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MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2 - 6:11 p.m.) Chief Justice Renato Corona acknowledged having $2.4 million in dollar deposits and P80.7 million in three peso deposits, or around P180 million in total deposited in various banks.
Appearing again Friday at his impeachment trial in the Senate, Corona stood pat that all the money was acquired legally -- from salaries, savings, interest on deposits, foreign exchange investments and commingled funds, including his wife and three children’s -- over the past 40 years.
Questioned by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Corona said the dollars had built up from interest since he first opened the accounts in the 1960s.
Asked by Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada if he had, at any time, ever had $12 million in the banks, Corona said, no and stressed that, “the biggest I got was the $2.4 million.”
The peso deposits, on the other hand, came from proceeds from the sale of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. property to the city of Manila, which amounted to P34 million; the interest earned by this money for 11 years, which amounted to P11 million; and the commingled P15 million from his children -- Carla, Francis and Charina.
“We did this to get a higher interest from the bank,” he said.
Corona added that the peso accounts also included the so-called “Corona fund,” which he said was from his mother and was used for her hospitalization and burial expenses.
He said they had also drawn P15-20,000 a month for the treatment of his brother Arturo.
When asked by Estrada whether he had, at any time, $12 million in his dollar accounts, Corona said at most, he had $2.4 million in these accounts.
Asked why the dollar accounts were not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, Corona said: "“I believe that the dollar deposits need not be reported in the SALN because of RA 6426,” or the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.
Section 8 of the FCDA states: “All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act ... are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private ... "
Corona himself acknowledged that “there seems to be a conflict” between the FCDA and the SALN law, which requires public officials and employees to bare all their wealth.
Senator Francis Escudero underscored the need to amend the FCDA to compel all public officials to reveal in their SALN their foreign currency deposits.
Corona is being tried for betraying public trust, chiefly for not declaring all his assets in his SALN.
To prove he was not hiding anything, Corona signed an uncondiional waiver on the secrecy of his bank accounts.