Unopened dollar accounts do CJ Corona more harm
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-02-12
It’s regrettable that the Supreme Court (SC) decided by a vote of 8 (for) — 5 (against) — and 2 abstentions to issue a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) disallowing the opening of the US dollar accounts of Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona with PSBank (Philippine Savings Bank) by the Senate Impeachment Trial. Many level headed persons didn’t think that the SC would risk pushing the country to the brink of a Constitutional crisis owing to a dispute between institutions — the Senate sitting as an impeachment court versus the SC.

The decision would have been better appreciated if the respondent involved happened to be another person and not the CJ. The fact that the SC was making a decision on an impeachment case involving its CJ should have prodded its Associate Justices to refrain from issuing the TRO as they could be perceived as merely protecting their CJ. The naturally suspicious public mind will be inclined to appreciating more the decision as one that was influenced by close relationships, one that might even be perceived as self serving for Associate Justices who might find themselves in a similar fix in the near future.

Already, impeachment trial prosecutor Rep. Rudy Farinas threatened last Thursday to impeach all the 8 Associate Justices who voted to issue the TRO. Oddly, one of those who voted to issue the TRO was Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, an appointee of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) — something the defense panel quickly capitalized on.

Up to last Wednesday, the defense panel had been perceived as enjoying the upper hand in the impeachment trial. This impression was created largely by the series of fumbles by the prosecution, led by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. After filing that motion for certiorari with the SC, many changed their minds and saw it was an act of desperation on the part of the defense. If you were playing Talk N Text in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), how would you feel if Talk N Text coach Chot Reyes was suddenly tapped to referee the game?

Other than the “too close to home” aspect of the decision, the TRO runs counter to strong arguments that the SC itself promulgated in Salvacion vs. Central Bank of the Philippines, 278 SCRA 27 (1997). That SC decision had provided the legal basis for exemptions to the bank secrecy law governing foreign currency deposits. So, it’s not as if the impeachment court didn’t have a strong legal leg to stand on for ordering the opening of the CJ’s US dollar accounts with PSBank.

Be that as it may, there is the battle for the public mind that CJ Renato Corona and his camp must address. In fact, they have been playing up to this audience from Day 1. This is the realpolitik aspect of the impeachment process. CJ Corona shouldn’t allow himself to be swayed by that “hakot (paid or organized, as opposite spontaneous)” crowd last Thursday. The reality is this — unopened, those US dollar accounts of CJ Renato Corona in PSBank do him more harm than if he volunteered to allow the impeachment court to access the accounts.

If the CJ only had around $120,000 in total deposits in the dollar accounts, his top rate legal team can easily provide the explanations and legal defenses. If the CJ had over $1 million in total deposits, then that may be more difficult to explain — taking into consideration his known income sources as well as that of his wife, Tina. If Tina Corona can show a viable business activity that can explain the amount, then that could clear them.

However, when the dollar accounts are barred from being opened — there is no saying how much the public will imagine the CJ has in dollar accounts. There is no saying if people will imagine it to be $10 million, or $100 million. Unfortunately for CJ Corona, there’s no limit to people’s imagination. More so when you consider that hidden wealth is usually associated with foreign currency accounts.
Professor Alfred Sureta, Executive Director of StratPOLLS, shared with us his February 2, 2012 media release, the NCR (National Capital Region) tracking of the impeachment trial. These were the highlights:

Tracker Poll No. 7

February 2, 2012
Number of respondents: 700 and running (NCR)

Q1. Do you keep track of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona?

Jan. 24 Jan. 25 Jan. 26 Jan. 27 Jan. 31 Feb. 1 Feb. 2
Yes 59 % 57 % 53 % 29 % 53 % 58 % 53 %
No 41 % 43 % 47 % 71 % 47 % 42 % 47 %

Q2. (IF YES) Which media?

Jan. 24 Jan. 25 Jan. 26 Jan. 27 Jan. 31 Feb. 1 Feb. 2
Telebisyon (TV) 85 % 80 % 78 % 87 % 73 % 65 % 84 %
Radyo (Radio) 5 % 10 % 14 % 8 % 19 % 21 % 8 %
Dyaryo(Newspaper)10 % 10 % 8 % 5 % 8 % 14 % 8 %

Q3. In your opinion, and based on what you have heard and seen so far, is CJ Corona GUILTY or NOT GUILTY?

Jan. 24 Jan. 25 Jan. 26 Jan. 27 Jan. 31 Feb. 1 Feb. 2
Guilty 49 % 55 % 46 % 64 % 78 % 62 % 54 %
Not guilty 17 % 17 % 19 % 4 % 11 % 10 % 8 %
Don’t know 34 % 28 % 35% 32 % 11 % 28 % 38 %

This was how people tracked in the NCR before the revelations of the CJ’s Philippine peso bank deposits were made. In January 24, 17 percent thought that the CJ was not guilty. Last February 2, only 8 percent felt that the CJ was not guilty. The CJ will be lucky to retain 5 percent if he doesn’t open his dollar accounts.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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