Why the Chief Justice’s case hinges on his SALN

The case of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona hinges on his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. Not on question whether his money was ill-gotten. Not at all. This is the prosecution’s belief, and it is also what the Senate President believed. During the Chief Justice’s testimony, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile cautioned the Chief Justice into threading to waters the Impeachment Court did not discuss such as Ill-gotten wealth.

Political analysts are calling the Chief Justice’s performance as brilliant. Quite contrary. His oratory skill was negligible, and its contents self-destructive. For a man of such bravado, he cried a lot. For much of his testimony, the Chief Justice ranted, drowning himself with self-pity, and anger at the circumstance of which he had found himself into. Like any man drunk with depression, he began to be filled with his own delusions that the world is out to get him. Specifically him. And that his whole speech was about himself, as much as dragging anyone with him down.

Much of his testimony was for the public— painting himself a simple man, and frugal who does not even use Air Conditioner. The act of course is much similar to the story Manny Villar himself painted during the 2010 elections. It did not work then, and it does not work now. It does not work simply because a public official of his stature is more than wealthy enough to afford. Perhaps it is time for politicians to paint themselves as who they really are— people who are well off, that even the least of them can afford many luxuries most Filipinos dream of.

The level of guilt according to those schooled in the legal arts put the burden of proof on the prosecution. It was the defense itself that called the Ombudsman to the stand. It was the defense itself that painted themselves into a corner. We are, as argued a democratic society, and the accused is innocent until proven otherwise. It was a defense witness that painted the biggest threat to them.

Throughout the trial the prosecution presented evidence after evidence, and many have argued not enough to convict. It can also be argued that it was the defense who pulled the biggest evidence out of the bag— Ombudsman Carpio-Morales. It was the Ombudsman’s testimony using access to Anti-Money Laundering Council data that drove the nail on the Chief Justice’s coffin. It was damning evidence that could only be refuted by saying the data was wrong. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ testimony on the Chief Justice’s dollar accounts was aimed at proving he did not declare such dollar accounts in his statements of assets, liabilities, and Net Worth.

In his own words, Renato C. Corona did not deny he had dollar accounts. He said he owned such dollar accounts and that he purposely did not declare it in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth because it is his belief that his non-disclosure is protected by the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. The Chief Justice went into his performance, subtracting dollar account after dollar account like erasing pie chart after pie chart. He did not deny the in and out flow of money.

Renato C. Corona also explained that he was frugal and saved since the late 1960s. His dollar deposits grew because of such savings. Aurora Pijuan on a Facebook note, quoted Arthur Alvendia who wrote,

“CJ is a shrewd manipulator of the public mind, trying to mislead the public that his recent hundreds of thousand dollars transaction flows can be explained by the change in the exchange rate from P2 to S1 to now P44 to $1.

Wrong $1 in 1960 does NOT MULTIPLY by 44 after devaluation. It is still the same dollar day , which may buy more in pesos now, but REMAINS THE SAME IN NOMINAL TERMS.
The fact that he cites that he has been dollar trading since 1960 ” when the rate was 2 to 1. he tries to insinuate that his dollar trade earnings has multiplied his dollar holdings by 44 today. NO SIR. Binobobo ang publiko with numbers,
Malicious Talaga. Disgusting defense trickery.

Please pass on to the prosecutors — to expose to the public that the Devaluation Does not at all explain his dollar transaction flow volume today. And that CJ was in fact trying to create that misleading impression.

The Chief Justice at the point was jab after jab that failed to connect. Then there was the bomb. In front of cameras with all the pomp he could muster, Chief Justice Renato C. Corona signed a waiver to have his bank documents and his assets looked into. It was a brilliant stratagem. Then everyone gasped when he added a condition— released only if the 188 congressmen and Senate-Judge Franklin Drilon would sign a waiver to the same. The Chief Justice had everyone in his grasp, and he let victory slip away.

The condition was like triggering a bomb. The Chief Justice cried to all his accusers, “I am taking you ALL down with me!”

Then the next wave came as he overreached again. The Chief Justice stood from the witness stand without being excused, and walked out. The Defense of course performing damage control, profusely apologized for their client. Justice Cuevas was left rebuked by his own Client. The moment the Chief Justice rose, he effectively self-destructed.

The Chief Justice used people. He used his defense counsels as his shield. And his intent for the last five months was to drag everyone into the flames with him. Sheer arrogance of a man who thinks he had the upper hand. And his defiance of the Impeachment Court was nothing but pure arrogance. Arrogance that he did not prepare with his defense team. I would argue that perhaps direct questions from his own defense team would have given him a more locked performance, and would have endeared him to the court of public opinion. Renato C. Corona was on a path to self-destruction that perhaps, he himself was not aware of.

The Chief Justice’s rebuttal of the Ombudsman’s testimony was at best a jab, and no push to say the transactions were fabricated. In fact, the Chief Justice agreed he had dollar accounts that he purposely did not declare.

The Chief Justice explanation of how his money grew is also subject to question. The Senate President asked himself if there were other investments, and the Chief Justice replied that none— it was “compounded interest”.

The Impeachment Trial of Renato C. Corona, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court hinges on just one Article of Impeachment. This is about his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. One peso, undeclared is already a violation of the law. Granted, the Court could magnanimously rule there was no malicious intent to hide such undeclared assets. It is a stretch hiding behind some law. Ombudsman Concita-Morales’ testimony was damning evidence— and it was evidence that the Defense itself called for. Renato C. Corona said he purposely hid the declaration, too smart for his own good.

The Impeachment Trial isn’t a criminal trial, and it doesn’t matter if in a criminal trial Renato C. Corona could be proven guilty. What’s clear we’ve seen the steel behind Renato C. Corona, and while finding it wanting is not a crime, there is enough evidence to convict him based on his undeclared assets.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • UPnnGrd

    A few folks said 3 months ago… they said it last month… they said it 2 days ago —> that it is already a slam-dunk and it is very very clear….  yet the commentaries give me the impression that, well… Pilikpnas is not a unitary body of lemmings headed in one direction,  but  that there is disagreement among Pinoys-of-Pilipinas. 

    Abangan!!!    Senator JP enrile did say  end-of-May,  the Senate court will render its decision.

  • GabbyD

    ““CJ is a shrewd manipulator of the public mind, trying to mislead the public that his recent hundreds of thousand dollars transaction flows can be explained by the change in the exchange rate from P2 to S1 to now P44 to $1.”

    was that his point? i thought he was trying to explain how he got rich, not how to explain the transactions data, which he claims is either wrong, or misleading.

    you can get rich in nominal currency if u stockpiled in dollars and traded them after a massive depreciation. 

    • cocoy

      The chief justice admitted on the stand he did not trade currency. The computation is based on compounded interest.

      • GabbyD

        he earned from interest, which when converted to dollars, will mean huge rewards if the peso is weaker? diba?

        i have 1dollar, earn 10c in interest. if the peso value of that grows 4x, then ang laki nun, di ba?

        • Nik

          Not really.

          Just for the sake of argument, let’s say in 1959 (when the exchange rate was still 2/1 not in the 60s like he claimed) someone had Php20,000 in disposable income. He bought dollars at 2/1 so he had $10,000.

          That money was invested in a straight time deposit for 50 years @ at average of 5% (I’m going to ignore additional capital infusions). The result would be $114,674. In 2009 (according to BSP data) the average dollar/peso exchange rate was 47.6372. If converted at that average rate that would yield ~Php5.46M.

          Now let’s say that person wanted to turn around and buy dollars using those pesos after a certain period (3 years). If we go by April’s average PHP/USD of 42.6998 that ~Php5.5M (I’m not up to calculating potential interest earned on the pesos right now) would be worth ~$128K because the peso strengthened. The reverse would happen if it weakened (such as going to 50 PHP/USD) But, we know he didn’t engage in forex trading, since he said he didn’t.

          The importance of the PHP/USD exchange rate in evaluating Corona lies in the fact that overtime it became more ‘expensive’ to buy $1. Remember, he was converting from peso to dollar, not dollar to peso. Thus, his disposable income would have to have drastically increased to allow him to continue to buy large amounts of dollars such that he arrived at ~$10M (I am using this number since he did not directly rebut it yesterday).

          Using your example, yes if he bought $1 at 2/1 and the exchange rate becomes 20/1 and he buys pesos, then his original Php2 becomes Php20. But, if he converted those pesos back into dollars (since the peso has dramatically weakened and only started gaining strength recently) it has become more expensive to buy $1. For example, if the exchange rate was Php22/1 and he converted at Php20/1 it is more expensive to buy that $1.

          For me, reiterating the original point, that is where the value truly is. How has he been able to generate so much disposable income that he has been able to accumulate a dollar position of ~$10M without engaging in foreign exchange trading and relying on pure compounding interest.

          Just for fun, I did a hypothetical last night. It would require investing $50K from 1960 to 2010 with additional annual contributions of $45K compounded at an annual average interest rate of 5% to arrive at ~$10M in 2010.

          And note, that while in 1959 $45K was equivalent to Php90K, by 2005 to buy $45K you would need disposable income of ~Php2.47M (@55.0855).

          Personally, the compound interest claims just did not make any sense to me when evaluating the totality of his known assets and comparing that to his known salary.

          *Computations will change if the $10M is shown to be invalid.