Corona’s troubles not over

MANILA — The guilty verdict handed by the Senate impeachment court on Tuesday did not end the sufferings of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

With his conviction, Corona’s benefits, retirement pay and pension have been forfeited. He is also barred from holding public office.

On top of these “punishments,” a lawmaker on Wednesday disclosed that they are also bent on pursuing the forfeiture complaint filed against Corona before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan said that their campaign to seize the assets of Corona remains a priority.

“We are pursuing the forfeiture case. It’s our priority. Our complaint was actually used by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in investigating the Chief Justice,” Bello said.

The group alleged that Corona illegally acquired several pieces of property.

In a six-page complaint filed in March, Bello asked the Ombudsman to forfeit some of Corona’s assets declared in his 2010 statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) as they were “presumed” to be illegally owned.

These assets include a condominium unit in One Burgundy Plaza in Quezon City, which was under-declared by P1.83 million; a unit in Bellagio I, Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City (P7.71 million); a unit in Bonifacio Ridge at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City (P6.79 million); and another unit in The Columns Ayala Avenue in Makati City (P2.38 million).

“In all, Corona has been shown to have under-declared in his SALN the real properties he actually owns by P35,912,691.82,” Bello said.

He said that Corona has yet to submit his counter-affidavit.

Bello said that Akbayan is not considering the filing of a criminal complaint against Corona.

“We are focused on the forfeiture case. If we will file a criminal complaint, say, falsification of SALN, we’re open to that but not anytime soon, not now. Kung administrative penalties lang ang iimpose sa kanya, it’s not worth it,” he added.

Morales ordered Corona to answer the complaint filed by Akbayan. When she appeared at the Senate impeachment court as witness for the defense, she revealed that the Chief Justice had 82 dollar accounts.

Bello said that the Ombudsman can investigate forfeiture complaints, not just the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Observers believed that the Ombudsman will likely file a complaint before the Sandiganbayan against Corona.

Morales denounced Corona after he told the impeachment court that the Ombudsman may be carrying a grudge against him after he turned down her request for a big budget when she retired as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Ombudsman denied Corona’s allegation, saying that her retirement pay was much lower than what was given to other justices who retired.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers urged Corona to appeal the verdict of the Senate impeachment court before the Supreme Court.

Karen Jimeno, a spokesman of the defense team, said that they have recommended the filing of charges against the senators who convicted Corona for “grave abuse of discretion.”

Jimeno said that the defense panel led by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas reached a consensus and that they have discussed this option with the Chief Justice.

“We cannot tell you when we will file the petition before the Supreme Court because we need to get the go signal first from CJ Corona,” Jimeno told reporters at the weekly Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City.

Jimeno said that filing the petition is one of the legal options that they are considering. She refused to reveal the other possible actions that they may undertake saying they are still waiting for Corona to make a decision.

The lawyer said that the Chief Justice was calm when they visited him at The Medical City in Pasig City where he has been confined since Tuesday last week.

“When I saw CJ Corona, I was glad that he was calm after the verdict had been rendered. I know that he monitored the voting in his room with his family but what I think is that his family is more affected,” Jimeno said. Defense lawyers visited Corona after 20 senators voted to convict the Chief Justice.

Jimeno, Cuevas, and lawyers Ramon Esguerra and Rico Quicho visited their client after the verdict was read.

However, Dennis Manalo and Eduardo de los Angeles, also members of Corona’s defense team, said the Senate decision should no longer be appealed.

“The Constitution is clear that the decision is not appealable,” Manalo told a radio interview. De los Angeles shared the same view, saying that it would be best if the Chie Justice accepted the verdict.

“Para sa akin huwag nang i-apela [For me, it should not be appealed]. Let’s move on, the country has been divided by the impeachment trial and it is high time that we should heal the wounds that it brought us.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Homobono Adaza said that Corona cannot be unseated immediately after he was found guilty by the impeachment court.

He said that the law provides that within 60 calendar days, the aggrieved party can file motions and petitions before the Supreme Court.

“We need to wait for 60 calendar days to implement the ruling. On the 61st day, the President can legally appoint the new Chief Justice,” Adaza explained.

He said that the President has the power to choose the next chief magistrate even from outside the loop of present justices of the Supreme Court.

“It does not follow that he is limited to choose among the 14 associate justices. He can bring in a complete stranger,” he added.

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