By JOSEPH HOLANDES
CHIEF Justice Renato Corona on Friday accused Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, one of the defense team’s witnesses, of allowing herself to be used by Malacanang to ruin his reputation.
“Palagay ko nagpagamit si Ombudsman sa Malacanang (I think she let Malacanang use her),” Corona said in answer to a clarificatory question by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
Corona, who reappeared at the trial after his testimony on Tuesday was cut short when he “walked out” because he feeling ill and was later taken to a hospital after delivering a three-hour opening statement, called Carpio-Morales’ testimony on his alleged 82 dollar accounts baseless and traced it to a past tiff between the two of them.
Corona said Carpio-Morales presented a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) without having it authenticated.
In a hastily called press conference, Carpio-Morales hit back at Corona Friday afternoon, calling him “a certified liar.”
Asked if she was indeed being used by Malacanang, she replied: “Never ever! I am fuming mad!”
“I never wanted to have a press con,” Carpio-Morales told reporters. “This time I’m raring to talk to you because I feel that I have been maligned.”
On Day 42 of the impeachment trial at the Senate, Corona said Carpio-Morales might be harboring a personal grudge against him for not voting her into the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council for the position of Ombudsman. As chief justice, Corona chairs the JBC.
He also said Carpio-Morales had asked him for a “special (retirement) budget” that was “at least” double that for retiring justices when she retired.
The regular budget for retiring justices is between P500,000 and P600,000, which is used for retirement programs or parties.
But Carpio-Morales retorted, “I suffered in silence. My retirement (pay) was reduced in half. I never asked for reconsideration.”
The Ombudsman also denied that she decided to present the AMLC report on Corona’s alleged dollar accounts without it being authenticated. She said she went to the impeachment court with a verified document.
“I didn’t pick it from the gutters. It was handed to me by AMLC head,” she said.
Corona also accused Carpio-Morales of being part of a demolition job to smear his name. He said that after the summer session of the Supreme Court in Baguio City, he received a brown envelope from Carpio-Morales’s office that seemed to have been previously opened then sealed again. The envelope contained a letter asking him to explain the AMLC report.
He said the Philippine Daily Inquirer then published a frontpage article on his alleged multimillion dollar account. He said it was done for “maximum damage” to his reputation.
When asked if he would still call for Carpio-Morales’s resignation, Corona said: “Yes.”
“Kayo po hindi magre-resign (Won’t you resign)?” Estrada asked.
“Hindi po (No),” Corona replied.
In her press conference, Carpio-Morales said she will not resign.
“You ask me if I have a conscience? Yes, I have a conscience. I have one dollar account, one and only,” Carpio-Morales said. “ I hope he has a conscience and as clear as mine.”
Asked if she thinks the chief justice would get a conviction on Tuesday, Carpio-Morales answered: “Amen!”
Earlier at the trial, Corona submitted an unconditional waiver on the confidentiality of his bank accounts he signed on Monady.
He said he had decided not to stick to his earlier condition that he would submit the waiver only if Sen. Franklin Drilon and the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against him would sign a similar document.
But the prosecution team said the chief magistrate’s act was not needed anyway and was only meant to “buy time” for the defense.
Quezon Rep. Erin Tanada, who serves as prosecution spokesperson, said with or without the waiver, Corona’s statement last Tuesday was enough to prove their allegations.
“Inamin na po ni Corona na meron syang existing dollar accounts at inamin din nya sa kanyang testimonya na yung kanyang dollar accounts ay di na nya nilagay sa SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth) dahil sa kanyang interpretasyon ang dollar accounts ay confidential at di na kailangang ilagay sa SALN (He has already admitted he has dollar account that he did not declare in his SALN because his interpretation of the law was dollar accounts were confidential),” Tanada said.
Corona was referring to the confidentiality guarantee of Republic Act No. 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said Corona’s submission of his “unconditional waiver” was only meant to “buy time” for his lawyer who might appeal for an extension of the proceedings.
Angara said the waiver might also douse the negative reaction from the senator-judges who felt slighted by Corona’s “walkout” last Tuesday.
On Monday, the prosecution and the defense will present their oral arguments and then the 23 senator-judges will vote on whether to acquit or convict the chief justice.