New revelations emerging in yesterday’s court session in the on-going impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona shed further light into the true priorities of the governement of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo in a speech before the court last Monday (the 20th February) encapsulated this disturbing character of the current regime in the following statement…
“I find it strange that as far back as September to November 2010, there was already an inquiry on Chief Justice Corona…then followed by impeachment then followed by the investigation of the [Bureau] of Internal Revenue. Three invesigations have been conducted against the Chief Justice,” he said.
Arroyo’s citing of an “inquiry” on Corona “as far back as September to November 2010â€ refers to allegations that the Anti Money Laundering Council of the Philippines (AMLC) conducted an audit of Corona’s accounts with the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) over that period. Arroyo pointed to the “disturbing” possibility that MalacaÃ±ang has been using government agencies under the influence of the Chief Executive as personal instruments in an on-going “political vendetta” — something that is highly-likely considering that the Supreme Court has the power to determine the fate of the vast Hacienda Luisita estate owned by Aquino’s in-laws that is due to be subject to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 2014.
It seems Noynoy sees Corona as the main man standing in the way of what is an increasingly obvious presidential mission to secure his in-laws’ family jewels from being broken up and re-distributed to its tenant farmers at a price that could potentially bankrupt the entire clan and drag down along with it what could be an immense network of crony-owned creditors.
The AMLC was created in the course of implementing Republic Act 9160 or the “Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001″ (AMLA). Under the rules of the implementation of RA 9160 (Rule 3, Sections 1 & 2), the AMLC has the power to initiate investigations on the basis of reports coming from “voluntary citizens’ complaints” and “covered transation reports” of suspicious banking activity. However, there are severe penalties (including heavy fines and imprisonment) applicable to anyone found to have maliciously filed “unwarranted or false information relative to any money laundering transaction against any person”. Furthermore, members of the AMLC are bound by the confidentiality in the manner with which it dispenses its services (Rule 2, Section 7)…
Sec. 7. Confidentiality of Proceedings. â€“ The members of the AMLC, the Executive Director, and all the members of the Secretariat, whether permanent, on detail or on secondment, shall not reveal in any manner except under orders of the court, the Congress or any government office or agency authorized by law, or under such conditions as may be prescribed by the AMLC, any information known to them by reason of their office. In case of violation of this provision, the person shall be punished in accordance with the pertinent provisions of R. A. Nos. 3019, 6713 and 7653.
The AMLC and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) had earlier been under the spotlight after they were tagged as possible sources of information on Corona’s dollar deposits with the PSBank — information that is protected by the Philippines’ Ã¼ber-strict bank secrecy laws. It seems that they are off the hook now. PSBank President Pascual Garcia III’s most recent clarification was that it was not the AMLC but anti-money-laundering specialist Jerry Leal of the Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) who conducted an examination of PSBank records. According to records refered to by Garcia, Leal’s examination involved only scrutiny of their politically-exposed persons (PEP) list. Shortly after, the BSP also denied in a press statement any involvement in any examination or audit that specifically targetted Corona’s bank accounts with PSBank…
“[BSP examiners] never requested to see the deposit account records of the Chief Justice nor were they presented the deposit accounts of the Chief Justice,” the central bank said.
“BSP examiners therefore could not have copied nor secured copies of such deposit account records including the signature cards of Chief Justice Renato Corona,” it added.
This means that the whole issue of where the fake documents (with accurate account information) came from remains in orbit around the same mob:
(1) Rep. Rey Umali and Niel Tupas Jr who say a â€œsmall ladyâ€ was the source of these documents;
(2) Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal who insists that he found documents in an envelope “that was left in the gate of his house”; and,
(3) “Online journalists” Magtanggol de la Cruz and Carmela Fonbuena of “social news network” site Rappler.com who published the balance amount and account number of one of Corona’s accounts in a “news report” on that site.
Given the extensive resources and time poured by the Senate impeachment court into sheddling more light into the source of the prosecution’s illegally-acquired evidence that caused the entire trial to grind to a halt, the way the above people continue to stick out like sore thumbs becomes more glaring. The top-notch legal team defending Corona is now reportedly considering filing charges against those who are found to have at one time or another been “directly involved” in “handling” illegally-acquired information.
The chargable counts possibly include:
(a) Violation of bank secrecy law and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (RA 6426); and,
(b) Inquiry by a third party into a person’s the bank details without the consent of that person (as Banal had done when he approached PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson).
Defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno however clarified that “it would be up to the Chief Justice if charges would be filed against the three House allies of President Benigno Aquino”.
For his part, President Aquino, not quite out of campaign mode despite having already spent almost two years on the job as President, is also leaning hard on a propaganda drive to demonise Corona. After the President subjected a hapless captured audience of teenagers to a tirade about his personal issues against the Chief Justice at the La Consolacion College in Manila, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda expressed in a press briefing how they are now expecting the Iglesia ni Christo (INC) to remain “true to their word” that a 28th February rally they will be holding at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila will be a “strictly religious” one. Rumours had been circulating earlier that this INC rally would include expressions of support for the upholding of the “rule of law”.
The highlighting of “rule of law” is an indictment of the way Aquino and his followers are widely seen to be blatantly flouting the law in the way they go about expediting the outcome they expect from this impeachment trial. Indeed, known Aquino apologist and “investigative journalist” Raissa Robles couldn’t have been more clear about her contempt for the notion of the “rule of law” when she wrote about how overrated the notion really is. Despite numerous calls to shut up, the President remains adamant…
Refusing to heed demands that he back off from the impeachment proceedings, President Aquino maintained that it is also his right to talk about the trial, and that no one can gag him.
And so too does the INC reserve the right to make their “rally” on the 28th of Feb about anything that they feel that it should be, Mr President.
And that is the thing with the allegedly criminal mind. It tends to be good at rationalising any sort of moral quandary into a well-ironed entitlement statement.