except their salaries as government officials—the total of which is miniscule compared to his verbally admitted and legally discovered cash and property.
Just as the Philippines only deposed Marcos in 1986, the impeachment court also merely saved the nation from being judicially lorded over by a Chief Justice deemed unfit by the Senate. But he has not paid for his offense. He must be made to account for the enormous wealth, surely owing from the position of power he used to hold.
If up to now Marcos (a president of this country) and his estate are still being held accountable by local and international courts for ill-gotten wealth, by what divine edict does Renato Corona consider himself exempt from such?
Let us not forget that as late as February 2012, the Corona Supreme Court opined that even the children of the late Ferdinand—Imee, Bongbong and Irene—were part of the respondents of civil cases involving the ill-gotten Marcos wealth. The Marcos children may not have been a party to the accumulation of such ill-gotten wealth, but they may be in possession of such.
Why should Corona be exempt from charges of ill-gotten wealth and tax evasion? Our mercy must always be tempered with justice.
What mercy is reserved for one who is unrepentant, unremorseful and who has not made restitution? In the Act of Confession, even in spiritual matters, our faith requires acts of contrition, admission and restitution of stolen goods.
Corona continues to rant that he is a victim of the politics of hatred and abuse of government resources.
The ill-gotten wealth case versus Corona was already filed at the Office of the Ombudsman long before the impeachment case was terminated. So why should it stop now, now that he himself had admitted his enormous wealth and executed an unconditional waiver?
There are those who want to stop the prosecution of the deposed Chief Justice—some genuinely in a state of pity toward him, others deceitfully raring to ingratiate themselves with the Supreme Court justices still aligned with Corona and the loyal remnants of Gloria’s Army.
Even the eminent presiding judge, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, said the impeachment court had not proven—and only implied—the “ill-gotten wealth” status of Corona during the trial. But isn’t it, “yer hener,” precisely what the Office of the Ombudsman, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Commission on Audit will prove by pursuing their cases against Corona?
And we must remain cognizant of the “equality in the treatment of the law,” citing what happened to Delsa Flores, a lowly court clerk.
We can test this “sincerity” of the deposed Chief Justice if the estimated P180 million is still in his bank accounts when the BIR, COA and Office of the Ombudsman look into them. If they find close to nothing in these seven deposit accounts, then it will complete the sly image of a man who really has all the bases covered—spiriting his wealth, presumed by 20 senator-judges to be ill-gotten, to shores unknown.
His best case is keep the deposits where he claims they are, and legally fight the government agencies and prove that they were not ill-gotten wealth. Spiriting them away—like flight—is a sign of guilt.
The 7 out of 10 Filipinos who wanted Corona impeached also said in later surveys that to the corrupt in government there should be no life, no business as usual, after impeachment.
Let accountability hurt; let not corruption pay.
Not filing charges against Corona could have the same Confucius rhetorically asking: “People of the Philippines, why do you spend 43 trial days using the nation’s time and wealth to try and then convict one person for dishonesty—only to allow this same person to enjoy the fruits of such dishonesty?”
Bingo P. Dejaresco III is a former banker and now financial consultant and political strategist. He is the subchair of Finex’s publications committee. This piece reflects his opinion and has not been read or approved by Finex.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.